Agnes Schultheiß

* 09.01.1873 (Danzig) 10.12.1959 (Ulm) Germany
Fields of activity: Politisches und soziales Engagement
Author: Christel Freitag-Wagner

Agnes Schultheiß


“Today the views on women's suffrage have changed completely.

The law has given birth to a duty. Do what you have to do. Act politically by giving information to the press, by influencing the men returning from the war, and especially by participating in elections."

Why I selected this woman
For 30 years I spent part of my professional life in the “Centre of the Good Shepherd”, a facility for disadvantaged children, young people and their families. It was important for me to help these children and their famililies and to provide them with better opportunities in life.  Agnes Schultheiss was co-founder of this centre and has largely contributed to its continuity until today.


Home, school and vocational training
Agnes Schultheiß was born in Danzig in 1873 and grew up in an upper middle class and wealthy merchant family. Agnes was the 11th of 12 children. She wanted to be a teacher and so she attended the teachers training college in Danzig. After working as a teacher in Breslau for one year, she taught in the "Marienschule" in Danzig for nine years. This school had been founded and financed by her parents, and her elder sister was the headmistress.  As soon as women were allowed to study at university she studied languages and literature first at Oxford University and then in Bonn. She finished her studies with the State exam. In the UK, she got to know the women's movement and its commitment to women's suffrage.

Marriage and family
After having finished her studies Agnes Schultheiß did not get a job because, in 1906, she married the widowed postal inspector Franz Schultheiß in Tübingen. He had a son. With her husband she shared an interest in literature, art and music. In 1907 the family moved to Ulm. Later Franz Schultheiß became Director of the Postal Services in Ulm. They did not have children. Her husband supported the social and political activities of his wife. Agnes Schultheiß established contacts with the Catholic Church and the members of the very active women's movement.


Social activities
In 1908 she was instrumental in the founding of the "Rescue Association of the Good Shepherd." Its goal was to offer a temporary home to "fallen women" i.e. girls, who had to leave their families due to pregnancy. They and their children were to be provided with accomodation, personal attention and warmth. Soon the “Association of the Good Shepherd” took over new tasks: In 1918 an orphanage and a children’s home were run by it.

From 1912 to 1940 Agnes Schultheiß was the chairwoman. Working with people in difficult social situations requires much commitment and empathy. As a talented woman with great managerial skills she could acquire land and build a house for “The Good Shepherd”. Agnes Schultheiß campaigned tirelessly to get donations from local authorithies, parishes and individuals. In 1933, she succeeded in keeping “The Good Shepherd" as an ecclesiastical institution. A highlight of her work was the opening of the rebuilt "House of the Good Shepherd" after the war, when a large number of children and orphans needed help.
Social conditions are subject to constant change. Today “The Association of the Good Shepherd” runs a centre for children and young people.

Political Activities
Agnes Schultheiß was also active in other areas. In 1914 she was co-founder of the l "Association for the Protection of Girls" in Ulm. In 1917 she founded the local branch of German Catholic Women’s League. She also campaigned for women's suffrage, which was finally introduced in 1918. After a "flaming election speech" she was one of the three women who were elected to the city council in Ulm. She was a city councillor from 1919 to 1928. She had joined the Centre Party in 1918, and several times she ran for a seat in the Reichstag, but had no success.
After the war, she founded the Catholic Women's League again, which had been forbidden in the “Third Reich”.

Last years
In 1951 she moved into a house in Wiblingen. It was open to people in need, although her final years were marred by serious illnesses. Until her death she remained a committed Christian who was respected by people from all spheres of life.
Today her former house belongs to “The Good Shepherd". And even today it is a house where children and young people from difficult backgrounds are taught to cope with the challenges of life.
As in the early years of the "Good Shepherd" the centre again houses a mother- child group in which pregnant girls are accomodated in case of emergency and prepared for their future duties.

In December 2002, a stele was erected in the Bahnhofstrasse in Ulm to commemorate the merits of Agnes Schultheiß.

Agnes Schultheiß dealt with the problems of her time and her place of residence in various ways. She was a woman of action, who suceeded in bringing about changes by her activities.
The garrison city of Ulm "offered plenty of moral hazard which had to be met."
Agnes Schultheiß saw the plight of unmarried pregnant women who were ostracized and rejected by society and often found themselves in a desperate situation. She found ways to help.
She fought for women's education and women's suffrage, although there was a lot of opposition to universal suffrage even from parts of the women. She participated in political discussions and took on political responsibility at a time when women in politics were an exception.
Her ability to convince others of her ideas and to create enthusiasm for her projects deserves great admiration.

Sources and literature

Stadtarchiv Ulm, G 2: Bestand Agnes Schultheiß
Ilse Schulz: Agnes Schultheiß, in: Ökumenischer Arbeitskreis ( Eds.)

Ulmer Frauenwege im  20. Jahrhundert, Ulm 2006
Katholisches Kirchenblatt 11. Januar 1953, Stadtarchiv Ulm G 5/71
Festschrift "75 Jahre Guter Hirte eV. Ulm", Ulm 1983
Frank Rahberg: Biographisches Lexikon für Ulm and Neu-Ulm, Ulm 2010
Helga Philipp: Das Zentrum „guterhirte "  in: St. Georg Ulm, Ulm 2004