Hope Bridges Adams Lehmann

* 17.12.1855 (Halliford near London) 10.10.1916 (München) Germany
Fields of activity: doctor, social and educational reformer, social democrat
Author: Erla Spatz-Zöllner

Hope Bridges Adams Lehmann

 “…..that a woman has the same immanent will as a man to freedom, to experience new ways, to live her own way of life, to cooperate, to resolve the world’s mysteries…” Quotation: Dr. H. B. Adams Lehmann 

Why do I think this woman is important?

In 1880 Hope Bridges Adams was the first female student who passed the university exams in medicine in Germany and in 1896 the first female Doctor of General Medicine and gynecology in Munich. She had been working for better education and living conditions for women and children and she pleaded for a respectful cooperation between men and women without any hierarchy.


Parents and education

When Hope was born her father, William Bridges Adams, was 58 years old. His third wife Ellen Rendall came from a politically engaged family. Father William was known not only for his technical inventions but also his reforming publications. In the eighteen-thirties he belonged to a group of early feminists. He sent his daughter to the first English Girls’ College in Bedford. In 1873 after William's death Hope and her mother moved to Dresden, Germany. Hope Bridges learned German but was not allowed to pass the final a-level exam as an external student.


In winter 1876/77 Hope registered for medicine at the university of Leipzig. She met open-minded professors who allowed her to take part in their lectures. In order not to cause sensation among the masculine students and professors, Hope had her hair cut short and wore men's jackets. She was allowed to take the final examination in spite of a strong opposition of the authorities. In 1880 Hope Bridges was the first woman who succeeded in studying medicine in Germany. In Switzerland, she gained her doctorate (she was not allowed to do so in Germany). In 1881 at King's and Queen's College of Physicians in Dublin, Ireland, she received English approbation as a doctor of medicine, as twenty-third woman in the UK.

Marriage, family and Social Democracy

Hope married in January 1882 her former fellow student, doctor Otto Walther. She took the name Adams Walther, which was not officially allowed. She worked privately as a physician and gynecologist in Frankfurt together with her husband, who had to sign her prescriptions. They had two children, son Heinz (1884) and daughter Mara (1886).

Hope and Otto joined the Social Democrats. They were friends with Karl Liebknecht und August Bebel. Hope translated Bebel's book "The woman and the Socialism". Hope's literal meetings on economic policy for women were prohibited.


In this small place in the Black Forest, Otto and Hope opened a sanatorium for lung deceases. They developed a new healing method: mountain air, hiking, diet for moderate increase in weight, ban of alcohol and single rooms. This method had healed Hope from her lung tuberculosis when she got ill after she gave birth to her daughter.

Their house became a conspiratorial place for their socialist friends. In 1890 Hope met the German socialist Clara Zetkin and a young student of medicine, Carl Lehmann. They fell in love and Hope wanted to get divorced. But it was only in 1896 that Otto Walther agreed. Hope and Carl were married immediately. Hope's children met their father during the holidays.

Hope wrote two very successful books: "Das Frauenbuch", a medical adviser for women and “Die Gesundheit im Haus” about medical knowledge, diets, sports and clothing (against the corset), hygiene and contraception.

Activities in Munich

In 1896 Hope Bridges Adams Lehmann opened her practice in Munich together with Carl. She soon became famous as gynecologist. When in 1903 women in Bavaria were allowed to study at universities, Hope’s approbation as a doctor of medicine was acknowledged as well as her doctor’s degree. In the morning she went for operations to the hospital in her own car, in the afternoon she worked in her practice.

Doctor Adams Lehmann gave lectures and wrote for several papers. She continued meeting her socialist friends in her home, among these Lenin.

Hope and Carl wanted to establish a hospital, based on a collective ownership. But it failed because of professional jealousy of colleagues and midwifes. She was accused of illegal abortion but finally the court decision was: Not guilty.

In 1909 Hope opened a kindergarten for 150 children. They learned reading, writing and English, for the latter, three English ladies were engaged who only talked to the kids in English.

The First World War

Hope Adams was convinced that problems could not be solved by power, neither in private life nor in politics. So she asked the Bavarian government to concede in her going to England as a mediator, in August 1914. But the English authorities mistrusted her and it was only through help of important people that she could return to Germany.

At the end of 1914, Hope's husband voluntarily went into the war. In April 1915 he died from blood poisoning. That stroke of fate made Hope's lung decease return. This time she did  not withstand it and only a year later, she died.

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