The following is a translated excerpt from Karin Jäckel's book that ended a
two-year interval during which the author couldn't get any of her books into print.
The publishing boycott against Karin Jäckel was
apparently the result of the prior publishing of her book
Secondhand Man: Loved no Longer and Pillaged, Fathers After Divorce and
Separation. That book caused some considerable concern in feminist
circles, who had tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent it from being published, too.
The Beginnings of the Women's Movement
The recognition that men's power grew out of the interplay of power and weakness, the
offering of protection and the need for it, of domination and dependence, became in the
second half of the twentieth century the driving force of the so-called "women's
movement," which became from now on a noticeable power in society.
The official history of the women's movement began in connection with the social and
democratic revolutions of 1848/49. In all of Europe as well as in the rest of the
world that was fashioned after European values, the signs of change and turmoil became
noticeable. In 1848 Karl Marx founded the "Neue Rheinische Zeitung" (New
Rhenish Newspaper), and published, together with Friedrich Engels, the "Communist Manifesto" in London, England. The writer
Ferdinand Freiligrath wrote the Revolution Poems and treatises like "The Dead to the
Living" or "The Republic." In Berlin the Workers' Congress got
formed, whose central organization became dissolved through a Federal Decree in
1854. In May of 1848 the Prussian National Assembly took place in Berlin.
While bloody revolutions occurred in Paris, Naples, Tuscany, Prague, and Vienna
and were put down, in Franfurt, Germany, under the leftist leadership of Robert Blum the
revolution of the Frankfurt National Assembly broke out. Blum was shot in Vienna at
the end of 1848. In France, the constitution of the Second French Republic was
announced in November of 1848. Switzerland, Texas, New-Mexico, California and the
USA received a new federal constitution. California was flooded by the first massive
waves of immigration in connection with the gold rush. In December of 1848 the
Prussian National Assembly that had been founded in May was dissolved.
In the year of 1849 the upheavals of the previous year continued. The most
important events in Germany at the time were that Prussian troops put down an uprising in
Dresden, that a three-class electory law was introduced,
and that the Grand Duke of Baden fled from rebelling troops under the leadership of
Heinrich Hecker and Gustav Struve.
At the same time new technical, industrial and scientific innovations were made.
The first iron-ore smelter fired by coke was constructed in the industrial area at the
Ruhr. The first telegraph lines were established between Berlin and
Frankfurt/Main. In England the first weather maps were produced, based on weather
data collected via telegraph lines. In London, Israel Beer Josaphat founded the news
agency which later became world-renowned under the name "Reuters."
In 1850, the so-called "Erfurt Parliament" was supposed to materialize
Prussian plans for a union. While Friedrich Wilhelm August Argelander located stars
by means of a mini-telescope of only seven-and-a-half centimeter diameter, Leon Foucault
demonstrated by means of a pendulum that the Earth rotates, Isaac Merrit Singer improved
the sewing machine, and Heinrich Goebel invented an electrical light bulb that was powered
by batteries, the German Bundestag came into existence in Frankfurt/Main. Bismarck
was the Prussian Ambassador there from 1851 until 1859.
In all of the political turmoil and the inventions that revolutionized the economy, the
power of female members of the work force grew, almost unnoticed. The founding of
the Red Cross promoted by Henry Dunant, of the First Internationale of the International
Workers Association brought to life by Karl Marx, as well as the creation of the Geneva
Convention for the Improvement of the Situation of the Wounded in War, all happened at
about the time of the founding of the General German Women's Association.
That association was brought to life under the leadership of Luise Otto-Peter
in the year of 1865. The main goal of the
association was to be of use to society and progress, through its fight for the right of
women to self-determination, majority, as well as education and jobs. Women, just
like men, were to receive the voting franchise.
Additional demands of the association extended to better educational opportunities for
girls in addition to equal opportunities in the work force and to equal pay for equal
Already under Ottilie Baader and Clara Zetkin, the most prominent fighters of the
proletarian and later socialistic women's movement, the original, all-encompassing concerns
of the association were reduced to focus on the labour movement. The Leading
principle expressed in the slogan "Woman and Worker have in common that they are
oppressed," identified the political liberation of the proletariat in connection with
the political and labour-laws liberation of the woman -- although what was meant by that
weren't all women in general, but merely women who were employed. The main goal of
the efforts was the voting franchise for women.
