Marie Juchacz on a German stamp in the
Women in German history series (2003)
15 March 1879
Landsberg an der Warthe, Brandenburg, Germany
(In Poland since 1945)
|Died||28 January 1956
Düsseldorf, West Germany
Pioneer in the fields of women's rights and welfare
(married 1903: divorced 1906)
She joined the Social Democratic Party in 1908, more than ten years before women acquired the right to vote, and pursued a career that included politics, becoming, in 1919, the first female Reichstag member to address a German parliament.
Life and career
Marie was the daughter of a carpenter called Theodor Gohlke and his wife Henriette. Her childhood was marked by rural poverty, and she was obliged to leave school when aged 14. After finishing at the local school in Landsberg an der Warthe, Juchacz, whose beliefs were Protestant, began work in 1893, first as a maid, and then, briefly, in a factory that made curtains and fishing nets. Her father suffered from a lung infection and since he had no health insurance, after she left school Marie's wage packet was important for keeping the family afloat. From 1896 to 1898 she worked as a nurse in the local psychiatric institution. Looking back on the long hours of poorly paid shift work at the institution she recalled that she had soon become used to "sleeping while sitting on a hard rigid chairs ("..im Sitzen auf harten, steifen Stuhlen zu schlafen...").
She later completed an apprenticeship as a dressmaker, and took a job with a taylor called Bernhard Juchacz whom, in 1903, she married. Their daughter Lotte was born in the same year. Their second child, Paul, was born in 1905, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1906 and Marie Juchacz moved to Berlin, accompanied by her two children, her younger sister, Elisabeth Kirschmann-Röhl (1888-1930). and Elisabeth's children. The sisters set up house together in Berlin with their children, forming out of necessity what was seen as an unconventional family unit. Marie worked at dressmaking until 1913.
Marie had been introduced to politics by her older brother, Otto Gohlke, who in the later 1890s had encouraged her to read popular political works of the time such as "Die Waffen nieder!" ("Throw down the weapons") by Bertha von Suttner and "Die Frau und der Sozialismus" ("Woman and socialism") by August Bebel. Around 1903 she met Wilhelm Paetzel who was frequently in Landsberg where his family lived. Paetzel had an important job with "Vorwärts", a Berlin publishing house, and was also an activist with the SPD and the Landsberg party candidate in the 1907 election.
Marie Juchacz joined the SPD herself in 1908. In a campaign headed up by August Bebel the SPD had called for women to be permitted to join political parties in 1879, but they were nevertheless excluded until the repeal of the old Prussian Association Law in 1908. Marie Juchacz was one of the first female party members. It would be more than another decade before women were allowed to vote in German elections however.
As an active party member Juchacz quickly became a popular speaker at political meetings. In 1913 she was appointed to a paid position by the party as the Cologne women's secretary in what was then the Upper Rhine province. Her children remained in Berlin, looked after by her sister. She was nominated for the job, which she retained till 1917, by Luise Zietz (1865-1922) who had been appointed in 1908 to the SPD (party) executive committee, where Zietz was at this stage still the only woman. Much of Juchacz's attention in her new post was devoted to looking after the organisation of female textile workers in the Aachen area.
In November 1914 she gave a series of presentations to the National Women's Association (Nationale Frauengemeinschaft) entitled, "The Social obligations of Women in Wartime". Despite her reputation as a public speaker, this was the first time she had addressed meetings that were not composed only of workers and SPD party members. Organising these presentations with Juchacz also gave an opportunity for non-state based welfare group members to get to know her.
During the First World War, Marie Juchacz worked, together with Anna Maria Schulte, Else Meerfeld and Elisabeth Röhl (her sister, who later remarried and became Elisabeth Kirschmann or, in other sources, Elisabeth Kirschmann-Röhl), organising the "Home Work Centre" (Heimarbeitszentrale). This involved setting up sewing centres to give women the opportunity to work from home, along with other support for war widows and orphans. Juchacz was also a member of the so-called Food Commission (Lebensmittelkommission) which set up and operated soup kitchens.
