Hermine Heusler-Edenhuizen

* 16.03.1872 (Burg Pewsum bei Emden) 26.11.1955 (Berlin) Germany
Fields of activity: women's doctor
Author: Erdmute Dietmann-Beckert

„You should dare“ (Hermine Heusler-Edenhuizen, 2012,91)

Why have I chosen Hermine Heusler?

I think Hermine as a determined lady who was not afraid of old prejudices. She studied medicine and became a gynaecologist at a time when this job was firmly held by men, in spite of the women who would have liked to see a female doctor.

Midwifery in 1906

In her memoir Hermine depicts the following episode:
Some winter night at 2 o’clock the young doctor was on service in the hospital, when a call arrived from a midwife who was in need of helping a mother.
As the family lived on the other side of the Rhine, Hermine and two students had to cross the partly frozen river.
They found the mother with the plump midwife. As the baby’s heart only sounded weak, they had no time to lose. Quickly they bedded the mother on a couch. One student had to hold the mother’s legs, while the other assisted the doctor preparing the anaesthetic.
The midwife had hardly sat down on the couch in order to release the student, when all three went down head over heels.

Hermine‘s assistant split his sides laughing and disappeared; so she had to call him back rather harshly. They bedded the snoring mother on the floor. Soon after Hermine could hold the baby safe and sound in her arms.

A German gynaecologist

Hermine Edenhuizen completed her studies in Germany with a doctor’s diploma. But in 1906 she was not the first female German doctor. Before her, two German female doctors , Franziska Tiburtius and Emilie Lehmus, had established a surgery practice in 1878 in Berlin. But these two ladies had become doctors in Switzerland; therefore they had to put behind their names „ Doctor of Medicine in Zurich“. In spite of the many mental reservations against female doctors, more and more women preferred consulting with them, especially in case of women’s disease or pregnancy.
In 1909 Hermine Edenhuizen opened her own surgery practice in Cologne, then later in Berlin. She ecouraged the young mothers in getting up immediately after childbirth and nursing their baby which was against general custom.

Female studies in Germany

In the early years of the 20th century,  it was rather unusual for female students to study in German universities. Hermine Heusler and her friend Frieda Busch had to apply personally for admittance to the lectures. They were received with silly remarks upon entering the auditorium.   But the two friends were determined to study medicine and encourage other women as well. Surely, working with corpses together with their collegues, was not easy in German universities.

Hermine: doctor, wife and mother

In 1912 she married Dr.Otto Heusler, a medical practitioner, and they settled in Berlin. Before Hermine and her husband accepted a marriage contract, they separated their properties. At that time the general law allowed husbands to have their wife’s property without asking permission. The Heuslers agreed to sharing fifty fifty the costs of their common household, for instance,  the cost for their women helpers.
At the time, women usually gave up their jobs if they married. Not Hermine, she wanted to continue practicing and have children. In 1917 she adopted Hella, a three week old baby and three years later adopted little boy Werner.
Dr. Hermine Heusler also joined the feminist organization which pleaded for abolishing the German § 218 which was a rule that allowed prosecuting young women who had carried out abortions in case of rape. On the other hand, she helped young mothers in placing their babies for adoption.
After the First World War, Hermine Heusler became one of the presidents of the „Bund deutscher Ärztinnen“, later „Medical Women’s International Association“.

Childhood and youth

Hermine Edenhuizen is one of seven children. Her mother died following the birth of her last child. Hermine was nine years old. Her father, the doctor in Pewsum in Northern Germany, did not marry again. He wanted his children mourning their mother for three years. The strict housekeeper was not really accepted, so the children found love and warmth from their father’s sister.
Hermine started schooling at the age of four and a half, along with her older brother, in the village. Two years later she changed to a private school for girls. At the age of fifteen she had finished school and fell seriously ill with appendicitis. It was a year later before she recovered.
She was sent to a boarding school in Berlin.  At home, she learned about Helene Lange’s college in Berlin where young women could study and finish with a batchelor‘s diploma.
Hermine was determined to go there so sent a letter to Helene Lange. She wanted to study medicine. Her father finally accepted her decision. Unfortunatly he died two years before Hermine started studies in 1898 at the university in Berlin.


Hermine Heusler-Edenhuizen is an example of willpower and perseverance. She studied in universities when only few women dared to do so. She married a man who had been divorced. She adopted two children. She practiced as a gynaecologist all her life. She helped to women avoid prison who had procured abortion. She acted publicly by taking care of young mothers and she supported young women in their study of medicine.
She continued her friendship with Helene Lange throughout her life.
In her memoir, she thanked her father and her aunt who gave support to her and her motherless siblings.

Literature and some links