From the Archivportal: "Focus on – Women’s Suffrage"
After the proclamation of the republic and the transfer of the office of Imperial Chancellor to Friedrich Ebert, the newly-appointed Council of the People’s Deputies published an “Aufruf an das deutsche Volk” (“Call to the People of Germany”) on 12th November 1918. One sentence contained therein laid the foundation for women’s suffrage, which was to be guaranteed by the regulation for the election to the “Verfassunggebende Deutsche Nationalversammlung” (“Constituent German National Assembly”) on 30th November 1918:
“Alle Wahlen zu öffentlichen Körperschaften sind fortan nach dem gleichen, geheimen, direkten, allgemeinen Wahlrecht auf Grund des proportionalen Wahlsystems für alle mindestens 20 Jahre alten männlichen und weiblichen Personen zu vollziehen.” (“All elections to public bodies are henceforth to be carried out according to equal, direct and universal suffrage on the basis of the proportional electoral system for all male and female persons of at least 20 years of age.”)
At the election for the National Assembly on 19th January 1919, women were allowed to vote and be elected for the first time. Parts of the women’s movement had been fighting for this right, with which an important goal was achieved on the way to equality, since the middle of the 19th century. Furthermore, equality in all civic matters, in the civil service and in marriage was written down in the constitution.
423 delegates were elected to the National Assembly, of which 37 were female. Four women followed later.
Voter turnout was very high overall at 83%. Approximately 90% of the women eligible to vote took part in the election and thereby exercised their new right. But they only made up 8.7% of the delegates. In later parliaments, women were even more underrepresented.
Most of the female parliamentarians (19) sat in the Assembly for the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany); the SPD, admittedly, had received the largest share of the vote in the election (37.9%). With a percentage of 13.6%, the USPD (Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany) had the most female delegates (3) in their parliamentary group.
The women had, however, mainly voted conservative; the centre and the DNVP (German National People’s Party) benefitted most from the new women’s suffrage.
The following women were represented as the first parliamentarians in the National Assembly:
- For the SPD: Lore Agnes, Anna Blos, Minna Bollmann, Wilhelmine Eichler, Frieda Hauke, Else Höfs, Marie Juchacz, Wilhelmine Kähler, Gertrud Lodahl, Frida Lührs, Ernestine Lutze, Toni Pfülf, Johanne Reitze, Elfriede Ryneck, Elisabeth Röhl, Minna Martha Schilling, Louise Schroeder, Clara Schuch, Anna Simon and Johanna Tesch. Successors were Marie Behncke und Hedwig Kurt.
- For the USPD: Anna Hübler and Luise Zietz. Successor was Helene Grünberg.
- For the Deutsche Demokratische Partei: Marie Baum, Gertrud Bäumer, Elisabeth Brönner, Elise Ekke, and Katharina Kloss. Successor was Marie-Elisabeth Lüders.
- For the Deutsch-Nationale Volkspartei (German National People’s Party): Margarete Behm, Anna von Gierke, Käthe Schirmacher.
- For the Zentrum (short for „Deutsche Zentrumspartei“ – „German Centre Party“): Hedwig Dransfeld, Agnes Neuhaus, Maria Schmitz, Christine Teusch, Helene Weber and Marie Zettler.
- For the Deutsche Volkspartei (German People’s Party): Clara Mende.
Source: “Zur Geschichte des Frauenwahlrechts in Deutschland”, AddF, Stiftung Archiv der deutschen Frauenbewegung (“On the History of the Women’s Movement in Germany” AddF, Foundation Archive of the German Women’s Movement).
Many of these women established themselves in politics and were later represented in the Reichstag (parliament) or the Landtage (state parliaments). One prominent example of this was Christine Teusch, who became the Minister of Cultural Affairs in North Rhine-Westphalia in 1947 and who was the first woman to make a speech in the Bundesrat (German Federal Council). Other female delegates, like Anna Hübler or Elise Ekke, were no longer politically active in public after the dissolution of the National Assembly.
From 1933 onwards, many of the women suffered from reprisals and were ousted from their political activity. Some of them were massively persecuted by the National Socialists. The SPD delegate Toni Pfülf who, as one of 94 delegates, had voted against the “Ermächtigungsgesetz“ (“Enabling Act”) in March 1933, broke down at the futility of her struggle and committed suicide in June 1933.
The text is from the Virtual Exhibition on Women’s Suffrage in the online portal on the Weimar Republic at the Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archives). Our sincere thanks to the Bundesarchiv for making this available.
You can find objects on the keywords "Women’s Suffrage" in the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (German Digital Library) here
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