England became the fighting example to be emulated by the German women's
movement. German women noticed with angry pride the first arrests of women's right
activists in England in the last years of the 19th century. From 1903 on, under the
leadership of Sylvia Prankhurst, the suffragettes became visibly more aggressive. An
external sign was the war of the fashion over the substitution of the more clinging
suffragette-silhouette for the traditional crinolines. Malicious cartoons of
goat-faced, skinny women without bosoms and bottoms amused the male world and those women
who were excluded from the women's movement -- namely the non-employed housewives.
Lastly the voting franchise for women materialized, although not at first in the
England of the suffragette pioneers, and in addition at a different time.
Finland became the herald in 1906. Germany approached the issue in small steps
and introduced in 1908 the Reich Union Law. That permitted women to participate in
political meetings and rallies. Even though the English women continued to fight
vehemently, it was Russia which in 1917 became the first country to introduce the voting
franchise for women. Germany
followed in 1918 at the end of World War I; the
USA joined in 1920. Great Britain was still a laggard. Although in 1918
it granted all women over 30 the voting franchise, it wasn't permitted until 1928 for all
English women to vote. France delayed women's right to vote until 1944.
Switzerland became the tail light in 1971.
So it was that for German women the great breakthrough came in 1918. From now on
they weren't only allowed to cast their votes, but they were also permitted to be
nominated as candidates for elections. When in consequence of the lost World War I
the Weimar Republic was declared and the Weimar constitution was accepted, things had
changed considerably for women. During the war they had been employed in the
armament industry, where they occupied the job positions vacated by the men who died in
the trenches.  In comparison to their
working hours during peace times, women's working hours had increased by 130 percent to
eight to ten hours daily.
It was therefore no surprise that the women's movement, which favoured women in the
labour force, was assured of numerous women's votes. So it was that there were more
women in the Parliament of the contemporary Weimar Republic than there are in the present
one of 1999. Their goals were the acquisition of important justice positions and the
establishment of comprehensive rights of co-determination for women. What was wanted
was to admit women to positions on the benches of the courts, as well as to secure better
social security and incomes for simple female labourers.
In spite of the circumstances of a chain of politically motivated murders and trials
that shook the first years of the Weimar Republic, the women's movement materialized its
social and political goals with steadily increasing success. In 1922 women were
admitted to public law offices. A year later it was accomplished that women working
in the cottage industry achieved security through a Cottage Industry Law and thereby
obtained stronger protection. When the high school became a new type of school in
about 1925, the women's movement was decidedly responsible that this was accessible by
girls as well. In 1927 the women's movement became engaged in the promotion of the
laws for the protection of mothers [that is,
working mothers] and achieved that women workers, too, were covered through the
newly introduced unemployment insurance.
Aside from the political jostling, the long women's dresses finally fell into
obscurity. Exposed knees, sleevelessness, low-cut dresses became suddenly as
acceptable as did long strings of pearls down to the navel, clanking bracelets in
afro-style, feather boas and long cigarette holders. The "bell hat" made
its appearance, under which the permed curls emerged which could be made to last on
account of the recently invented perm. With long sashes tied on their hips and smart
tresses rimming their dresses, the girls of the time ruled the dance floors of the youth
that had become through the war starved for entertainment. The brazen rhyme
"Now I'll make myself a slit in my dress, and to heck with morality," was
promoted to a not-so-risqué favourite expression of the women who became more and more
aware of their femininity.
That not only the full life beckoned was evident in the rapidly escalating
inflation. While the inflation demanded its victims and long queues waited at the
soup kitchens of Berlin and other German large cities, the hunger for life grew
inexorably. The fashion dance "Jimmy" appeared as the precursor of the
"Charleston," whose dance steps swept the sticky prudery of the past from the
In everyday life the couture of the French "Garçon-line" catered with models
from Chanel, Patou and Lelong to the general post-war slimness. Partially forged by
the hunger, partially driven by the maleness mania, and partially a result of the sports
enthusiasm that was escalating since the times of gymnast father Jahn, the slim body
silhouette reflected the new ideal of beauty. It emphasized the strongly masculine
oriented self-awareness of women just like the fact that motherhood wasn't held in
particularly high esteem any longer. After all, 200,000 illegal abortions took place in Germany in 1924.
[The Wife at his Side (German title: Die
Frau an Seiner Seite), by Karin Jäckel, Ph.D., pp. 76-81, posted with permission by the