Hedwig Dohm

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Hedwig Dohm
Hedwig Dohm, c. 1898.png
Hedwig Dohm, c. 1898
Born20 September 1831
Berlin Edit this on Wikidata
Died1 June 1919
Berlin Edit this on Wikidata
Resting placeAlter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof Edit this on Wikidata

Marianne Adelaide Hedwig Dohm (née Schlesinger, later Schleh; 20 September 1831 – 1 June 1919) was a German feminist and author. She was one of the first feminist thinkers to see gender roles as a result of socialization and not biological determinism.


She was born in the Prussian capital Berlin to Jewish parents,[1] the third child of (Henriette) Wilhelmine Jülich, née Beru and tobacco manufacturer Gustav Adolph Gotthold Schleh (originally Elchanan Cohen Schlesinger). Her father had converted to Protestantism in 1817; in 1851 he adopted the surname Schleh. Hedwig's parents did not marry until 1838, as her father's family had strong reservations about this marital union.

While her brothers were enabled to attend the Gymnasium, Hedwig had to leave school at the age of 15, to help out with household chores. Three years later, she began an apprenticeship at a teaching seminary.

In 1853 she became the wife of writer and actor Ernst Dohm (Elias Levy; 1819–1883), editor-in-chief of the Kladderadatsch satirical magazine, with whom she had five children:

  1. Hans Ernst (1854–1866), the only son
  2. Gertrude Hedwig Anna (1855–1942), married the mathematician Alfred Pringsheim (1850–1941)
  3. Ida Marie Elisabeth (1856–1922)
  4. Marie Pauline Adelheid (1858–?)
  5. Eva (1859–?)

By her daughter Gertrude Hedwig, she became grandmother of Katharina "Katia" Pringsheim (1883–1980), the wife of Thomas Mann, and of the musician Klaus Pringsheim, Sr. (1883–1972).


Hedwig and her husband associated with the intellectual circles in Berlin, the future German capital. In 1867 she published her first study, on the historical development of Spanish national literature, based on the knowledge she had taught herself on an autodidactic basis. From the early 1870s onwards, she published feminist treatises demanding legal, social and economic equality, as well as women's suffrage. These essays made her popular but also encountered opposition by moderate feminists who merely concentrated on better educational opportunities for young women. In the late 1870s, Hedwig wrote several theatre comedies that were all performed at the Berlin Schauspielhaus with considerable success.

After her husband died in 1883, she began to write novels, until from the late 1880s she again published numerous treatises on the revived feminist movement. Hedwig Dohm also founded the Reform association advocating a comprehensive educational reform and female university studies. She joined the Women's Welfare (Frauenwohl) association founded by Minna Cauer as well as Helene Stöcker's League for the Protection of Mothers (Bund für Mutterschutz). Her polished style mocking male claims to power, as well as her professed disrespect for the patriarchal social system broke new grounds in her day.

Tomb at Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof

Hedwig Dohm was one of the few German intellectuals to publicly speak out against the patriotic fever on the eve of World War I, publishing pacifist articles in the left-wing journal Die Aktion edited by Franz Pfemfert. She lived to see the implementation of women's suffrage in the Weimar Republic after the German Revolution of 1918–19.

Hedwig Dohm died in Berlin at the age of 87. She is buried in the Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof in the Schöneberg district.

Literary works[edit]

  • Was die Pastoren von den Frauen denken, 1872
  • Der Jesuitismus im Hausstande, 1873
  • Die wissenschaftliche Emanzipation der Frau, 1874
  • Der Frauen Natur und Recht, 1876
  • Die Antifeministen. Ein Buch der Verteidigung, 1902
  • Die Mütter. Ein Beitrag zur Erziehungsfrage, 1903
  • Der Mißbrauch des Todes, 1915


Literary references[edit]

  • Nikola Müller und Isabel Rohner (Hg.): Hedwig Dohm - Ausgewählte Texte. Berlin: trafo Verlag, 2006. ISBN 3-89626-559-8


External links[edit]