Who were the women who built America

Louise Otto-Peters

Sylvia Schraut

To person

is a historian and represents the professorship for German and European history at the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Munich. [email protected]

"It is well known how, when a fresh train went through the world from the period 1830-40, efforts for progress and new views were vying for validity everywhere, the position of women was also discussed, as well as an increased interest took part in the questions of the day and many would have liked to express and confirm this more than they were allowed to. "[1] With this statement, Louise Otto-Peters introduced a description of the General German Women's Association (ADF) in the first 25 years of its existence in 1890. In doing so, she traced the emergence of the first associations of the German women's movement in the 1860s to the liberal and democratic aspirations of the Vormärz and the revolution of 1848/49. They were movements in which she had been actively involved, and the suppression of which had left deep scars in her own life.

The failure of the German revolutions in 1849 had not only led to political calm and the criminal prosecution of many democrats. The restoration hit politicized women particularly hard, as the coalition ban enacted in Prussia and some other German countries in 1850 forbade women from any public activity on political issues or the founding of associations for such purposes. There were enough social grievances that suggested energetic public opposition from women.

Women's Life in the Second Half of the 19th Century

In any case in the lower social classes, but also in the bourgeoisie, the limits of women's freedom of action were obvious. Little educational opportunities, hardly any chance of qualified professional work outside the home, the transition from the father's guardianship to that of the husband, political underage, not infrequently the need to support a family as a widow with meager means, and subsequent old-age poverty were the typical characteristics of life many women in the second half of the 19th century. Education and training should prepare for the future profession, and so in the less educated social classes the necessary school knowledge of girls with the professional goal of housewife seemed almost negligible. In the bourgeoisie, too, too much specialist knowledge was considered inappropriate for girls. It was taken for granted that the girls were closed to high school and university. For middle-class girls, the profession was to run a sociable household in keeping with their status, ideally as the landlady at the side of the spouse. The future lady of the house had to be able to converse in French and demonstrate a little artistic talent. When the young lady - without appearing too learned - had mastered easy flowing conversation, an important stage in her education and training had been mastered. Subsequently, the time until the desired marriage should be bridged as helping family members, perhaps also as a social lady or governess in a respected family. This professional goal did not require any special training. "And what to do with all these people who otherwise occupied the house: the adult daughters, the unmarried - whose number grows all the more when the men see how expensive it is to be married - the widows?" Asked Louise Otto- Peters 1876. [2]

19 years later, Elisabeth Gnauck-Kühne (1850–1917), founder of the Protestant and then the Catholic women's movement, summed up in a similar way: "But how often do young people go by without the expected suitable marriage opportunity. The thought of The future takes hold - until it becomes a certainty: You have a life of involuntary independence ahead of you. If the means are there, the woman can still look for compulsory work even in more mature years and make herself fit for a job that gives her a purpose in life, but if there is a lack of funds, if she has to look for work, not just for the purpose of life but for livelihood, what will become of her then? "[3] The teaching profession, possibly after completing a teaching seminar, was almost the only qualified professional field for single citizens But behind the job title "teacher" there were very different training courses and career paths; Job opportunities and pay ranged from an astonishing range. A job at a state high school was completely unthinkable. In view of the miserable educational and professional opportunities for girls from the middle class, it is not surprising that the women's movement began as an educational movement.