Hug-Hellmuth-Hug von Hugenstein, Hermine von (1871-1924)

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The Austrian psychoanalyst Hermine Hug von Hugenstein (usually known as Hermine von Hellmuth) was born in Vienna on August 31, 1871, where she was murdered on September 8 or 9, 1924. She is often regarded as the first child psychoanalyst.

Hug-Hellmuth was the second daughter of Hugo Hug von Hugenstein, who served in the Austrian war ministry both as a military officer (rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel) and as a civilian. The family was Catholic. After the death of her mother, who had served as her tutor, Hermine entered public school and eventually trained to become a teacher. She taught in public and private schools before entering the University of Vienna in 1897, where she studied the physical sciences. In 1909, she obtained a doctorate in physics.

While a patient of the Viennese analyst Isidor Sadger, Hug-Hellmuth became interested in psychoanalysis. In 1910, she resigned her teaching post and the next year published her first paper on psychoanalysis in the Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, even before she began to take part in the meetings of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society. The title of that paper, "The Analysis of a Dream of a 5-Year Old Boy" already indicated her principal interest. In 1913 she published "The Nature of the Child's Soul (Or Psyche)." The title of that paper subsequently served as the name of a section on child psychoanalysis that she wrote for Imago ; she also became a regular contributor to the Internationale Zeitschrift für (ärztliche) Psychoanalyse. Hug-Hellmuth first participated in meetings of the Vienna Society in 1913, and became a member of the society that fall.

Active and well-known beyond Vienna, Hug-Hellmuth became the first child analyst and contributed to the evolution of child psychoanalysis. At the International Congress in The Hague in 1920, she reported on her early efforts in her paper "On the Technique of the Analysis of Children." A year later she became director of the Educational Counseling Center associated with the "Ambulatorium" of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. Her work, critiqued by both pedagogues and psychologists, was based on observation and analysis of children's behavior and on the possibility of applying psychoanalytic theory to education and the psychology of children. Her broad application of psychodynamic hypotheses to child behavior contributed to the rejection of psychoanalysis by the field of educational psychology.

Hug-Hellmuth's A Young Girl's Diary was first published anonymously in 1919 by the Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag, the official psychoanalytic publishing house. The book created a sensation, and was discussed in the daily newspapers as well as in medical and psychological reviews, but its authenticity was questioned. Hug-Hellmuth, who was named as the book's "editor" in 1922, would not admit to being its real author. In 1927 Freud, who had written an introduction to the book, asked that it be withdrawn from bookstores.

On the night of September 8-9, 1924, shortly after the completion of her book New Ways to the Understanding of Youth, Hug-Hellmuth was murdered by her eighteen-year-old nephew, Rolf. The illegitimate child of her half-sister Antoine, he had been raised by Hug-Hellmuth since the death of his mother. According to Rolf, his aunt's writings contained many observations of him and he testified at his trial that she had attempted to psychoanalyze him. After his trial he was sentenced to twelve years in prison. After being released from prison, he attempted to get restitution from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Association, as a victim of psychoanalysis.

Elke MÜhlleitner

Work discussed: Young Girl's Diary, A.

See also: Child analysis; Children's play.


Drell, Martin J. (1982). Hermine Hug-Hellmuth, A pioneer in child analysis. Bulletin of the Meninger Clinic, 46 (2), 138-150.

Hug-Hellmuth, Hermine von. (1919). A study of the mental life of the child. New York and Washington; Nervous and Mental Disease Monograph series.

. (1971). A young girl's diary. Boston: Milford House. (Original work published 1924)

MacLean, George; and Rappen, Ulrich. (1991). Hermine von Hug-Hellmuth. New York: Routledge.

Roazen, Paul. (1976). Freud and his followers. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.