Ottendorfer, Anna Uhl (1815–1884)

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Ottendorfer, Anna Uhl (1815–1884)

German-born American newspaper publisher and philanthropist. Born Anna Sartorius on February 13, 1815, in Wurzburg, Bavaria (now part of Germany); died on April 1, 1884, in New York City; daughter of Eduard Sartorius (by some accounts Eduard Behr, a small shopkeeper); received very little education; married Jacob Uhl (a printer, died 1852); married Oswald Ottendorfer (an editor), on July 23, 1859; children: (first marriage) six, including Edward Uhl; Mathilde Uhl von Riedl; Emma Uhl Schalk; and Anna Uhl Woerishoffer.

Emigrated to New York City from Bavaria (c. 1836); with first husband, bought a print shop and began printing German weekly (1844); bought newspaper outright and with husband shared all responsibilities of printing and publishing it (1845); managed entire newspaper business after Jacob Uhl's death (1852); married Oswald Ottendorfer, who had become editor of her newspaper (1859); contributed $100,000 to build home for elderly women of German ancestry (1875); contributed another $100,000 to establish fund in her son's memory to support the study of German in American schools (1881); gave funds for women's pavilion and a German dispensary and reading room to hospital (1882 and 1884, respectively).

Born Anna Sartorius in Bavaria in 1815, Anna Uhl Ottendorfer was the daughter of Eduard Sartorius (some sources give her surname as Behr). Her father was a small shopkeeper of modest means, and she received a very limited education prior to her marriage to Jacob Uhl, a printer. It is not clear whether she married Uhl before or after she came to America and settled in New York City in 1836. In 1844, the couple purchased a print shop and along with it the contract for printing the German weekly New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung. By 1845, they had purchased the paper from its founder and editor, Gustav Neumann. Anna played an important part in the success of the paper, sharing all duties with her husband, while also raising six children. Through their hard work, the paper became a daily in 1849 and was distributed to other cities with large German communities as well. When Jacob Uhl died suddenly in 1852, Anna took over the paper's leadership. In July 1859, she married Oswald Ottendorfer, who had joined the paper in 1851 and become editor in 1858. Under his guidance, the paper increasingly represented the liberal German viewpoint, not only in New York City, but also in Milwaukee and other areas of German settlement. The paper strongly supported the Union in the Civil War and later opposed the political machine of Tammany Hall. Following her marriage to Ottendorfer, Anna assumed the general managership of the paper, and devoted more time to philanthropic causes.

Anna Ottendorfer's monetary gifts to organizations most often reflected her strong social consciousness and her desire to maintain and encourage German traditions in America. With a $100,000 gift, in 1875, she founded the Isabella Home for aged German-American women in Astoria, New York. The home was named for a daughter who had died two years before. After a son died in 1881, she established the Hermann Uhl Memorial Fund with contributions totaling almost $100,000. This fund promoted the study of German in American schools, and its chief beneficiary was the German-American Teachers' College of Milwaukee. She also donated $225,000 toward the building and furnishing of a women's pavilion at New York's German Hospital, and a German dispensary and reading room. Ottendorfer was awarded a gold medal by Augusta of Saxe-Weimar , empress of Germany, in recognition of her efforts on behalf of German culture in America. She also was active in the Children's Aid Society and the State Charities Aid Association.

Anna Ottendorfer suffered from chronic heart disease, and in February 1883, she had a disabling heart attack. She died the next year at her New York home on April 1, survived by her second husband and four of her six children: Edward Uhl, who was the business manager of the Staats-Zeitung; Mathilde von Riedl of Bavaria; Emma Schalk ; and Anna Uhl Woerishoffer , wife of a New York banker and mother of the social worker Carola Woerishoffer . Ottendorfer left $250,000 to various German-American institutions, as well as $25,000 to be divided among the employees of the newspaper. At her death, City Hall flags were lowered to half-staff and her funeral cortege proceeded along black-draped streets to Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.


McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1980.

Uglow, Jennifer S., comp. and ed. The International Dictionary of Women's Biography. NY: Continuum, 1985.

suggested reading:

Wittke, Carl. The German-Language Press in America, 1957.

Jo Anne Anne , freelance writer, Brookfield, Vermont

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