In 1917, after more than a year of rising internal tensions, the Social Democratic Party split apart. There was disagreement over a range of domestic issues and, more notably, over opposition to the war by the "anti-revisionist" wing that included high-profile party leaders such as Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. The left wingers formed the Independent Social Democratic Party (USDP / Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands). The majority, including Marie Juchacz, remained with the mainstream MSDP (Majority SPD) under the Chairmanship of Friedrich Ebert who was always staunch in supporting the war effort. In 1917 she returned to Berlin when she accepted Ebert's invitation to become the Women's Secretary in the Party's national leadership in succession to Luise Zietz. In the same year Juchacz was elected to the SPD's national executive committee. She also, in 1917, took over from Clara Zetkin the editorship of the women's newspaper "Die Gleichheit" ("Equality").
National Assembly member
On 6 February 1919 Marie Juchacz and her sister were two of the 37 women elected to the Weimar National Assembly (which in June 1920 was superseded by the national Reichstag, to which Juchacz was also elected). On 19 February, exactly a month after the first national election in which women had been permitted to vote, Marie became the first woman to make a speech before that body, or indeed any German parliament.
She was also the only woman on the "National Assembly Advisory Board to Draft a Constitution for the German state" ("Ausschuß zur Vorberatung des Entwurfs einer Verfassung des Deutschen Reichs")
In the election of 6 June 1920 Juchacz (unlike her sister Elisabeth) retained a seat in the national Reichstag, now representing the SPD for the Potsdam electoral district, and she remained a Reichstag member until 1933.
Having made her mark with her first speech to the National Assembly, Juchacz's powerful oratory was again on display with her final contribution, in the turbulent Reichstag debate that followed the Presidential Election in April 1932. She was, again, the only woman to speak in the debate, and she was uncompromising in her attack on the NSDAP.
Workers' Welfare Committee (AWO)
Building on ideas of combining self-help with welfare provision that she had developed while organising wartime support organisations, on 13 December 1919 Marie Juchacz founded the Arbeiterwohlfahrt (AWO) committee. Its full name (then) was "Social Democratic Party Main Committee for Worker Welfare" ("Hauptausschuss für Arbeiterwohlfahrt in der SPD"). Friedrich Ebert, the SPD (party) leader and by now Germany's chancellor summed up the organisation's mission and its approach with the slogan, "The Workers' Welfare [committee] is the Self-help of the Workforce." ("Arbeiterwohlfahrt ist die Selbsthilfe der Arbeiterschaft"). The AWO was suppressed under the Nazis but resurrected in 1946, now independent of any political party, and is today an important element in Germany's decentralised welfare infrastructure, employing across the country 145,000 people plus around another 100,000 volunteers, and with approximately 400,000 members.
Despite her membership of the Reichstag, it was the AWO that was increasingly the focus of Juchacz's activities during the 1920s, as she found the party political mandate and functions less important than coordinating support for people needing help.
On 30 January 1933 Adolf Hitler was appointed Reichs Chancellor. The AWO continued to function for a few more months, but after the Reichstag fire at the end of February and the Reichstag election of 5 March 1933, political parties found themselves banned, with the SPD, second only to the Nazi party in the March elections, prominent in the firing line. SPD members were killed or arrested while others lost their jobs. The AWO, like other organisations that had opposed the Nazi tide, disintegrated. The SPD leadership fled to Prague while Juchacz, now aged 54, and together with her sister's widower, Emil Kirschmann, whom she had now married, fled to Saarbrücken, which at this stage was still under French military control. In Saarbrücken she continued to campaign against National Socialism, and also set up a lunch centre to provide some contact for refugees from Germany who suddenly found themselves stateless.
The Saarland (including Saarbrücken) had been occupied by French troops under terms imposed by the Treaty of Versailles (1919), which had also required that after fifteen years the inhabitants of the region should be permitted a vote on their future citizenship. Despite the recent Nazi takeover in Germany, in 1935 Saarlanders voted to rejoin Germany, and as a high-profile refugee from the Nazi regime, Juchacz was obliged to move again, this time to Mulhouse in Alsace (which had been in France since 1919, though German dialects still predominate in many parts of the region). In Mulhouse she was not politically active. In 1940 the German army successfully invaded northern France and Juchacz, along with many German socialists and communists who had since 1933 moved to Paris, now had to move again, to the southern part of France, reaching Marseilles at the end of 1940.
In 1941 she fled again, on an emergency visa, to New York, via Martinique. In New York she was reunited with her sister's widower, Emil Kirschmann. She learned English and, in 1945, directly following the end of the war, established "Arbeiterwohlfahrt USA – Hilfe für die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus", a New York based equivalent of the AWO with its focus on support for victims of Naziism, sending parcels of food and other essentials to a destroyed Germany.
