She was born in Lübbecke (Westphalia) and studied theology. From 1971 to 1974 she worked as a pastor in Berlin-Wedding, later as a teacher in an adult education center. In 1985 she joined the Green Party, even though she already had been in the Bundestag since 1983 for that party. Due to the party principle of rotation she had to give up the parliamentary seat in 1985, but was reelected in 1987 and again in 1994, 1998 and 2002. She was the first politician of the Green Party to be elected into the Presidium of the Bundestag, in 1994. She remained vice president of the Bundestag until the 2005 elections, when she did not run for re-election.