Else von Richthofen

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Else Freiin von Richthofen[1] (October 8, 1874 - December 22, 1973) was one of the first female social scientists in Germany.

Life and career[edit]

Elisabeth Helene Amalie Sophie Freiin (Baroness) von Richthofen (also known as Else Jaffé) was born in Château-Salins (France). Her father was Friedrich Ernst Emil Ludwig Freiherr von Richthofen (1844-1915), an engineer in the German army, and Anna Elise Lydia Marquier (1852-1930).

While Else von Richthofen started her professional career as a teacher, she enrolled at Heidelberg University at a time when this was still very unusual for women; she was one of just four female students at the time. She earned a doctorate in economics in 1901 and started to work as a labour inspector in Karlsruhe.

She married another former student of Max Weber, Edgar Jaffé (1865-1921), in 1902 who was a well-known economist and entrepreneur. It was Jaffé who bought the journal Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik of which Max Weber became one of the editors. With Jaffé, she had three children, Friedel (born 1903), Marianne (born 1905) and Hans (born 1909).

Else became acquainted to intellectuals and authors, including the sociologists and economists Max Weber and Alfred Weber, the psychanalyst Otto Gross, the writer Fanny zu Reventlow and others. She started an affair with Otto Gross with whom she had a fourth child, Peter (1907-ca. 1915). She also had an affair with her former professor Max Weber and his brother Alfred Weber with whom she later lived together in the same house for several years after her husband died.


  1. ^ Regarding personal names: Freiin was a title before 1919, but now is regarded as part of the surname. It is translated as Baroness. Before the August 1919 abolition of nobility as a legal class, titles preceded the full name when given (Graf Helmuth James von Moltke). Since 1919, these titles, along with any nobiliary prefix (von, zu, etc.), can be used, but are regarded as a dependent part of the surname, and thus come after any given names (Helmuth James Graf von Moltke). Titles and all dependent parts of surnames are ignored in alphabetical sorting. The title is for unmarried daughters of a Freiherr.

Further reading[edit]

  • Janet Byrne: A Genius for Living - A Biography of Frieda Lawrence, Bloomsbury, 1995.
  • Green, Martin Burgess: The Von Richthofen Sisters

External links[edit]