Bavarian Female writers and the bourgeois women’s movement in Bavaria around 1900

"Either self-defence
if not a quiet bearing of his shame,
and this is the answer that a man dares to give
in our bright times
to the woman whom he offends."

"Any other
would be against the tradition."
"So know that the woman
has grown in the nineteenth century",
she said with a big eye, and shot him down.

(From: Maria Janitschek, "Ein modernes Weib" [A modern woman] in: Irdische und unirdische Träume [Earthly and Unearthly Dreams], 1899)

As drastic as this depiction of a woman insisting on her right to equal treatment may seem in the poem by Maria Janitschek (1859-1927), as effective and modern it appeared at a time when women played no role in the nation's public life and in politics, and when the emancipatory aspirations during the course of industrialisation and the associated social upheavals received fresh support after 1850: young women were drawn to the factories and shops, and the middle-class among them were intended for professions such as teacher, educator or nurse. Women began to campaign for justice and education.

For civil women's rights activists, being modern finally became the key concept in literary production and life practice, especially in Munich. When the women's movement began here, "the waves of the modern literary and artistic movement also rose. Both currents, that of the women's movement and that of 'modernity', were therefore often regarded as one being and confused," writes the art historian and journalist Georg Jacob Wolf (1882-1936) in his book Die Münchnerin (The Munich Woman 1924).

The bourgeois women's movement began in Bavaria in 1886, when two young women from Dresden came to the Bavarian capital: Anita Augspurg (1857-1943) and Sophia Goudstikker (1865-1924). The two women wanted to live together and earn their living accordingly, and together they founded the "Elvira" photo studio (1887), which soon became the nucleus of the women's movement. Many renowned female artists and writers were portrayed here, including Emma Merk (1854-1925), who not only embodied the new emancipated type of woman as an unmarried independent woman but also lived close to the photo studio. Her apartment became a meeting place for Munich's middle-class women, but also for male artists and scholars, not least the poet and professor of economics Max Haushofer (1840-1907), Emma Merk's later husband.

After the "Gesellschaft für modernes Leben" (Society for Modern Life), founded in 1890 under naturalistic auspices, the "Gesellschaft zur Förderung geistiger Interessen der Frau" (Society for the Promotion of Women's Intellectual Interests) was founded in Munich four years later and later became the "Verein für Fraueninteressen" (Association for Women's Interests) (1899). From now on, the women's movement took its course both artistically and intellectually.

Following the Evas Töchter (Eve's Daughters) exhibition at the Monacensia in the Hildebrandhaus (2018) and looking back on 100 years of women's suffrage, the bavarikon exhibition wants to take influential women writers in Bavaria into account. On display are digital copies from Munich's female writers, all of whose estates are kept in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library) – their fictional works and essays, their correspondence with the city's cultural and literary personalities within and outside the women's movement, as well as portraits of their most important representatives.

About the exhibition