Lina Morgenstern

* 25. 11.1830 16. 12.1909 Germany
Fields of activity: pacifist, social reformist
Author: Erdmute Dietmann-Beckert

Lina Morgenstern

Why did I chose this woman?

Lina Morgenstern recognized the difficulties of Families whose father was called to fight in the war. Lina invented a system by which poor families were able to feed man and child when food had become too expensive. It was the so-called “Volksküche” (a public kitchen).

The first “Soup Kitchen”

When Prussia and Austria made war against each other, at home women and children were in need of getting food. Lina Morgenstern and a friend realized the idea of opening a public kitchen, supported by rich people.
It should not be completely free, but families could get a simple meal for little money. So people had not to ask for charity, but they could keep their dignity.

The German-French War

In 1871 Prussia declared war on France. All healthy men were called to defend the country. The soldiers were gathered in Berlin from where they should go westward.
But what about feeding the men? No-one had taken care of. It was Lina Morgenstern who started installing canteens in which the soldiers should have a meal before leaving.
Very soon not only healthy soldiers had to be cared for, but the first wounded men returned, too. Among them there were wounded French men. Lina did not make differences between friend and foe and immediately she was blamed for her doing so. She only saw the man suffering from being hurt. Later the Prussian Empress Augusta personally thanked Lina Morgenstern for her engagement.

Social activities

Lina disapproved war. She supported Bertha von Suttner (1843-1914), the Austrian Nobel Prize winner for peace. Borrowing from her, Lina wrote a poem beginning with: “Put down the weapons!” Lina wanted to protect life, not to destroy it. She created the association for the protection of children and wrote a book entitled “Childhood’s Paradise”.
As the employees in the public kitchens did not get any money in case of illness, Lina started an insurance fund, initially supported by the empress.
When the German feminist Minna Cauer, (1841-1922), the German feminist, convoked The International Congress for Women’s Rights Lina Morgenstern went to take part in.

In 1897 the “Deutsche. Friedensgesellschaft” was founded, (German society for peace) and Lina was one of the board members.

Lina Morgenstern, a biography

She was the third child of eight brothers and sisters. Her parents Albert and Fanny educated their children within the meaning of a liberal Jewish religion.
At the age of eighteen, daughter Lina created a penny fund for poor classmates.
In 1854 Lina married Theodor Morgenstern. They moved to Berlin. The young husband had to declare bankrupt. So it was Lina who took care of the family by doing translations from Polish to German, by writing books for children and publishing articles for house wives. And she wrote an illustrated cookbook. In Lina’s public kitchens her husband was an employee.

When Lina Morgenstern died, one of the obituaries reads: “Lina did not die with many goods. If she ever had had any, she would have given these to some petitioner.” The German empress sent a sympathy letter.

Rabby Wilhelm Klemperer (1839-1912) wrote at her death: “Lina Morgenstern represented a woman who had been able to combine being wife, mother, manager and pioneer for women’s rights.”

Indeed her social work survived for 37 years. Malicious articles Lina was able to ignore. Luckily she did not experience the German anti-Semitism. In my opinion, she belongs to the women who should not be forgotten.

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