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.