Category: interesting women

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.

Sunday Music

This week brought a tough surprise to casa dell mago. We had to discover something pretty mean, done with intent & against better knowledge by someone we trusted. In the end a lesson in manipulation. Will be interesting to follow the further development. All I say about is – never trust old ladies just because they are old & frail and you think they could do no harm: They can, with vengeance. And the older they are, the more deep their grudge may sit and fester. Getting old does not mean to become wise or lenient ; in a weak body a determined spirit can live ; as long as one can write his name, things can be legally signed ; and when death is not far away any more, moral and ethics may become just spoilage. There will be some fall-out from this.

But there happened a very good thing this week too : A friend invited me to join him on a visit to the Auto&Technik Museum Sinsheim : They have everything there ! Here just a few pictures :


He's looking at You.
He’s looking at You.


North by Northwest
North by Northwest


Tracks of a Tiger
Tracks of a Tiger


That's the Spirit !
That’s the Spirit !


This Sunday Music is well-known to people of a certain age who misspent their youth in front of a tv-set. It’s the complete version, at 1:10 someone just found out that he was screwed over by an old lady …
Hope you like it and that we have a good week ahead !



Interesting Women : Arletty

From “La Defence” to Paradise, and back. *
Léonie BATHIAT (1898-1992) (Ger., Eng., Fr.) was a French actress … and much more is in her biography.


She was born into a working class family in the Parisian suburb Courbevoie (Ger., Eng.), near the old fortress La Defence (Ger., Eng.) – later the ambiguous title of her autobiography. Her  father worked in the tramway repair shops and died early from a work accident. Through WWI young Léonie was working in the war industry, later she became a revue girl. She was twenty at the end of The Great War.

She had learned the typewriter and was eager for independence, and soon she entered the stage, singing nice and not so nice chansons, best together with her friend Sacha GUITRY (Ger., Eng.). She spend time in the Berlin of the late twenties, and finally made it from the boulevard theatre stages into the film industry, her first role 1930, later she was filming in Babelsberg (Ger., Eng.). Her friend in those days (and until his death in the 1960s) was a certain Jean-Pierre DUBOST, whom she refused to marry despite his offers. She said that she did not want “husband or sons slaughtered in the next war” – right she was : the next war came right to her front door in Paris.
When her fees increased she lived in a luxurious hotel, the Lancaster near Champs Elysée, and in 1941 a Luftwaffenoffizier named Hans Jürgen SOEHRING (1908-1960) (Ger.) crossed her path. Ten years her younger, it was passion, and they lived it.


SOEHRING was by no means a super-aryan-yippyayeah-nazi burning for the Fuehrer, but a well-educated and cosmopolitan man.
He was born in Istanbul, the son of a German diplomat went to schools all over Europe, even in Germany. Finally he studied Rechts- und Staatswissenschaften in Leipzig, Berlin, Grenoble ; he had visited the London School of Economics, later was trained in Santiago de Chile & Valparaiso ; he spoke of course English, Spanish and French with a small accent, and came to Paris in the rank of an Oberstleutnant (Ger., Eng.). In fact he was a Feldrichter, a judge responsible for inner-Luftwaffe jurisdiction.
He was not an opportunist, he simply wanted to survive, at least that is my opinion about him. They met & and made the best out of it.
SOEHRING did not wear his uniform at social occasions, only when it was not to be avoided. ARLETTY sure realised how many poisoned glances & glimpses she got, (” J’étais la femme la plus invitée, je suis la plus évitée.” she said after 1945), and SOEHRING was not too dumb to ignore it.

The French society of forties’ Paris did not like this liaison, the German command either. So at the end of 1943 Hans Juergen was degraded (for what reasons ever) to NCO and shown the direct path to the front. He served in Italy (Montecassino, spring 1944, no fun) and was promoted there from Unteroffizier to officer again (Leutnant, later Oberleutnant). Finally he was transferred back to the Reichskriegsgericht (Ger.). His job at this institution was to put together files about the Bund Deutscher Offiziere (Ger.) and the Nationalkommitee Freies Deutschland (Ger., Eng.). I guess one could call this intelligence work.

ARLETTY and SOEHRING always held contact, even managed to see each other, but their ways parted. She made him write, and that is what he did. And interestingly enough Hans Juergen SOEHRING is a founding member of the famous Gruppe 47 (Ger., Eng.) – he was there at the very first meeting in Bannwaldsee.
While SOEHRING was fighting, ARLETTY had the most important role of her life : She was Garance la beautè / la reine in Les Enfantes du Paradis (Ger., Eng.) – one of the most important films of European cinema – no matter whether you like European, especially French, cinema, or not – this is one of the most important fillums ever made – how and why and what is a novel in its own right. And ARLETTY is an important part of it.


