Interesting Women : Else von Richthofen

Let us assume that you are a sociologist with an interest in the history of your science. Then you surely have heard the name Max WEBER (1864-1920) (Ger., Eng., SEP). And you surely know that he has a younger brother Alfred (1868-1958) (Ger., Eng.), who is also a sociologist, occasional collaborator and critic of his brother, and there is Marianne WEBER (1870-1954) (Ger., Eng.), the wife of Max. And Else ?
Else is the “woman between” them *, short-time mistress of Max, long-time living partner of Alfred, and a bit more.

Elisabeth Frieda Amélie Sophie Freiin von RICHTHOFEN (1874-1973) (Ger., Eng.) had a sister, Frieda (1879-1956) (Ger., Eng.), who later became the wife of D.H. (“ram-bam”) LAWRENCE. Yes, I invented the “ram-bam”.
Of course they were related to Manfred, the “Red Baron”, but very distantly. Else was the oldest of the Richthofen-sisters. The usual life script for a young noble lady of the late 19th century would be : Get married, become pregnant, and do as your husband tells you. Getting married would involve an endowment – sadly daddy Richthofen (Friedrich Ernst Emil Ludwig Freiherr Praetorius von RICHTHOFEN, 1844–1915) was not only a heavy gambler, but also a lady’s man : One of his mistresses gave birth to his son in 1886 – there went the sisters’ marriage portion.
Nevertheless Else received a good education. She learned early that she would need a material basis of her own. So she becomes a teacher (examination 1891) – and with this first degree, and here she leaves the official trail, “listens” at the university of Heidelberg – matriculation for women is not yet allowed – National Economics, represented by WEBER. He recommends her to Gustav (von) SCHMOLLER (1838-1917) (Ger., Eng.) in Berlin, where she again “listens” for three semesters, and makes contacts that will shape her future life. In the house of WEBER’s mother she meets Alfred WEBER and Edgar JAFFÉ, her later living partner and her husband. Since the 1890s she is good friends with Marianne WEBER – until the end of their lives, and over all that is there to come.
She takes her doctoral degree in Heidelberg in 1900 (WEBER presiding) and then becomes the first academic “Betriebsinspektorin” in Germany. Marianne and Alice SALOMON (Ger., Eng.) introduce her into the women’s movement of the day (what some modern feminists like to describe as “the first wave”, what I personally find pretty silly, because this expression has only military connotations for me).
Her life script seems to be clear : Following the ideal of celibate social worker or female doctor, within the bourgeois social movement of the time, doing professional work, earning her own money, but – as already mentioned – no family, id est no man, no sex, no children is part of this accepted idealistic idea, “motherliness as profession” / Mütterlichkeit als Beruf  (see this, German only, sorry).
Else does not accept this.
In 1902 she marries Edgar JAFFÉ (1866-1921) (Ger., NDB) – a very interesting man who deserves a biography of his own imho. Edgar is not only a businessman & strikingly rich, but very interested and ambitious in the scientific field. He becomes editor of the Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, together with Max WEBER and Werner SOMBART (Ger., Eng.) – he has bought the whole thing.
Else, as impoverished noble woman, follows an older blueprint, she marries the money and returns to an aristocratic lifestyle. She publishes a bit in the journal, and dutifully gives birth to three legal children between 1903 and 1909, and to one illegal son Peter (1907-1915), fathered by Otto GROSS (1877-1920) (Ger., Eng.).
Edgar adopted the child. She and Edgar stay married until his death in April 1921, albeit separated since 1911. Edgar follows his own scientific and academic path, holds a high position in the economic administration of the Reich through WWI, and, interestingly, becomes secretary of finances under Kurt EISNER (Ger., Eng.), during the Münchner Räterepublik 1918/1919 (Ger.). He barely survives the massacres of the oh-so-noble Freikorps (Ger., Eng.). Since 1900 his house in Schwabing (Ger., Eng.) was a centre of the Bohème – not the Berlin of Wilhelm was the place to be around 1900, München leuchtet before the Great War, and is replaced by Weimar Berlin after 1919.
Otto GROSS is a case of his own – in 1907 not only his mistress Else gives birth to a son Peter, but his legal wife too, and in 1908 his second mistress also comes down with a healthy child. Given his troubles with drugs – he starts to use cocaine in 1900 when he works as doctor on a passenger liner, and remember : Before WWI heroin was used as cure for cocaine addiction – his unsteady life and a lot of troubles, it is amazing that he can keep up writing & working. His case is tragic in as much, as FREUD absolutely dismissed some of his maverick disciple’s ideas and reacted with a kind of damnatio memoriae – father Sigmund kills son Otto – that astoundingly also worked for Otto’s political writings : GROSS was only re-discovered in the 1970s !
Friends found his body in a ramshackle backyard in Berlin, he died in a hospital in April 1920. BTW in the affaire with GROSS Else’s rival was not Otto’s wife, but her own sister Frieda. They had tumultuous rows.
Else started a relationship with Alfred WEBER around 1909/1910 – the relation between the brothers suffered a bit from this. Else would in her long life never speak about her relation with Max WEBER that took place in November 1918, out of respect for her close friend Marianne. When WEBER lay dying from pneumonia in Munich (June 1920) – another victim of the Spanish flu – both women were there and cared for him.
In spring 1921 only the two women, and Alfred WEBER, are left. Marianne takes care of the writings of her husband and stays active in the women’s movement. Else goes with Alfred back to Heidelberg, helps with his work, and takes care of his legacy after his death in 1958. They are all buried in Heidelberg Bergfriedhof.
Else Freiin von Richthofen, verwitwete Jaffé, war sicherlich eine interessante Frau.

