Minna Cauer

* 01.11.1841 (Freyenstein) 03.08.1922 (Berlin) Germany
Fields of activity: Feminist, Education, Pacifist
Author: Erdmute Dietmann-Beckert

Minna Cauer

‘Because I must and I will try to help the citizens to move to the left.’
(Nancy Spoenemann, in berlin.de, February. 14, 2012)

Why do I think this woman is important
Minna Cauer and her friends were engaged in helping women to be acknowledged in society and to be allowed to work in public without being discriminated against. Minna demanded for women the right to participate in elections and being a pacifist, she refused war.

Active in society
After her second husband’s death, Minna Cauer begins to study women’s history. She was encouraged by her husband’s and Hedwig Dohm’s writings.
She initiates the club of “Women’s Care”. Anita Augspurg and Helene Stoecker are among the members. Like Minna, they belong to the radical wing in the women’s movement. Their aim is to help women in getting the right to education and work outside the house and they also claim equal rights for women. Minna opposes the conventional role of women, in which they subordinate themselves and their only duty is to be a housewife. She actively helps non-married mothers in getting a professional education, in order to improve their social status. Minna is a board member of the “Business Club for Female Employees”.

Political activities
Since the beginning of Bismarck’s government in Prussia 1871, only men had the right to vote. Politically thinking women opposed. ‘Women are not to be only housewives, they belong to the house of the parliament’. These are the words Minna Cauer speaks out when claiming the passive and active right to vote for women.
In 1892 Minna joins the “German Society for Peace”. It was Bertha von Suttner who had founded the society in order to warn against the threatening war. Minna publishes and gives speeches in which she is campaigning for peace. She travels to England together with Lily Braun to learn about the situation in the English women’s movement.
Back to Germany Minna starts organizing the Congress of “Frauenwerke und Frauenbestrebungen” (women’s work and women’s aims), in Berlin. Here she meets Clara Zetkin, the leader of the German women’s movement. Together they publish the study “Women in the 19th century”.
Until 1908 women were not allowed to be active in any political society. But Minna definitely does want to be active. In 1915 she supports the “International Women’s Congress for Peace” in Den Haag. The conservative women’s union opposes. Minna together with other women pacifists create “The International Women’s Committee for Lasting Peace”.
Minna’s biographers see as the highlight Minna’s efforts for the women’s rights the inclusion of women’s right to vote in the Constitution of Weimar in 1918. For Minna, it is the reason to join the German Democratic Party.

Minna’s Biography
Her father Alexander Schelle was a priest. He encouraged his daughter in being self-confident. She was allowed to visit the secondary school for girls, but she had to abstain from further education.
Minna marries but is widowed after four years. She becomes a teacher and goes to Paris where she works as a private teacher in families.
Back in Germany she meets the headmaster Eduard Cauer. They get married in 1869.
Edward dies in 1881. Minna works as a teacher until she starts studying women’s history at the University of Dresden. Again she is engaged in promoting the women’s rights. In Berlin she is the headmistress of a grammar school for girls.

Final comments
Minna dies in Berlin and is buried in St. Matthaeus Graveyard. A street north of the Berlin main station is named after her.
Minna Cauer belongs to the pioneers in the research in women‘s history like Hedwig Dohm, Anita Augspurg, Helene Stoecker and Lily Braun. Years later, she had found a successful follower in Elisabeth Selbert, the author of the women’s rights in the German Constitution of 1948.

Text and translation: Erdmute Dietmann-Beckert

Life and work
Text Spönemann
http://www.berlin.de/ba-mitte/bezirk/gedenken/minna_cauer.html  14.2.14.
http://www.dhm.de/lemo/html/biografien/CauerMinna/ 14.2.14.
women‘s rights
http://www.freyenstein.de/texte/seite.php?id=4578, 14.2.14.
Elisabeth Selbert
http://www.hdg.de/lemo/html/biografien/SelbertElisabeth/, 14.2.14.



Five members of the „Verein für Frauenstimmrecht“ (Association for Women’s right to vote).Von links nach rechts/Left to right: Anita AugspurgMarie StrittLily von GizyckiMinna Cauer und Sophia Goudstikker, um 1896; Source: ttp://www.frauenmediaturm.de/dossier_augspurg.html, Author: Atelier Elvira. In public domain, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anita_Augspurg_%281896%29.jpg