Marie Elisabeth Lüders

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German stamp issued in 1997 in the Women in German history series

Marie-Elisabeth Lüders (June 25, 1878 – March 23, 1966) was a German politician and one of the most important figures in the German women's rights movement.

Lüders was born in Berlin as the descendant of the 18th century agricultural reformer Philipp Ernst Lüders. Her father was a senior Prussian civil servant.

Lüders was the first woman in Germany to attain a doctorate (in 1912, at the University of Berlin, which today is known as Humboldt University). In 1909, during her studies, she founded a lobbying group in Berlin to promote equal educational opportunities for women.

In 1917, she assumed the leadership of the newly established Frauenarbeitszentrale (′Women’s Central Work Office‵) and the Frauenreferat (‵Women’s Department′) within the German War Office. She filled other leadership positions within these organizations with outstanding representatives from the German women's movement in order to include as many women as possible in the German war economy. In her leadership position she worked to improve women's working conditions and to provide childcare for women workers' families.

In 1919, she took up deceased politician Friedrich Naumann's parliamentary seat in the Weimar National Assembly, and later became a member of the Reichstag (1920–21 and 1924–30), where she fought for women's, workers', and children's rights.

Her lobbying group and writings, however, were more-less banned in 1933 by the Nazis, who then proceeded to jail her in 1937 for her outspokenness. She was released after four months, due to international outcry from women's rights groups and diplomats alike.

After the war, Lüders joined the Bundestag (1953–61). She was named Alterspräsidentin during the 1953-57 session. In German-speaking countries, the oldest member of a parliament is offered the title of "honorary president", which basically entitles him or her to lead the parliament until an official president is elected. Though there are no set rules as to an Alterspräsident’s role, tradition dictates that the said person give the first speech of the legislative period. Lüders was, in fact, the second-oldest member of parliament (Konrad Adenauer was the oldest, but he turned down the offer to be Alterspräsident).

During her time in parliament, Lüders worked on women's rights issues, and is responsible for the so-called "Lex Lüders", which addressed what rights a foreigner married to a German citizen should be granted.

She was unmarried, but had a son in 1922, which was considered scandalous at the time.

She resigned from parliament in 1961 and died five years later on 23 March 1966 in West Berlin.

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