* DEMM, Eberhard [Ger.]: Else Jaffé-von Richthofen. Erfülltes Leben zwischen Max und Alfred Weber, Düsseldorf 2014, Rezension by R. Aldenhoff-Hübinger, from which I take a lot.

25 thoughts on “Interesting Women : Else von Richthofen

  1. Ja, I do remember the name Max Weber from Sociology classes. I can’t recall whether or not I knew of the others at the time or not — too long ago. I do, however, enjoy the von Richthofen connection.

  2. Like LX, Weber is known to me through his work on bureaucracies and administrative structures.

    Fascinating woman. Good on her for breaking the stereotypes.

    I think I like her a great deal.

  3. “Family Plot II”. It all stays in the family, dear Hoppelschaum.

    I once read that Frieda and Else had another sister, but I found nothing to proof her existence. So it is very likely that it’s just somebody’s mistake.
    As a student I learned nothing about the unconventional private life of the Webers, or that Schwabing-Boheme-connection at all.
    I think Bambam is a common name in Asia, Ram-Bam LX, wasn’t the last President of Indonesia named Bambang ?

  4. Sorry for not answering at once Roses – the connection is terribly slow and jumpy, Microschuft pumps tons of patches through the pipelines …
    Else & her sister, the countess Reventlow, and a handful of other unruly women around 1900 helped to shape “die Moderne”. Sex & drugs & RnR are not an invention of the late 20th century, the rebellion started a bit earlier.

  5. I have no clue whether there was more or less sharing than before or afterwards Dinahmow, but the attitude changed fundamentally in the age of “Lebensreform”.

    Didn’t know that there are some left Nikos.

  6. Working title could be “eFing Intellectuals”. The programm could cover the Bloomsbury Group, the Pre-Raffaelits, and the Proto-Fascists – and anything Anarchist in between ! One could create a character, an intellectual tramp, who made his way from the last Rossetti.fellas via Bloomsbury to Trieste in 1918, with Monte Verita as a staple (since 1900), through the twenties. Born around 1860, died before 1933, preferably in the lap of Misia Sert in Paris – with stations through all old Europe … that would be a tour de force & d’horizon through all early (and now “classical”) modern. Would take a while to produce, Cumberbatch as leading hero, Emma Watson as Rosa Luxemburg, I would give the German Emperor, as recurring figure.
    Hey – this’s a good idea Ms Scarlet !

