In this house in 1868, the Association ‘Berliner Volksküchen’ (Berlins’ Soup Kitchens), founded by Lina Morgenstern –also named Suppenlina– opened one of their kitchens where poor people could receive healthy and affordable food.
Lina Morgenstern (*1830 †1909), social and women’s activist, writer and editor, was born in 1830 and grew up in a Reform Judaist family. During her lifetime, she raised public awareness about the social and material hardship of women and families.
Before the war with Austria in 1866, there were huge price rises and social hardship in Prussia. Consequently, Lina Morgenstern developed a plan to establish soup kitchens where healthy food would be prepared and sold at cost price. The first soup kitchen opened in 1866. Ten soup kitchens spread out over the whole of Berlin fed up to ten thousand people daily. Unlike present public kitchens for the poor, the meals were tasty and healthy and were not free but sold at cost price. For the workers in the soup kitchens, Lina Morgenstern established a health insurance plan.
An example of the strength of living solidarity
She campaigned for social advancement, education and women’s rights and founded numerous organisations, such as one for Berlin housewives. She left behind a comprehensive collection of writings, including volumes of portraits of important women, and wrote training manuals, cookbooks and children’s books.
Additionally, Lina Morgenstern was a co-founder of the Association for the Advancement of Fröbel Kindergartens and was instrumental in the opening of eight kindergartens between 1861 and 1868 and a training facility for kindergarten teachers. In Prussia, kindergartens had been banned since 1851 as they were thought to foster ‘destructive tendencies’.
During the war of 1870-1871, she provided food to passing troops and cared for the war-wounded. Having encountered the wounded and the dead, she rejected the prevailing enthusiasm for war and became a board member of the German Peace Association.
In 1896, she organised the first ‘International Congress for Women’s Welfare and Womens’ Endeavours’ in Berlin, attended by leading women’s rights campaigners from Europe and America.
Lina Morgenstern’s life is an example of the power of solidarity in practice.
Food for thought: Why is it that not everyone has access to healthy affordable food?