Posts Tagged ‘German Reichstag’

Temples of science closed to German women

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

The temples of science remained closed to German women until 1900-1909. The reasons were two-fold: (1) By the late 19th century, the university student bodies had turned increasingly middle class. Educators and demographers began to fear that entry of women into universities would further strengthen this “downward” trend. (2) Professors held the socially equivalent rank of a minister at the time and did not wish to see their rank diminished by bluestockings (intellectual woman). Prussia, in particular, was known for its opposition to women matriculating at university.

Pressure Grew

Initially, women’s groups called for demonstrations. Then an extensive survey of scientists, writers and artists came out in favor of the educational interests of women. In 1891, the German Reichstag placed the question of admitting women to universities on its agenda.

Hearing (auditing) students

By 1896, a number of German universities allowed women to hear (audit) university courses. But even at that, admittance remained difficult. A woman who wanted to enroll in a university course had to first obtain permission from the State, the university, and the professor. If permission was granted, then her choice of courses was limited to those that readily lend themselves to female attributes (nursing, teaching). Since auditing students were denied graduation, many women audited classes only for their personal benefit.

Matriculating students

Baden was the first German state to allow women to graduate. The year was 1900. Bavaria followed in 1904, Wuerttemberg in 1904, Saxony in 1906, Thuringia in 1907, Hesse and Prussia in 1908, and Mecklenburg in 1909. Still, the road to a higher education remained strewn with boulders for German women for years to come. Public, and often private sentiment, maintained that women did not have the necessary mental or social prerequisites for university entry and were generally better suited for family life.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.