The Weimar Republic, with it fourteen years of turbulent political, economic, social and cultural change, has attracted significant attention from historians primarily because they are seeking to explain the Nazis' accession to power in 1933. This book explores the opportunities and possibilities that the Weimar Republic offered women and presents a comprehensive survey of women in the economy, politics and society of the Weimar Republic. The Republic was a post-war society, and hence, the book offers an understanding of the significant impact that the First World War had on women and their roles in the Weimar Republic. The book also explores to what extent the Weimar Republic was 'an open space of multiple developmental opportunities' for women and considers the changes in women's roles, status and behavior during the Republic. It discusses women's participation in Weimar politics, as voters, elected representatives, members of political parties and targets of their propaganda, and as political activists outside the parliamentary arena. The book investigates the impact, if any, on women's employment of the two major economic crises of the Republic, the hyperinflation of 1922-23 and the Depression in the early 1930s. It describes the woman's role within the family, primarily as wife and mother, the impact of the changes in family and population policy and attitudes towards female sexuality. The Weimar Republic also witnessed significant changes in women's lives outside the home as they accessed the public realm to pursue a variety of interests.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book focuses on women and the First World War and explores the opportunities and possibilities that the Weimar Republic offered women. For many, during the Republic and subsequently, the 'new woman' was a potent symbol of both Weimar's modernity and its crisis. The book aims to build upon the existing scholarship to produce a comprehensive survey of women in the economy, politics and society of the Weimar Republic. It also explores to what extent the Weimar Republic was 'an open space of multiple developmental opportunities' for women. The book considers the changes in women's roles, status and behaviour during the Republic and how these impacted on the gender order. It describes the diversity and multiplicity of women's experiences in Weimar Germany.
This chapter explores women's role in the economy and society during the First World War. It assesses the war's significance for the roles and perceptions of women in the Weimar Republic. Much welfare work was undertaken voluntarily by middle- and upper-class women. Members of the Nationaler Frauendienst (NFD) played key roles within the war welfare offices which communities set up to cater for all those affected economically by the war. Nearly all of Germany's major cities experienced disturbances by women over food shortages during the war. Women's behaviour became increasingly the object of public scrutiny and debate. Claudia Siebrecht has claimed that 'bourgeois German women, and members of the women's movement in particular, were among the most fervent and consistent supporters of the German war effort'.
In the storm of Revolution with one blow full citizen rights have fallen into our lap', wrote Marie Stritt, leader of the Imperial Union for Female Suffrage, in November 1918. This chapter explores women's participation in Weimar politics, as voters, elected representatives, members of political parties and targets of their propaganda, and as political activists outside the parliamentary arena. It investigates the impact of female suffrage on German politics and political culture and will determine which parties, if any, benefited from female suffrage. German women were told that 'any woman who neglects her duty to vote harms herself and the Fatherland'. The difference between the percentages of women and men eligible to vote who actually did so narrowed in the crisis years of the early 1930s, a trend that continued into the Federal Republic.
This chapter explores women's participation in the world of work during the Weimar Republic to ascertain the opportunities available to women and assess the extent of their economic liberation. It investigates the impact, if any, on women's employment of the two major economic crises of the Republic, the hyperinflation of 1922-23 and the Depression in the early 1930s. The chapter also investigates the post-war demobilisation, the stabilisation of the German economy and the rationalisation of German industry from 1924. Following a decrease in female membership after the demobilisation and during the hyperinflation, women's share of white-collar union membership increased from 1925, in contrast to the decrease in women's membership of the Free Trade Unions. While office and sales work did not afford many women the chance to pursue a career, the professions and civil service did.
This chapter explores woman's role within the family, primarily as wife and mother, the impact of the changes in family and population policy and attitudes towards female sexuality, both heterosexual and homosexual. Article 119 of the Weimar Constitution of 11 August 1919 pro-claimed that marriage, as the foundation of the family and of the preservation and reproduction of the nation, was based on the equality of the sexes. One reason for the growing acceptance of contraception was the belief that it was preferable to abortion, which, according to Usborne, was the most prevalent form of birth control for many working-class and lower middle-class women. A more radical change in attitudes towards women was to be found in the Law for Combating Venereal Diseases of February 1927. The newly open and relaxed atmosphere of the Weimar Republic permitted a vibrant lesbian sub-culture in many cities.
This chapter explores the interactions and depictions of women outside the home, particularly as consumers of leisure and mass culture, which, as Corey Ross has noted, 'remained closely tied to class, region and milieu', with variable socially levelling effects. The Weimar Republic witnessed significant changes in women's lives outside the home as they accessed the public realm to pursue a variety of interests. The Weimar Republic also witnessed the beginnings of a mass urban consumer society in which women featured strongly as producers, commodified objects, targeted recipients, critical observers and discerning purchasers. The importance of household consumption to the national economy had been acknowledged during the war, and after the hyper inflation advertisers targeted women as consumers. Cultural historians have examined depictions of women in film, literature and art to explore contemporary male anxieties about women's rapidly changing role in the German economy, society and politics.
Eric Weitz has claimed that during the Weimar Republic, 'women had greater choices in their lives than ever before'. Women were able to take advantage of the employment and professional opportunities that the Weimar Republic was making accessible because they were able to control their fertility. Contraceptive advice became more widespread, and the use of contraception to limit family size became accepted as couples sought to ensure a better future for their children. Felix Gilbert has pointed out that the difference between 'actual behaviour and publicly accepted values' may be 'considered characteristic of contrasting attitudes that had developed in Germany'. The revolution granted women equal suffrage rights, and women could participate actively in politics, at all levels, in keeping with their ideological beliefs. Many of the rights and opportunities granted to women in the early years of the Weimar Republic were not universally welcomed, by either men or women.