Augspurg, Anita

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AUGSPURG, ANITA (1867–1943), legal scholar, writer, peace activist, and prominent member of the radical women's movement in Imperial and Weimar Germany.

Anita Augspurg was born on 22 September 1857, the youngest of five children, to a bourgeois family in Verden, Germany. As a young woman, she pursued various careers in order to push the boundaries constricting her choices as a "respectable" woman: in 1878 she moved to Berlin to work toward a certificate in teaching; later she studied acting and toured Germany and Europe with various companies before settling in Munich in 1886 to open a photo studio with her friend, the photographer Sophia Goudstikker. In Berlin and Munich, Augspurg came into contact with women's rights groups and started giving speeches on controversial topics, female education in particular. She quickly became an important figure in the growing bourgeois German women's movement. In 1893, Augspurg moved to Zurich to study law, because German universities did not enroll women. She viewed legal education as training for her activism and as the logical culmination of her commitment to improved educational opportunities for women. In 1895, Augspurg spent a semester in Berlin to audit courses and became involved in the fight against the proposed new German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch). In 1896 she organized a series of protest rallies and published in the newly emerging feminist press her lectures condemning the restrictions on married women codified by the new laws. Her subsequent open letter calling for a boycott of bourgeois marriage revealed her increasing radicalization and her commitment to women's self-determination (politically, personally, professionally, and sexually).

After finishing her doctorate in 1897, Augspurg returned to Berlin, where her feminist activities became increasingly radical. In fact, Ausgpurg, Minna Cauer, and others broke with the moderate wing of the bourgeois women's movement in 1899 and formed a new radical organization, the Association of Progressive Women's Groups, which not only rejected the separation of bourgeois and working class women, but also made women's suffrage one of its main goals.

At an international women's congress in Berlin in 1896, Augspurg met Lida Gustava Heymann, a women's activist from Hamburg, and the two began a lifelong political cooperation and personal relationship. Although Augspurg had female partners throughout her life, she never spoke publicly about lesbianism. Heymann worked on women's issues in her hometown of Hamburg, where she was particularly interested in combating regulated female prostitution. In 1899, Heymann founded the first German chapter of the International Abolitionist Federation in Hamburg, an organization founded by Josephine Butler in England that was dedicated to the abolition of regulated female prostitution. Although Augspurg was not officially a member, she visited the chapter frequently and gave public lectures on its behalf, focusing on the legal implications of the sexual dependency of women. In the wake of her own mistaken arrest in 1903, Augspurg became passionate about the injustices of sexual politics in Imperial Germany. Augspurg and Heymann saw women's suffrage as an important next step in the fight for women's rights. In 1902, they formed a women's suffrage association in Hamburg, which evolved into a national and international organization. Their goal was to achieve women's suffrage as soon as possible and to prepare women for political participation in the interim. In the following years, disagreements emerged within the women's movement about the overall goals of the movement, specifically the kinds of suffrage to be championed. In 1907, Augspurg and Heymann moved to Bavaria to run a farm. Their geographic remoteness was symbolic of their increasing isolation in the bourgeois women's movement as they took on more marginalized causes (animal rights, vegetarianism) and became alienated from some of the important radical leaders of the movement.

Augspurg interpreted the outbreak of war in 1914 as a culmination of male aggression and saw feminist pacifism as the only solution to the war. In 1915, she helped to organize and participated in the pacifist International Congress of Women in The Hague. Her pacifism and internationalism clashed with the strong resurgence of wartime nationalism in Germany. After the war, Augspurg and Heymann participated in the short-lived revolution in Munich, excited about the transformative potential of this new political beginning. Throughout the Weimar Republic, they continued their pacifist and feminist work.

Augspurg and Heymann were surprised by the advent of the Nazis to power in 1933 while on vacation in Mallorca, Spain. They decided not to return to Germany and remained in exile in Switzerland. Augspurg died on 20 December 1943, just five months after her friend's death on July 31.

See alsoAnneke, Mathilde-Franziska; Butler, Josephine; Dohm, Hedwig; Feminism; Otto, Louise; Suffragism.


Braker, Regina. "Betha von Suttner's Spiritual Daughters: The Feminist Pacifism of Anita Augspurg, Lida Gustava Heymann, and Helene Stöcker at the International Congress of Women at The Hague, 1915." Women's Studies International Forum 18(2) (1995): 103–111.

Dünnbier, Anna, and Ursula Scheu. Die Rebellion ist eine Frau: Anita Augspurg und Lida G. Heymann—Das schillerndste Paar der Frauenbewegung. Munich, 2002.

Evans, Richard J. The Feminist Movement in Germany, 1893–1933. London, 1976.

Gelblum, Amira. "Feminism and Pacifism: The Case of Anita Augspurg and Lida Gustava Heymann." Tel-Aviver Jahrbuch für deutsche Geschichte 21 (1992): 207–225.

Henke, Christiane. Anita Augspurg. Hamburg, 2000.

Heymann, Lida Gustava, in collaboration with Anita Augspurg. Erlebtes Erschautes: Deutsche Frauen kämpfen für Freiheit, Recht, und Frieden, edited by Margrit Twellmann. Meisenheim am Glan, 1972. New edition, Frankfurt am Main, 1992.

Julia Bruggemann