Hollitscher-Freud, Mathilde (1887-1978)

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The eldest daughter of Sigmund Freud, Mathilde was born on October 16, 1887, in Vienna, and died in London on February 20, 1978.

Mathilde, named after Josef Breuer's wife, appeared in Freud's dreams as his only reference to oedipal and fatherly feelings (1900a). A sickly child, Mathilde suffered from several serious illnesses, including bouts with diphtheria, and references to her health problems as an adolescent and even after her marriage appear often in her father's correspondence.

When she was twenty and doubted her physical appearance, Freud wrote:

You know that I have always intended to keep you at home until you are at least twenty-four, until you are strong enough for the duties of marriage and possibly of bearing children, and until the weakness, which those three serious illnesses in your early life left behind, has been repaired. In social and material circumstances like ours, girls quite rightly do not marry during their early youth; otherwise their married life would be over too soon. . . . I think you probably associate the present minor complaint with an old worry about which I should very much like to talk to you for once. I have guessed for a long time that in spite of all your common sense you fret because you think you are not good-looking enough and therefore might not attract a man. I have watched this with a smile, first of all because you seem quite attractive enough to me, and secondly because I know that in reality it is no longer physical beauty which decides the fate of a girl, but the impression of her whole personality. Your mirror will inform you that there is nothing common or repellent in your features. . . . The more intelligent among young men are sure to know what to look for in a wifegentleness, cheerfulness, and the talent to make their life easier and more beautiful (March 26, 1908) (Freud 1960, pp. 271-272).

Despite Freud's vague plan that she marry Sándor Ferenczi, seven months later he announced her engagement to "a young Viennese businessman named Robert Hollitscher" (1875-1959) whom she married at the synagogue the same day (February 7, 1909) as her uncle, Freud's brother Alexander, married.

In September 1912 Freud interrupted his vacation to go to Mathilde's bedside. A botched appendectomy from six years earlier, which had then carried a risk of peritonitis, had caused her to suffer a miscarriage.

Mathilde remained childless but, after the death of her sister Sophie in 1920, she took charge of young Heinele (Heinz Rudolf Halberstadt). "My eldest, Math[ilde], and her husband," Freud told some friends, "have virtually adopted him and have fallen in love with him so thoroughly that one could not have predicted it." (Gay 1988, p. 421) But Heinele died on June 19, 1923.

In Vienna, Mathilde became friends with Ruth Mack Brunswick, who named her eldest daughter after her. After her husband's business suffered during the Great Depression, Freud helped financially while Mathilde opened a fashionable women's clothing store.

Mathilde and her husband managed to emigrate to London on May 26, 1938, and so welcomed Freud at his arrival shortly thereafter. Mathilde Hollitscher opened another clothing story on Baker Street. She retired in 1960 and died on February 20, 1978 at age ninety-two.

Alain de Mijolla

See also: Berggasse 19, Wien IX; Freud-Bernays, Martha; Irma's injection, dream of; Mathilde, case of.


Appignanesi, Lisa; and Forrester, John. (1992). Freud's women. New York: Basic Books.

Freud, Sigmund. (1960a [1873-1939]). Letters. New York: Basic Books.

Gay, Peter. (1988). Freud: A life for our time. New York: Doubleday, 1988.

Gödde, Günther. (2003). Mathilde Freud. Die älteste Tocher Sigmund Freud in Briefen und Selbstzeugnissen Gieben. Giessen: Psychosozial-Verlag.

Jones, Ernest. (1957). Life and work of Sigmund Freud. (Vol. 3). New York: Basic Books.