German feminist and pacifist Anita Augspurg was one of the most prominent figures in the women’s rights movement in the 20th century. In 2017, it is 160 years ago she was born in the German city of Verden. For this occasion, WILPF has interviewed Heidi Meinzolt and Susanne Hertrampf in order to get an insight into the activism of Anita Augspurg and to hear about a new award initiated by WILPF Germany.
Anita Augspurg (1857-1943) was a woman ahead of her time. With short hair and unconventional clothes, she rebelled against the patriarchal system and advocated for women’s empowerment and peace during most of her life.
After studying acting and running a very successful photography studio in Munich, Augspurg decided to move to Zurich and study law because in 1890, women did not yet have access to university in Germany. By then, she was fully committed to the women’s rights movement. Her public interventions criticising conventional marriage and gender discrimination in different aspects of social life became more and more frequent.
It was the time when women’s suffrage was the main priority. As with many other feminists, Anita worked hard towards achieving the desired “privilege” across Germany. She founded the Association of Progressive Women’s Organisations among other emerging feminist associations in Germany.
In 1915, she co-organised the International Women’s Congress for Peace and Freedom celebrated in The Hague. As a result of that remarkable gathering, which was commemorated 100 years later in 2015, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom was born. Anita Augspurg was one of the crucial figures of its creation and shortly after, together with other women, she founded WILPF Germany.
She radically opposed any forms of violence and anti-Semitism, supported the end of capitalism, and continued with her struggle to eliminate gender discrimination up to the end of her life.
On 22 September 2017, it will be 160 years ago Anita Augspurg was born in Verden, Germany. To celebrate her prominent influence in the women’s rights and feminist pacifist movement, WILPF Germany (Internationale Frauenliga für Frieden und Freiheit, IFFF) came up with the idea of paying tribute to her in her hometown.
An award ceremony in the name of Anita Augspurg – ‘Rebellinnen gegen den Krieg Anita Augspurg-Preis’ – will take place on 22 September 2017 at 4pm in the town hall of Verden, as “a strong stand against war expressing the acknowledgement of a women struggling for peace”. This award is entirely initiated by WILPF Germany, and the Section is now crowdfunding for the award.
We interviewed Heidi Meinzolt and Susanne Hertrampf from WILPF Germany to hear more about this initiative and the role of Anita Augspurg in the women’s movement.
Do you think Anita Augspurg has been fairly recognised in Germany for her contributions to a feminist peace?
Augspurg is widely recognised as an activist in the equality and suffragist movement, and as the first Germany’s female lawyer. Her political commitment, as well as her membership and driving role in the pacifist movement, is partly unknown. For instance, in the exhibition ‘100 years after WW1’ held in Berlin, she was not even mentioned as anti-war activist. Only recently, in the Nazi Documentation Centre in Munich, was she mentioned as the woman who had requested Hitler’s expulsion as early as 1923.
What would you highlight in the legacy she has left to all women?
Anita Augspurg was a very strong and committed woman and she can still inspire women today. She refused violence as a tool for conflict solution, and put a strong emphasis on the connection of peace and freedom. She clearly analysed, together with her friends and intellectual colleagues, the root causes of war and violence as instruments of hegemonic economy and patriarchy.
Moreover, she was very creative in linking institutional and grassroots activism and fought full of empathy for women and women’s rights in a time where women were mostly excluded from the public discourse. She encouraged women’s voices in decision-making and worked with women in many networks and fields, including across borders.
How did you come up with the idea of organising the Anita Augspurg Award? Can you tell us more about the award?
WILPF Germany wants to make women peacemakers visible and give them a voice and a name. We believe that remembering Anita Augspurg’s life in this context – who devoted herself to women’s rights, justice, and peace – and bringing her commitment into today’s struggle for a more peaceful world is an inspiring and motivating idea.
The Anita Augspurg Award will show that history has something to teach for the future. Today, working for peace needs more committed women from all over the world than ever. WILPF Germany wants to highlight and support women working for peace with this award.
The city of Verden, where Anita Augspurg was born on 22 September 1857, is delighted with the idea, and will be WILPF Germany’s partner for the award ceremony. In this way, Verden takes a strong stand against war and expresses the acknowledgement of women struggling for peace.
Based on Anita’s principles and values, what are the goals WILPF Germany aims to achieve in the near future?
WILPF Germany is committed to women’s rights and very active in the field of human trafficking and forced prostitution. We give a voice to women as peacemakers in all phases of the conflict cycle, with priority to conflict prevention in the German Women’s security council.
We participate actively in international bodies advocating for the UNSCR 1325, for example the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). We strongly support disarmament and actions against arms production and the arms trade in different networks. We are also against trade agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Furthermore, we influence international relations on climate justice and refugee politics, and we work across borders, with an interdisciplinary approach.
Contribute to their crowdfunding campaign at betterplace.org and save the date!