Life moves on – and while Les Enfants was shown in France, ARLETTY was doin’ time : She sat in Drancy (shortly before used by the Nazis for the Jews, Ger., Eng.) for some months and later had to appear before a tribunal d’épuration, a court for cleansing. They had her hair not shaven, and seemingly were not quite clear about the points of accusation – she had not collaborated, never had appeared in a German (propaganda-)film, never visited Berlin to meet Goebbels – she had had an affaire with a German officer, was a star, and it did not feel right.
And ARLETTY was not shy. She told the judge “Si mon cœur est français, mon cul, lui, est international !” – as fine at this is, it does not help in the face of a humiliated nation. She was sentenced, banned from appearing on stage, and was not allowed to come near Paris at a distance of 80 kilometers ; for two years. She could not reconnect to her pre-war success when she had stared for example besides a young Jean GABIN (in Le jour se lève, 1939 ; Jean would then go to Hollywood, where Marlene was waiting, nervously, perhaps) – she returned into business, but it was not the same as before.

SOEHRING married (perhaps, was married ; two sons) and joined the German Foreign Office in 1951. He became Consul in Luanda (Ger., Eng.) (Angola) in 1956, then (seemingly in the same year) Generalkonsul in Leopoldville, today Kinshasa (Ger., Eng.), and finally in June 1960 full ambassador, after the founding of the Republic of Kongo (Ger., Eng.).
The family went to a swim in the Kongo River (Ger., Eng.), Sunday 9th of October 1960. Hans Juergen SOEHRING simply vanished in the river and never was found – heart attack, maelstrom ? Possibly a crocodile.
ARLETTY had a good relationship with the family, of course she visited. She had no more major success in film or on stage. In 1966 she received an injury from an accident and lost her eyesight totally. She lived in Paris, at last in some social housing, near to poverty and basically forgotten, until her death 1992. Here she is (via).
What an interesting woman.


This post is largely based on the article Eine Liebe in Zeiten des Krieges by Klaus HARPPRECHT (Ger., about), in : Die ZEIT, 8. X. 2009 (32, 2009) (here).


Interesting Women: Peggy Guggenheim

David’s cracking (since 2008 btw), armer Hund. Three hundred years leaning at an angle in front of the signoria ; all that bird crap ; then brought into a house & cleaned with distilled water ; today stared at by thousands and thousands of people every day, who make the bottom shake in veneration, no wonder the ankles give in : Stronger men crumbled earlier.

I am not yet finished with the autobiography of Peggy GUGGENHEIM * (Ger., Eng). Her first name is Marguerite. (Beautiful.)
I have followed her through her childhood (the beloved father, who sank with the Titanic), her Backfischjahre – until she decided that virginity is overrated and that her later first husband (Ger.) should work through all the positions she had seen on those Italian postcards of the Pompeian frescoes -, right into her first, stormy, marriage.
I confess that I flipped through her book a bit and especially had a look at the chapter that deals with her return to America from war ridden “old Europe”, finally on 13th of July 1941 on board of a clipper (Ger., Eng.) : “Wir waren elf Leute: ein Ehemann, zwei Ex-Ehefrauen, ein zukünftiger Ehemann und sieben Kinder” / “We were eleven people: one husband, two ex-wives, one future husband and seven children.”
What surprises and touches me is that she was a beaten wife. Her first husband, Laurence VAIL, the father of her two children Sindbad ** and tragic Pegeen (Eng.), was a beater, who, when drunk (pretty often) liked to make a scene and punch his wife in public and in private.
Being part of la boheme and at the cutting edge of avantguarde does not automatically make a man recognise that women are equal human beings, no punching bags & not just the mothers of children, who also do a little painting & writing ‘n stuff. I had to understand this a new. The cultural history of the Western & European societies through the 20th century is dominated by groups of painters, writers, artists etc. that are male dominated – at least thinking of it right now, I can not come up with a female dominated group. Not even a female group. I think the more important is the exhibition “31 Women” GUGGENHEIM curated in the 40s. (Look at this blog for them, read more there.)
Maybe it is time to do something along this lines now, at the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century ? I may be out of touch – and I am really not involved in gender history – but would it not be interesting to have an overview over women’s art since the second world war, at least in the West ?
Possibly someone already did this – please point me in the right direction, dear readers !

Peggy’s husbands – as far as I read now – were disappointing: Number one was a beater ; number two an alcoholic, who died after a surgical procedure (I have not found out, what they were doing ; it was carried out in their private home, and is always referred to as a “minor intrusion” ; the doctors went away after telling her that her husband was dead ; yeah, there’s really nothing left to do then … ) ; number three was an idiot ; number four was Max ERNST (Ger., Eng.), I still have to read about this marriage.
She really lived it all, came a very long way, and she is definitely a very – very – interesting woman, this strange Marguerite GUGGENHEIM.

* GUGGENHEIM, Peggy: Ich habe alles gelebt. Bekenntnisse einer Sammlerin aus Leidenschaft, Bern und München, 3. Aufl. 1980 (zuerst: Out of this Century – Confessions of an Art Addict, 1946)

** I found nothing about him on the web. Am I too lazy ?