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The Political Woman in Print

German Women’s Writing 1845–1919


Birgit Mikus

This book analyses the depiction and function of politically active women in novels by six female authors from the margins of the democratic revolution of 1848 and the first German women’s movement: Louise Aston, Malwida von Meysenbug, Mathilde Franziska Anneke, Fanny Lewald, Louise Otto-Peters, and Hedwig Dohm. What was their political stance in relation to democratic developments and women’s rights? How did they render their political convictions into literary form? Which literary images did they use, criticise, or invent in order to depict politically active women in their novels in a positive light? Which narrative strategies were employed to ‘smuggle’ politically and socially radical ideas into what were sometimes ostensibly conventional plots? These authors wrote before modern feminist theory was established; however, their proto-feminist observations, demands, and discursive tactics contributed much to the formation and institutionalisation of feminist thought. This book contextualises the authors’ works in their historical and social environment in order to evaluate what can be considered radical and political in the period 1845-1919.
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CHAPTER 2: Louise Aston and the politics of the novel



Louise Aston was born as Louise Hoche in Groeningen, near Halberstadt, in 1814.1 Not much is known about her childhood and youth, though it seems that Aston received a good education through her father and private teachers, as well as through her mother in musical matters.2 Marion Freund has also been able, through her access to a private collection of documents, to establish definitively the number of her siblings and the social background of her mother.3 She stresses that Aston was not an only child, and that her mother was in fact not of noble heritage, a misunderstanding that arose from a too autobiographical reading of Aston’s first novel, Aus dem Leben einer Frau [From the life of a woman] (1847).4 In 1835 Aston married the rich industrialist Samuel Aston from Wales, who was much older and already had four illegitimate children by three different women. In 1838 Aston divorced her husband for the first time, even before the birth of her first daughter in the same year, but apparently they stayed in contact, because in 1841 Aston gave birth to their second daughter. The first daughter died in the same year, and Louise and Samuel Aston married a second time. One year later, in 1842, a third daughter was born. In 1843 Aston divorced her husband a second time and moved to Switzerland with ← 29 | 30 → her two daughters, where the younger one died in the same year. In 1845 Aston moved to Berlin,...

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