Frieda Lawrence

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Frieda Lawrence
Portrait of Frieda Lawrence, Taos, N.M. LCCN2004663190 (cropped).jpg
Lawrence in Taos, New Mexico, as photographed by Carl Van Vetchen in 1950
Frieda Freiin von Richthofen

(1879-08-11)August 11, 1879
Metz, Germany
DiedAugust 11, 1956(1956-08-11) (aged 77)

Frieda Lawrence (August 11, 1879 – August 11, 1956) was a German literary figure mainly known for her marriage to the British novelist D. H. Lawrence. She was a distant relative of Manfred von Richthofen, the "Red Baron".


Emma Maria Frieda Johanna Freiin (Baroness) von Richthofen[1] (also known under her married names as Frieda Weekley,[2] Frieda Lawrence, and Frieda Lawrence Ravagli) was born in Metz. Her father was Baron Friedrich Ernst Emil Ludwig von Richthofen (1844–1916), an engineer in the German army, and her mother was Anna Elise Lydia Marquier (1852–1930). She was a fifth cousin, once removed, of German air ace Manfred von Richthofen. Though their last common ancestor was born in 1661, the Red Baron's fame nonetheless attached to Frieda's reputation in wartime England.

In 1899, she married a British philologist and professor of modern languages, Ernest Weekley, with whom she had three children, Charles Montague (born 1900), Elsa Agnès (born 1902) and Barbara Joy (born 1904). They settled in Nottingham, where Ernest was an academic at the university. During her marriage to Weekley she began to translate German literature, mainly fairy tales, into English.

She met D. H. Lawrence, a former student of her husband, in 1912; soon she fell in love with him, and they eloped to Germany.[3] During their stay Lawrence was arrested for spying; after the intervention of Frieda's father, the couple walked south over the Alps to Italy. Following her divorce, Frieda and Lawrence married in 1914. She had been legally obliged to leave her children with Weekley; divorced adulterous women were unable to gain custody.[4]

While they had intended to return to the continent, the outbreak of war kept them in England, where they endured official harassment and censorship.[5] They also struggled with limited resources and D. H. Lawrence's already frail health.[6]

Leaving postwar England at the earliest opportunity, they traveled widely, eventually settling at the Kiowa Ranch (now D. H. Lawrence Ranch) near Taos, New Mexico, and in Lawrence's last years at the Villa Mirenda, near Scandicci in Tuscany. After her husband's death in Vence, France, in 1930, she returned to Taos to live with her third husband, Angelo Ravagli.[7] The ranch is now owned by the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque.[8]

Georgia O'Keeffe, who knew her in Taos, said in 1974: “Frieda was very special. I can remember very clearly the first time I ever saw her, standing in a doorway, with her hair all frizzed out, wearing a cheap red calico dress that looked as though she’d just wiped out the frying pan with it. She was not thin, and not young, but there was something radiant and wonderful about her."[9]

Mainly through her elder sister Else von Richthofen, Frieda became acquainted with many intellectuals and authors, including the socioeconomist Alfred Weber and sociologist Max Weber, the radical psychoanalyst Otto Gross (who became her lover), and the writer Fanny zu Reventlow.[10]

By her approval of the dramatization for the theatre of Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover—thought to be based partly on her own relationship as an aristocrat with the working class Lawrence—it became his only novel ever to be staged. John Harte's play was the only dramatization to be accepted by her, and she did her best to get it produced. Although she loved the play when she read it, the copyright to Lawrence's story had already been acquired by Baron Philippe de Rothschild, who was a close friend. He did not relinquish it until 1960, after his film version had been released. John Harte's play was first produced at The Arts Theatre, London in 1961, five years after her death.


Frieda Lawrence died on her seventy-seventh birthday in Taos.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

She is an important character in On the Rocks, a play by Amy Rosenthal which deals with her sometimes difficult relationship with D. H. Lawrence.[12]

Lawrence was the inspiration for the character Harriet Somers, played by Judy Davis[13] in the 1986 Australian film Kangaroo. The film was based on D. H. Lawrence's semi-autobiographical novel of the same name.[14]



  • Lawrence, Frieda von Richthofen. Not I, but the Wind... With an afterword by Harry T. Moore. New York: Viking, 1934.
    • Reprint. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1974. LCCN 74-8660 ISBN 0809306905.


  • Byrne, Janet. A Genius for Living: The Life of Frieda Lawrence. New York: HarperCollins, 1995. ISBN 0060190019.
  • Crotch, Martha Gordon. Memories of Frieda Lawrence. Edinburgh: Tragara Press, 1975. ISBN 0902616196.
  • Green, Martin. The von Richthofen Sisters: The Triumphant and the Tragic Modes of Love: Else and Frieda Von Richthofen, Otto Gross, Max Weber, and D. H. Lawrence, in the Years 1870–1970. New York: Basic Books, 1974. ISBN 0465090508.
  • Lawrence, Frieda von Richthofen, Harry T. Moore, and Dale B. Montague, eds. Frieda Lawrence and Her Circle: Letters from, to, and About Frieda Lawrence. London: Macmillan, 1981. ISBN 0333276000.


  1. ^ "Frieda Lawrence: An Inventory of Her Collection". Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  2. ^ Kendrick, Walter (November 27, 1994). "A Thing About Men, and a Thing About Women". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  3. ^ Sword, Helen (1995). Engendering Inspiration: Visionary Strategies in Rilke, Lawrence, and H.D. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. p. 82. ISBN 978-0472105946. LCCN 95040616. OCLC 33131763.
  4. ^ Anderson, Hephzibah (18 November 2018). "Frieda: The Original Lady Chatterley by Annabel Abbs review – DH Lawrence's muse". The Observer. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  5. ^ Alberge, Dalya (March 23, 2013). "D. H. Lawrence's Poetry Saved from the Censor's Pen". The Guardian. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  6. ^ Kunkel, Benjamin (December 19, 2005). "The Deep End". The New Yorker. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  7. ^ "DH Lawrence's Wife 'Was the Real Lady Chatterley'". The Telegraph. February 28, 2005. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  8. ^ Bush, Mike; Stiny, Andy (January 9, 2015). "Brushing the Cobwebs Off the D. H. Lawrence Ranch". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  9. ^ Tomkins, Calvin (March 4, 1974). "Georgia O'Keeffe's Vision". The New Yorker. Retrieved May 25, 2018.
  10. ^ Roth, Gunther (July 2010). "Edgar Jaffé and Else von Richthofen in the Mirror of Newly Found Letters". Max Weber Studies. 10 (2): 151–188. doi:10.15543/mws/2010/2/3. ISSN 1470-8078. JSTOR 24579567.
  11. ^ Bevington, Helen Smith (1983). The Journey is Everything: A Journal of the Seventies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. p. 134. ISBN 978-0822305538. LCCN 83005582. OCLC 9412283.
  12. ^ Billington, Michael (July 2, 2008). "Theatre Review: On the Rocks". The Guardian. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  13. ^ Mills, Nancy (April 4, 1987). "Judy Davis is Back on the U.S. Scene in 'Kangaroo'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 27, 1987). "Kangaroo Movie Review & Film Summary (1987)". Archived from the original on April 1, 2017. Retrieved August 13, 2018.

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