The writer, women’s rights campaigner and pacifist was born in this house. In her essays, she espoused the emancipation of women and was against militarism and the enthusiasm for the First World War.
The writer Hedwig Dohm (*1831 †1919) was an early pioneer of feminism. In her humorous, wry texts she advocated gender equality. Hedwig Dohm was obliged to leave school at fifteen to help in the household while her brothers went to secondary school. She later trained as a teacher, married, had five children and started writing. She gained fame in the 1870s, when her first feminist articles were published.
Financial independence, she wrote, and thus being in a position to make autonomous decisions about one’s own life, are the only ways for women to avoid landing in the ‘trap of marriage’. Housework and childcare should be carried out by institutions to allow mothers to continue their occupations. She was one of the first to connect gender-specific behaviour to cultural influence rather than biological assignation.
“Human rights have no gender.”
– Hedwig Dohm
Hedwig Dohm advocated women’s suffrage and equal education rights for boys and girls. She was a founding member of many organisations seeking to introduce sex education, women’s education and the rights of mothers.
Her essay Die Antifeministen (The Antifeminists) became her most famous work, in which she dissected the ideology of her contemporary pioneers and debunked their contradictions and fear of the female sex as those vindicating claims of power. She drew even more criticism for her feminist works, not only from “men’s rights advocates“ but from within the ranks of the bourgeois women’s movement, for whom her theses were too radical.
In her late essays, Hedwig Dohm identified herself as a confirmed pacifist. She was one of the few intellectuals who condemned the widespread enthusiasm for war at the beginning of WW1. She lived to see the introduction of votes for women in Germany. After her death in 1919, her work faded into oblivion before being rediscovered by feminists in the 1970s. Today, the ‘Deutscher Journalistinnen-Bund’ (German Union of Female Journalists) awards the ‘Hedwig-Dohm-Urkunde’ (Hedwig Dohm Certificate) yearly to a female journalist who has shown an outstanding commitment to women’s policies.
Food for thought: What is the status of women’s rights and opportunities in our society today?