Kinder, Küche, Kirche
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Kinder, Küche, Kirche (German pronunciation: [ˈkɪndɐ ˈkʏçə ˈkɪʁçə]), or the 3 Ks, is a German slogan translated as “children, kitchen, church”. It now has a mostly derogatory connotation, describing what is seen as an antiquated female role model in contemporary Western society. The phrase is vaguely equivalent to the English "barefoot and pregnant" or the Victorian "A woman's place is in the home".
The origins of the phrase are normally attributed either to the last German Emperor Wilhelm II, or to his first wife, Empress Augusta Victoria. She is likely to have adopted it from one of several similar German "sayings by number". The most suggestive of these is listed in the second volume of German proverbs Glossary: A treasure house of the German people published in 1870 by Karl Friedrich Wilhelm Wander: "Vier K gehören zu einem frommen Weib, nemlich, dass sie Achtung gebe auff die Kirche, Kammer, Kuche, Kinder." - "Four K's are requisite of a pious woman, namely, that she keeps regard for church, chamber, kitchen, children." Wander refers for the origins of this saying to a 16th-century commentary on Sirach by Johannes Mathesius. He also lists another similar phrase: "Eine gute Hausfrau hat fünf K zu besorgen: Kammer, Kinder, Küche, Keller, Kleider." - "A good housewife has to take care of five K: chamber, kids, kitchen, cellar, clothes," which appeared first in the 1810 collection of the German proverbs Die weisheit auf der gasse: oder Sinn und geist deutscher sprichwörter - The wisdom of the streets; or, meaning and spirit of German proverbs by Johann Michael Sailer. In 1844 "The newspaper for the German Nobility" published this latter saying in its traditional last page "feature" short statements.
The phrase started to appear in its current form in writing in the early 1890s. "After Germany, where women apparently take no interest in public affairs, and seem to obey to the letter the young emperor's injunction "Let women devote themselves to the three K's, -- die Küche, die Kirche, die Kinder" (kitchen, church, and children), the active interest and influence of English women on all great questions were refreshing." wrote Marie C. Remick in A Woman's Travel-notes on England in 1892. The phrase then was used multiple times throughout the 1890s in liberal writing and speeches.
In August 1899 the influential British liberal Westminster Gazette elaborated on the story, mentioning, as well, the 4th "K". A story titled "The American Lady and the Kaiser. The Empress's four K's" describes an audience given by the Kaiser to two American suffragettes. After hearing them out, the Kaiser replies: "I agree with my wife. And do you know what she says? She says that women have no business interfering with anything outside the four K's. The four K's are – Kinder, Küche, Kirche, and Kleider: Children, Kitchen, Church, and Clothing".
When Hitler came to power in 1933, he introduced a Law for the Encouragement of Marriage, which entitled newly married couples to a loan of 1000 marks (around 9 months' average wages at that time). On their first child, they could keep 250 marks. On their second, they could keep another 250. They reclaimed all of the loan by their fourth child.
In a September 1934 speech to the National Socialist Women's Organization, Adolf Hitler argued that for the German woman her "world is her husband, her family, her children, and her home", a policy which was reinforced by the stress on "Kinder" and "Küche" in propaganda, and the bestowal of the Cross of Honor of the German Mother on women bearing four or more babies.
During this period, women were discriminated against in employment and forced out or bribed with numerous social benefits. Medicine, the law and civil service were occupations reserved for men alone.
Miss Bower of the Ministry of Transport, who moved that the association should take steps to obtain the removal of the ban (i.e. against married women Civil Servants) said it was wise to abolish an institution which embodied one of the main tenets of the Nazi creed – the relegation of women to the sphere of the kitchen, the children and the church.
The report, by its abbreviation, may do less than justice to Miss Bower, but I do not think that I am unfair to the report, in finding the implication that what is Nazi is wrong, and need not be discussed on its own merits. Incidentally, the term "relegation of women" prejudices the issue. Might one suggest that the kitchen, the children and the church could be considered to have a claim upon the attention of married women? or that no normal married woman would prefer to be a wage-earner if she could help it? What is miserable is a system that makes the dual wage necessary.
During World War II in Germany, women eventually were put back in the factories because of the growing losses in the armed forces and the desperate lack of equipment on the front lines.
Post-World War II
The phrase continued to be used in feminist and anti-feminist writing in the English-speaking world in the 1950s and 1960s. So, notably, the first version of the classic feminist paper by Naomi Weisstein "Psychology Constructs the Female" was titled "Kinder, Küche, Kirche as Scientific Law: Psychology Constructs the Female".
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- The American Lady and the Kaiser. The Empress's four K's, in: Westminster Gazette, 17. 8. 1899, S. 6.
- Paletschek, Sylvia, Kinder – Küche – Kirche
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The man-made world; or, Our Androcentirc Culture. New York, Charton Co., 1911.
- Doramus, Max, The Complete Hitler. A Digital Desktop Reference to His Speeches & Proclamations, 1932-1945 (Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 1990), 532
- Spartacus Educational Archived 2006-05-10 at the Wayback Machine.
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- "N. Weisstein, Psychology Constructs the Female". Archived from the original on 2011-09-27.