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Hilferding-Hönigsberg, Margarethe (1871-1942)


Margarethe Hilferding-Hönigsberg, an Austrian physician and psychoanalyst, was born on June 20, 1871, in Vienna, and died while being deported to Maly Trostinec in September 1942.

She was from a family of Jewish doctors, who were deeply involved in the social-democratic movement. She was trained to be a teacher in public and private schools, received her baccalaureate degree, and, in 1898, enrolled in the philosophy department of the University of Vienna. She switched from philosophy to medicine and obtained her doctorate in 1903one of the first female doctors in Vienna. In 1904 she married Rudolf Hilferding, a socialist economist, future minister of finance of the Weimar Republic. In 1907-1908, the family was living in Berlin but Hilferding-Hönigsberg returned to Vienna with her two sons following her divorce. In 1910 she began practicing medicine in a workers' quarter of Vienna, where she was also politically active with the social democrats from 1927 to 1934, working as a district councilor.

In April 1910 Paul Federn proposed Margarethe Hilferding as a candidate for the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, which led to an in-depth discussion on accepting women into the organization. On April 27, 1910, she became the first woman in the society and, until her resignation, a year-and-a-half later, regularly attended meetings. During the winter 1910-1911 season, she was an auditor at Sigmund Freud's talks at the school of medicine. In January 1911 she gave her first presentation to the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society; it was titled "The Basis of Maternal Love."

In 1911, at the time of the split between Alfred Adler and Sigmund Freud, she sided with Adler and cosigned his letter of withdrawal. After the First World War she was very active in the Verein für Individualpsychologie (Association for Individual Psychology). She worked as a chief physician in offices providing educational counseling in individual psychology and at the Mariahilfer Ambulatorium day hospital. Her seminars, talks, and publications concerned educational issues and the problems of women. In the collection edited by Sofie Lazarsfeld in 1926, "Volkstümliche Schriftenreihe" (Popular Collection), she published La Régulation des naissances with a postscript by Alfred Adler.

When the National Socialists came to power, Margarethe Hilferding-Hönigsberg was unable to get out in time. She lost her apartment and was placed in a Jewish old-age asylum in Vienna. On June 28, 1942, she was deported to Theresienstadt. She died while being transported to Maly Trostinec in September 1942.

Elke MÜhlleitner

See also: Austria; Wiener psychoanalytische Vereinigung.


Hilferding-Hönigsberg, Margarethe. (1919). Der Schleich-handel. Kampf, 12, p. 300-304.

. (1920). Was kostet die auskömmliche Ernährung ?Kampf. 13, p. 101-105.

. (1926). Geburtenregelung. Erörterungen zum 144, Nachw. A. Adler. Vienna-Leipzig: Moritz Perles.

Mühlleitner, Elke. (1992). Biographisches Lexikon der Psychoanalyse (Die Mitglieder der Psychologischen Mittwoch-Gesellschaft und der Wiener Psychoanalytischen Vereinigung 1902-1938). Tübingen: Diskord.

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