  7. Would the leading character be a woman or a man ? Odysseus / Ulysses, or Penelope ? Calypso perhaps (cue Suzan Vega).
    Is there a female character like Ulysses ? Margarete Dalloway ? George Bloom ? Old Ulysse had a lot of children with some remarkable womeen, Penelope, Circe, Calypso, Callidice and at least two others I forgot. Reminds me of Otto Gross from above – it could be his uncle, Fritz Gross …
    Sorry, I am unable to look at this from a gender-ish female point of view, just because of the lack of knowledge. The Mitford sisters could be a model. – just one or two generations before the well-known bunch. Scarlet Mitford, the unsung heroine … – ? She could die in the arms of a Spanish matador while Hemingway watches at a Fiesta ?

  8. Well, if you’re going to have such a broad canvas you’d surely have to come far enough forward to include Alma Schindler- Mahler- Gropius -Werfel. Heavens! This is going to be bigger than Ben Hur!

  9. Alma-“I-sucked-them-all”-Werfel, who walked the Pyrenaen in company of young Golo Mann – heck yeah, we could have our time-traveller die in that camp in Southern France in 1940 … when s/he bits farewell to Walter Benjamin … But one should focus on Vienna pre WWI I guess, when Alma is still in full.
    The soundtrack could be made – at least partly – from all this twelve-ton-music & stuff, later from Theremin and finally from this early electronic thing they used for the “Thing-Feier”. Yep, Huren-Beni is a small one compared to this story, dear Dinahmow !

  10. … mh, dinahmow, if you search for “Werfel” on this blog, the results may be interesting for you. But it may be may own vanitas only, sorry. Alles ist eitel.

  11. Fun thread, btw..
    I tried to think of a woman from that time. Who would pop into my head but Olga Oppenheimer. She had only one husband though, a slime ball, who divorced her. Plus, she died in a concentration camp.

  12. Me too LX, found them and put them dutifuly in my cheap vino …

    HA – I did not know this song, Dinahmow. Actually I do not know enough from Tom Lehrer. There is footage of old Alma giving an interview in the (late?) 1950s in America. She’s seemingly in high spirits and talks pretty frankly about her husbands and her role as muse.

    I am to leave tomorrow (Sunday) morning, and will only return some times on Tuesday, dear Scarlet. I will be ready for your input !

    I did not know her Hoppelschaum ! Another paintress could be Paula Modersohn; or the French lady with the colourfull squares – ngngngforgot tze name. Another lady of interest – Claire Goll. She and Alma and a few bottles of absinth – that would be a talk-show !

  13. Interesting to see that Olga OPPENHEIMER also studied with HÖLZEL in that artist-colony in Dachau near Munich, like Ida KERKOVIUS. It’s a shame that OPPENHEIMER’s work is not known better, there is not even a “Werkverzeichnis”. According to the German wiki-entry she suffered from depression since 1918 and was brought into an institution. She seemingly never left this, except for Majdanek, and her death. One wonders whether she kept on working through the twenties and thirties … Perhaps files survived, in this “Heilanstalt” in Waldbreitbach im Westerwald. After all, per pure accident, the complete files of Otto GROSS were found, including letters by Freud, reports by Jung etc. If she continued to paint, generally work as an artist, perhaps some of her now unknown works do still exist ? One should ask the lady who wrote articles about Olga in the nineties and early twothousands. Ach, wenn ich Kohle hätte, dann würde ich solchen DIngen nachgehen …

  14. The only reason I know Olga Oppenheimer is because I came across her name not to long ago when I looked into the works of Meret Oppenheim who was involved in the Dadaist movement. I can’t for the world think of a French female artist who does colorful squares. You’re not thinking of Annie Albers? She was German/American though.

  15. Sorry – I was thinking of Sonia DELAUNAY – image

    “Sonia in her atelier, 1968, 83 years old”
    Taken from : BARON, Stanley; DAMASE, Jacques : Sonia Delaunay. Ihre Kunst – ihr Leben. München 1995. Translated in German by Thomas PLAICHINGER.
    Original : Sonia Delaunay. The Life of an Artist. London 1995.

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