Louise Dittmar

* 07.09.1807 (Darmstadt) 11.07.1884 (Darmstadt) Germany
Fields of activity: women rights activist, publicist, philosopher
Author: Bärbel König


Sphere of action: feminist, journalist, philosopher


Why do I consider this woman to be of importance for humankind?

Against all odds, Louise Dittmar aquired a great amount of education, developed an political awareness and, with persistence and endurance, carried her provocative, pioneering and outstanding claims into the public sphere.

„Meine Natur besteht im Widerstand gegen das Unrecht, nicht in der frommen Duldung des scheinbar Unvermeidlichen.“
(My character comprised the opposition against unjustness, not the devout acquiescence of the apparently inevitable.)



Johanna Friederike Louise Dittmar was born on 7th September 1807 in Darmstatt. There is no picture of her documented. Large parts of her manuscripts were scorched in the Second World War.
Her parents, Heinrich, chief financial officer, and his spouse Friederike Caroline, had ten children. Only the eight sons were supposed to go in for a career. The family could afford only a marriage with an expensive dowry for the oldest daughter. Louise stayed unmarried which assured her personal deprivation at her husband’s side.
The family was progressive and republican minded, however with a very traditional image of woman. Therefore, Louise should not marry but sustain her parents in old age.

She attended the girls’ school and dedicated herself autodidactially to the writings of philosophers and political philosophers, considered herself with social reformers and critics of religion. She intensively studied the works of Ludwig Feuerbach, especially his concept of materialism, and started a correspondence with him. „Sie werden staunen, wie diese Dame uns Philosophen und Theologen durch die Freiheit ihres Geistes beschämt.“ (You will marvel, how this lady will shame us philosophers and theologians by means of her freedom of her mind), explained Ludwig Feuerbach.
In the early 1840s she anonymously published an essay entitled „Skizzen und Briefe aus der Gegenwart“ (Drafts and letters from the present), in which she advocated for religious freedom and freedom of thought. Here critique was connected to her insistence on fundamental economic reforms. „Praktische und wirtschaftliche Verhältnisse müssen einher gehen mit dem Ende der männlichen Vorherrschaft zu Gunsten der Gleichberechtigung der Geschlechter.“ (Political and economic conditions have to go hand in hand with the end of masculine dominance for the benefit of gender equality.)

She put in relationship religion and philosophy to one another as similar realms of ideas. She verified both of their justness with respect to the gender question and adjudged them as not suitable. Only economic independence would in her view submit independence of mind and life.

For her democracy and women’s freedom depended on each other.
With this radical feminist approach,  Louise Dittmar was far ahead of her time.
She wanted „durch das lebendige Wort zu wirken“ (to work by the lively word)
in the frame of the „Mannheimer Montag – Vereins“.

Title of lecture: „The Liberation of Women“. Here she  presented her four time questions: „What is the relation of the present to the moral standards of the past?“
„What is the reason for unfreedom and immorality?“
„What causes awareness and trueness in humans?“
„To whom do we owe our pernicious conditions and from whom can we expect help?“
From this she derived the strong necessity for social reform and that the field of politics should not be left to men alone.
For Dittmar the central problem as such was male dominance which had to be solved.
For the first time a women spoke publicly about what she understood as freedom of conscience. „Wohl spricht man über Freiheit für alle, aber man ist gewöhnt, unter dem Wort ‚alle’ nur Männer zu verstehen.“ (Doubtlessly, one speaks about freedom for everybody, but one is accustomed to comprehend under the word ‚everyone’ only men.

At the beginning of the year 1849 she founded the magazine  „Die social Reform: eine Zeitschrift für Frauen und Männer“.(Social Reform: a magazine for women and men). Its aim should be education and a political forum for discussions. But the paper had already to be closed after four editions. The reasons therefore are not to determine. The most significant of her publications was published in 1849 as „Das Wesen der Ehe“ (The essence of marriage) together with further articles on „sociale Reform der Frauen“ (social reform of women). Herein she criticized harshly the bourgeois institution of marriage of her time. She demanded for the reformation of the matrimonial law, which should abolish the privileges of the husband. „Die politische Stellung des Mannes dem Weibe gegenüber ist die des Patriziers zum Plebejer, des Freien zum Sclaven“[1] (The  political status of the husband towards the woman is that of the patrician toward the plebean, the free person toward the slave.)
Here radical claims went far beyond those of the feminist movement after 1885.
Dittmar published no longer after 1850. The ban for women to associate and assemble as a reaction to the failed the revolt of 1848 signified the end of her political utopia.

She spent the final years of her life in poverty and seriously ill at her two nieces in Darmstatt, where she died on 11th July 1884.

Louise Dittmar had the courage to advocate consequently an uncompromisingly for gender equality.



  • Dierks, Margarete (Hrsg.) Sie gingen voran. Vier bedeutende Darmstädter Frauen  19. Jahrhunderts, H.L. Schlapp Verlag, Darmstadt o.J.
  • Dittmar, Louise: Vier Zeitfragen. Beantwortet in einer Versammlung des Mannheimer Montag-Vereins von Louise Dittmar, hrsg. Auf Wunsch vieler Mitglieder des Vereis, Verlagsbuchhandlung Gustav Andrè, Offenbach a/M 1847, in:
  • https://download.digitale-sammlungen.de/pdf/1359274337bsb10445937/pdf (27.01.2013)
    Dittmar, Louise: Das Wesen der Ehe. Nebst einigen Aufsätzen über die sociale der Frauen, hrsg. Von Louise Dittmar, Leipzig 1849.
  • Gabriele Käfer-Dittmar. Louise Dittmar (1807 – 1884). Un-erhörte Zeugnisse  Darmstädter Schriften 61), Darmstadt 1992.
  • Köppe, Manuela: Louise Dittmar (1807 – 1884) „Freiheit des Geistes“. In: Hundt,     Irina (Hrsg.): Vom Salon zur Barrikade. Frauen der Heinezeit. Stuttgart/Weimar 2002, S. 281-298.
  • Möhrmann, Renate (Hrsg.): Frauenemazipation im deutschen Vormärz. Texte und Dokumente, Reclam Verlag, Stuttgart 1978.