Hedwig Dohm

* 20.09.1831 (Berlin) 01.06.1919 (Berlin) Germany
Fields of activity: Feminist and Author
Author: Erdmute Dietmann-Beckert

Hedwig Dohm

Human Rights have no gender” (I. Rohner. Spuren ins Jetzt. 2010, 66)

Why do I think this woman is important?
Because Hedwig Dohm belongs to the early feminists and theorists who denied that women are biologically determined. And in Hedwig’s opinion the female behavior is culturally conditioned. She demands the right to vote for women already in1873.
She rejects the general patriotism, which led Germany into the First World War. She is convinced that wars demolish even the smallest sparks of humanity.

The unknown feminist
Hedwig is witty and polemic. Her texts in feature pages and magazines are documents against misogynistic publications. With a poignant sarcasm she tells the story of a husband who, at New Year’s Eve, reminded his wife of his only right to announce the New Year.
And with a blinking eye, she asks how Friedrich Nietzsche’
s Superman could have been given birth by a silly woman?

The author
Because of the family’s monetary situation Hedwig Dohm had to contribute to the family’s living.
In the beginning, she signs her texts in her husband’s name. But from 1870 on, she publishes in her own name. Her subjects are the poor education for women, the women’s minor position in the society and their social dependence on a man.
Hedwig writes feminist essays, dramas, novels and short stories. In each of these her subject is the women’s legal situation, their education, their marriage, their jobs.
By the way, Hedwig Dohm had published her first monograph already in 1887. It was an essay about “The Spanish National Literature” that had been highly acknowledged because the author was a woman without any academic education.

Childhood, Youth, Marriage
Hedwig is the third child of eighteen. Contrary to her brothers she had to finish her schooling in the age of fifteen, because she should support her mother. She was allowed only one more year to visit a teacher’s training college.
She studies Spanish with a private teacher in order to prepare herself for a journey to Spain. The teacher is Ernst Dohm, the editor of a famous magazine, whom she marries in 1853. The couple will have four daughters and one son. The latter dies when he is twelve.
Together with her husband Hedwig gets to know a lot of famous public figures such as Alexander von Humboldt and Franz Liszt, to name at least two.
As the family runs short of money the couple has to separate for one year. The daughters are with friends. It is during this time that Hedwig goes to Rome to study.
From 1870 on, Hedwig and Ernst are together again with their daughters in Berlin.
Ernst dies in 1883.

In her thinking and doing, Hedwig Dohm is ahead of her time. In her opinion, it is not enough that women are allowed to do their A level. She also demands women’s financial, professional and political independence. Women should not be obliged to marry when they wanted children.
It is true, Hedwig was a member of a left wing women’s club and a member in the society for maternity protection, but, as long as she lived, she stayed independent and she held her own views about the problems of her time. She was most opposed to any war.
Hedwig’s grave is in Berlin where we also find a memorial stone dedicated by the society of female journalists in 2007.

Literature and Links

  • Dohm, Hedwig. Ausgewählte Texte. Nicola Müller & Isabel Rohner (Hrsg.) Berlin 2006.

  • Hildebrandt, Irma. Mutige Frauen. München 2005.

  • Rohner, Isabel. Spuren ins Jetzt. Hedwig Dohm – eine Biografie. Sulzbach 2010.
    Women’s history

  • http://www.frauenmediaturm.de/themen-portraets/feministische-pionierinnen/hedwig-dohm/. 23.1.14.

    A Portrait.

  • http://hedwigdohm.de/2.html. 23.1.14

  • Bildquelle: Urheber unbekannt, Datum: Um 1870, Die Schutzdauer für das von dieser Datei gezeigte Werk ist vermutlich nach den Maßstäben des deutschen Urheberrechts abgelaufen. Es ist daher vermutlich gemeinfrei. Quelle: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Hedwig_Dohm.jpg,

Urheber: unbekannt, Datum: Um 1870, Die Schutzdauer für das von dieser Datei gezeigte Werk ist vermutlich nach den Maßstäben des deutschen Urheberrechts abgelaufen. Es ist daher vermutlich gemeinfrei. Quelle: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Hedwig_Dohm.jpg