1848 Chapter 3: Women in the Revolution
Limited Opportunities: Sewing Flags, Casting Bullets
After the European March uprisings, many women also become politicized. Except for a few men, such as Gustav Struve and Robert Blum, the democrats are hostile to political equality: Women should stay out of politics.
But democratic women’s associations are founded everywhere in 1848/49. For the most part, they remain limited to charitable activities: Women collect money, clothes, blankets for the freedom fighters and sew flags. During the revolution of 1849, the women’s associations also cast bullets and nurse the wounded. The „Konstanzer Frauen- und Jungfrauenverein“ procures bandages and uniform jackets for the fighters. Later, the women collect donations for the men who have fled to Switzerland to escape justice.
Some particularly determined women even accompany their men into the fighting: Emma Herwegh buys weapons in Switzerland, Amalie Struve is present at her husband’s September putsch in Lörrach in 1848. In Vienna, a troop of armed women calls itself the „Amazons“.
Emma Herwegh: With Dagger and Pistols
The educated Berlin merchant’s daughter Emma Herwegh caused a sensation among the revolutionaries in her male costume: „She usually wore black cloth pantaloons and a black velvet blouse with a leather belt in which two small pistols and a dagger were stuck,“ recalled a contemporary.
From Paris, she rushed to the aid of the “Heckerzug” with her husband, the poet Georg Herwegh, and 400 fighters of the „Paris German Legion“. But
Hecker does not want any foreign interference and turns Emma away. In the process, she smuggles 300 rifles, bought in Switzerland, across the border. In the end, the Herweghs manage to escape to Switzerland.
After the amnesty in Baden-Baden, the couple lives in Zurich. Emma continues to be involved in freedom movements, sends files hidden in books to the Italian revolutionary Orsini so that he can escape from prison. After the death of her husband and two of her children, she lives in Paris, where Emma Herwegh dies in 1904.
Amalie Struve: A Feminist Publicist
Amalie Struve is one of the most committed women of the Baden Revolution. She is involved in the “Heckerzug”, then in her husband Gustav’s attempt to proclaim the republic in Lörrach. After the failure, the Struves are sentenced to prison. For over 200 days, Amalie is held in degrading conditions in a Freiburg tower.
In the second wave of the revolution, she fights for the recognition of the free imperial constitution and, in the fortress of Rastatt, successfully works to bring about the defection of the soldiers there to the revolutionary government. Amalie later also participates in the battles against the Prussian invaders. In the summer of 1849, the couple manages to escape to Switzerland, and from there to England and the U.S..
In New York, Amalie Struve becomes an important journalistic voice for the political emancipation of women, the right to education and for women’s suffrage. She died in New York in 1862, aged only 38, after giving birth to her third daughter.
Henriette Obermüller-Venedey: Women's Rights Activist and Revolutionary
Born near Badenweiler in 1817, Henriette and her first husband Gustav Obermüller appear as speakers at political meetings in the spring of 1848. She co-founds the „Association of Women Democrats of Durlach“ and sews the red flag of the revolution for the local militia.
During the second Baden uprising in 1849, Henriette supports the fighters near the front. After the revolution’s failure, she is sentenced to prison for „revolutionary activities,“ which she fearlessly serves.
After the death of her husband, she marries Jakob Venedey, a former member of the National Assembly and writer, in 1854. Early on, she became involved in the international women’s rights movement, long before women were granted the right to vote. To support her large family, Henriette Obermüller-Venedey runs a guesthouse in Oberweiler. In 1893 she dies. Like her, her descendants are politically active as democrats.
Mathilde Annecke is one of the outstanding democrats of the 19th century. Born in 1817, she is the daughter of a wealthy family from the Mark Brandenburg region of Westphalia. She ends her first marriage with a wine merchant. After the divorce, she is left penniless with her one child. She writes pious poems and is successful.
In a circle of young Cologne oppositionists, she meets the officer and journalist Fritz Annecke. Both turn to the early socialists and fight for workers‘ rights. Mathilde publishes the pamphlet „Das Weib im Konflikt mit den socialen Verhältnissen“.
In the spring of 1849, Fritz Anneke fights as an artillery commander in the Palatinate Revolutionary Army, Mathilde supports the soldiers in the fortress of Rastatt. After their escape, they advocate for women’s suffrage and the emancipation of slaves in the U.S.. In 1859, they support the Italian struggle for freedom, but return to the U.S. for the Civil War. Later, Mathilde Anneke runs a girls‘ school, publishes and belongs to various committees of the civil rights movement. In 1884, the important pioneer of the women’s movement in the U.S. dies.