31 December 1820|
Sankt Wendel, Saarland
|Died||4 November 1890
London, United Kingdom
|Known for||Housekeeper of Karl Marx, later serving as the household manager and political confidante of Frederick Engels.|
Helene "Lenchen" Demuth (1820-1890) was the housekeeper of Jenny and Karl Marx, later serving as the household manager and political confidante of Frederick Engels. She is best remembered as the mother of a child believed by most scholars to have been fathered by Marx.
Helene Demuth was born of peasant parents on December 31, 1820 in Sankt Wendel, Saarland. As a teenage girl she was adopted into the von Westphalen household, to work as a maid. In 1843 Karl Marx married Jenny von Westphalen. Helene Demuth joined their household in April 1845 in Brussels, where she was sent by Jenny's mother. She stayed with the Marxes as a lifelong housekeeper, friend, and political confidante, and was commonly known to the family by the nicknames Lenchen or Nim.
On June 23, 1851 Helene Demuth gave birth to a boy believed by most scholars to have been sired by Karl Marx. Presumably in an effort to preserve the Marxes' marriage, Karl Marx's closest personal friend, Frederick Engels, a bachelor living in Manchester, claimed fatherhood of the boy, who was given his name. The baby, Frederick Lewis Demuth (1851−1929), was placed in a working class foster home in London shortly after birth and was later trained as a toolmaker. His probable half-sister Eleanor Marx came to know him some time after her father's death and made him a family friend.
After Marx's death in March 1883, Helene Demuth moved to Engels's home, where she ran the household. The pair worked in tandem to organize and arrange for the publication of Marx's literary remains.
In October 1890, Helene was diagnosed with cancer. She died in London on November 4 that year at the age of 69. In accordance with Jenny Marx's wishes, she was buried in the Marx family grave.
According to Terrell Carver, although it has been claimed since 1962 that Marx was the father of Helene Demuth's illegitimate son, "this is not well founded on the documentary materials available. From what we know reliably about Marx, he was in his conventional terms a devoted husband and father".
Notes and references
- Hal Draper, "Helene Demuth," in The Marx-Engels Glossary: Volume III of the Marx-Engels Cyclopedia. New York: Schocken Books, 1986; pg. 55.
- Saul Padover (trans. and ed.), "Introduction: Marx, the Human Side," to Karl Marx, On Education, Women, and Children. New York: McGraw Hill Book Co., 1975; pg. xxv.
- Draper, "Frederick Demuth," in The Marx-Engels Glossary, pg. 55.
- Carver, Terrell (1991). "Reading Marx: Life and Works". In Carver, Terrell. The Cambridge Companion to Marx. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. p. 11. ISBN 9780521366946. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
- Helene Demuth
- Terrel Carver, "Marx’s ‘Illegitimate Son’ ...or Gresham’s Law in the World of Scholarship,"