Else Federn

* 1874 (Wien) 1946 (Bristol) Austria
Fields of activity: Pioneer of holistic relief
Author: Charlotte Rastl, Helga Magyar

Unless Vienna Else Federn Foto

Else Federn, the daughter of Ernestine and Salomon Federn, never left the Jewish quarter and was never married. Her mother was a co-founder of a women´s and girl´s school of arts in Vienna. During her stay in London she got to know the „Settlement Movement“ and therefore she became a central and present person to this foundation also in Vienna.

This movement is known as the historical basis for community work. Well educated members of the middle class lived together in slums with those who needed support, offered them contacts in the neighbourhood and helped to develop their knowledge. The intention was to strengthen the potential of the persons in need to help them-selves. Till that time support only existed in form of monetary donations.

The actual creator of the settlement was an Englishman: Arnold Toynbee, who was at the disposal of the married couple Barnett as a „friendly visitor. From the beginning, women were also integrated in this work. 1884 the couple Barnett set up the first Settlement in England.

Marie Lang, a Viennese, took together with E.F. and other women the initiative to establish the „Ottakring Settlement“. Else was the manager and after the 1st World War she moved to the Settlement house. This house was a generous donation of a wealthy businessman. Later on also her parents lived at this place. Her grandmother and one of her brothers supported her as well. Wealthy fellow citizens most of them from the assimilated Jewish quarter, looked after the financial interests of the Settlement. It existed for nearly 100 years (except during the period of National Socialism). It was a place where the rich and the poor could and should meet each other.

The activities in the settlement included the following:

Supervision of children living on the streets, educational aid, further education for mothers, scientific and cultural lectures – with the intent to also improve their professional career possibilities. In family-like circumstances the friendly relationship between these persons should be improved.

One main aim of the work in the Settlement focussed on the cooperation with the juvenile court of justice. Else Federn was even the second secretary of the board for the expert group of the Viennese juvenile court. Neglected, conspicuous or criminal young persons should be better looked after. Not punishment sentence, but education should be to the fore, to help the teenagers to find the right way more quickly. The juvenile court informed the settlement about the indicted teenagers or those to be protected under guardianship from Ottakring and Hernals (2 districts of Vienna). Before the hearing, the staff of the settlement started inquiries at the school and at their families. After that the children were put under special protection. Welfare workers helped to avoid backsliding. Very often the whole family was integrated.

The Scouts helped them also. They visited the children three times a week. The main problems, which the settlement welfare workers encountered, were acts of violence, maltreatment by adults and missing alimony payments.

Else Federn thought that the settlement should find a position between public and private welfare. A connection between the old public poor relief and modern public welfare should be established. Welfare workers to be had a practical course in the settlement.

At the beginning of 1930 Else resigned from the management due to the association's precarious financial circumstances. But she still worked as honorary member and unofficially till 1938, when she fled to her brother to Great Britain and died in Bristol in 1946.

In memoriam, in 2013 a neighbourhood garden in the 16th district in Vienna was opened and named after her.


E. Malleier, Das Ottakringer Settlement, Vlg.Verband der. Wr. Volksbildung, 2005

http://de. Wikipedia.org/wiki/ToynbeeHall

http://de. Wikipedia.org/wiki/Verein_Wiener_Settlement

Photocredit: Else Federn, author unknown. Source: Else Federn inheritance of Else Federn at the archive „Frauennachlässe des Geschichteinstituts der Universität Wien“, with friendly permission 13.6. 2013