The Idealised Mother and the Socialist Movement in Weimar Germany

The Idealised Mother and the Socialist Movement in Weimar Germany
22 October 2020, 1.30pm - 3.00pm

Speaker: Katherine Calvert (University of Sheffield)

Chair: Godela Weiss-Sussex (IMLR, University of London)

Women’s choices about whether, when, and how to mother have long been contested in fierce political, religious, and ideological debates. This lecture analyses socialist women’s responses to, and shaping of, ideas about motherhood in Weimar Germany (1919-1933). By examining Frauenwelt, the women’s magazine of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) during the Weimar era, it will be shown that, despite campaigns to increase women’s access to birth control and provide better protections to single mothers, the left-wing women’s movement did little to challenge widely held essentialist ideas about women’s natural capacity for mothering. It will be contested that Frauenwelt’s promotion of normative ideas about women’s mothering not only reflected women’s continued acceptance of gendered divisions of labour, but also contributed to the perpetuation of such notions, and argued that, while socialist women of the post-World War I generation attempted to take greater ownership of their own mothering choices, the ideal of women’s mothering remained intact during this period, leaving supporters of the political left ill equipped to challenge effectively the rise of profoundly misogynistic policies on the far right in the late Weimar period.  

The Sylvia Naish Lectures were launched in memory of Sylvia Naish, an accomplished linguist, translator,, and benefactor of the former Institute of Germanic Studies. The lecture is chosen by competition from among the proposals submitted by research students registered for higher degrees at Universities in the United Kingdom.

This year's lecture will be held online (Zoom). Participation is free, but advance registration is required to access the event. Registered participants will be sent a link c. one week prior to the lecture enabling them to access the event. Please note that times given are London local time (BST).

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Jane Lewin
020 7862 8966