How the Dutch Miss Merkus became the Joan of Arc of insurgent Herzegovina

Author/s René Grémaux
Publishing Year 2021 Issue 2021/2
Language English Pages 36 P. 112-147 File size 708 KB
DOI 10.3280/RISO2021-002004
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Much has remained unclear as to how and when Jeanne (Jenny) Merkus came to Herzegovina, where her spectacular, yet tragic career as the Joan of Arc of the Serbian insurrection and where the subsequent war against Turkish and Muslim domination started. Facing the seeming non-existence of any relevant documentation, numerous unsubtantiated claims have been proposed for the Dutch lady’s arrival shortly after the rebellion broke out in the summer of 1875. As if it would do harm to the iconic image of female heroism, the possibility of a strongly delayed accession was hardly ever seriously considered. Instead of meticulously researching newspapers and other contemporaneous sources for the first traces of her presence there, self-proclaimed experts spun fanciful stories, which were eagerly consumed as true. Mainly using nearly forgotten revelations of Italian correspondents among the insurgents, this contribution demonstrates that Miss Merkus did not join the insurrection before December of that year, but also that, once inside Herzegovina, she seized the opportunity to transform her purported humanitarian mission into a straightforward military one, adopting male attire and arms.

Keywords: Herzegovinian uprising 1875; Garibaldian and other Western volunteers; women-in-arms; Jeanne Merkus; Mićo Ljubibratić; Maria Martini della Torre.

René Grémaux, How the Dutch Miss Merkus became the Joan of Arc of insurgent Herzegovina in "IL RISORGIMENTO" 2/2021, pp 112-147, DOI: 10.3280/RISO2021-002004