Several cities have honoured Marie Juchacz by naming streets "Marie-Juchacz-Straße" or "Marie-Juchacz-Weg". In 2003, she was also honoured by Deutsche Post in its Women in German history series of postage stamps.
Since 1969 the German Workers' Welfare Organisation (AWO) has issued, as its highest mark of honour and recognition, the Marie Juchacz Plaque. It is presented to AWO members who have demonstrated particular commitment to the AWO and stood up for its political interests.
- Jennifer Striewski (Bonn) (8 March 2013). "Marie Juchacz (1879-1956), Begründerin der Arbeiterwohlfahrt". Landschaftsverband Rheinland (LVR), Cologne. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
- Christoph Gunkel (September 2014). "Gegen alle Hindernisse: Die Sozialdemokratin Marie Juchacz war die erste Frau, die vor einem deutschen Parlament sprach". 5/2014 (Der Spiegel - Geschichte 3 Hausmitteilung 137 Impressum ed.). Der Spiegel. pp. 68–70.
- Susanna Miller (1974). "Juchacz, Maria, geborene Gohlke Parlamentarierin und Sozialpolitikerin, * 15.3.1879 Landsberg/Warthe, † 28.1.1956 Düsseldorf.". 10/1974. Neue Deutsche Biographie. p. 633. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
- Aisheh Jouma. "Marie Juchacz - Parlamentarierin und Sozialpolitikerin war Begründerin der Arbeiterwohlfahrt und hatte eine bedeutende Rolle in der Geschichte der deutschen Frauenbewegung und im Kampf der Gleichberichtigung der Frauen. Sie war die erste Frau, die im deutschen Parlament das Wort ergriff." (PDF). Fachhochschule, Potsdam. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
- Gabriele Koch. "Marie Juchacz (geb. Gohlke): geboren am 15. März 1879 in Landsberg an der Warthe: gestorben am 28. Januar 1956 in Düsseldorf: deutsche SPD-Politikerin und Gründerin der Arbeiterwohlfahrt 135. Geburtstag am 15. März 2014". Institut für Frauen-Biographieforschung. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
- Marie Juchacz, geb. Gohlke, in: Daniela Weiland: Hermes Handlexikon. Geschichte der Frauenemanzipation in Deutschland und Österreich, Düsseldorf: ECON-Taschenbuch 1983, pages 133/134.
- As the left wing fragmented further in the revolutionary turmoil that followed the first world war, the Majority-SPD reverted to its former name of SPD in the early 1920s.
- Marie Juchacz (19 February 1919). "Weimarer Nationalversammlung - 19.02.1919 Die erste Parlamentsrede einer Frau in Deutschland: [The speech in full]". Dr. Ulrich Groß i.A. Arbeiterwohlfahrt, Leinfelden-Echterdingen e.V., Leinfelden-Echterdingen. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
- Gisela Notz (2009). "19.01.1919: Frauen dürfen zum ersten Mal wählen". Friedrich Ebert Foundation The webpage includes a link to a 39 second extract of Marie Juchacz speaking about women's right to vote in a talk originally available on a record disc in support of an election campaign. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
- (Germany was still officially called Deutsches Reich, even after the Kaiser had been persuaded to abdicate and the Weimar Republic had been founded, chiefly because there was no consensus around any of the other names canvassed.)
- Gisela Notz, citing Christa Hasenclever: Aus der parlamentarischen Tätigkeit von Marie Juchacz. In: Marie Juchacz. Gründerin der Arbeiterwohlfahrt. Leben und Werk. Bonn 1979, page 135 (2014). "Durch die Frauenbewegungen ging ein Riss: Sozialistische Frauen und der Erste Weltkrieg" (PDF). 1 / 2014. Emanzipation Zeitschrift für sozialistische Theorie und Praxis, Frankfurt a. M. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
- uk. "Die Geschichte der Arbeiterwohlfahrt im Überblick". Arbeiterwohlfahrt Berlin Kreisverband Südost e.V. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
- uk. "Die Gründung der AWO". SPD. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
- Wolfram Pyta: Die Weimarer Republik. Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2004, ISBN 3-8100-4173-4, page 154
- Christina Rhein (2014). "Marie Juchacz". AWO Arbeiterwohlfahrt Region Hannover e.V., Hanover. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
- Marie Juchacz in the German National Library catalogue
- Biography 1 (German)
- Biography 2 (German)
- Speech before the National Assembly (German)