Ilse Fischer
Archives of Social Democracy
in the Friedrich Ebert Foundation
Godesberger Allee 149
D-53175 Bonn
Phone: +49(0)228/883255
Fax: +49(0)228/883497
E-mail: fischeri@fes.de

Documents on Gender and Women’s History in the Archives of Social Democracy in the Friedrich Ebert Foundation

Special Problems of Researching and Recording

The Archives of Social Democracy in the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (AdsD) have at their disposal numerous record groups including relevant material on women’s history and on biographies of individual women. Archival material on specific time periods or topics is not always available with the quality and density one might wish for. The sources, nevertheless, span a remarkable range in terms of time and content. It is, for example of symbolic value for the history of the Archives of Social Democracy and its „predecessor archives" which are closely linked to the development of Social Democracy in Germany to find in one of the oldest record groups, namely the „Early Period of the Labour Movement", a letter dated 1865 by Louise Otto-Peters to the Arbeiterbildungs-Verein Leipzig [Workers’ Education Society Leipzig] on the establishment of a Sunday school for girls and to find in the documents from 1993 a motion by the SPD [Social Democratic Party of Germany] members in the Joint Constitutional Commission on „gender-fair language of the Basic Law" (deposit Hans-Jochen Vogel).

Trying to apply the term „gender" systematically to archival material leads to dimensions difficult to capture with the current (and probably also future) indexing status due to the volume and diversity of documents (40,000m) as well as of the audiovisual collections in our Archives. [Archiv der sozialen Demokratie der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung: Bestandsübersicht , 2 nd edition with amendments, Bonn 1998. Cf. Paul, Hans-Holger: Vom Parteiarchiv zur zentralen Forschungsstaette der Arbeiterbewegung und Sozialgeschichte. Zum 30. Jahrestag der Gründung des Archivs der sozialen Demokratie der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. In: Der Archivar, No. 52, Volume 4, 1999. Available at: http://www.archive.nrw.de/archivar/1999-04/inhalt.htm.],
This would require, at the same time, the application of an „evaluating" filter to the cataloguing which would lead to problems in the field of indexing as well as usage due to its subjectivity and inflatory results. To give an example: In the personal papers of Gustav Heinemann one comes across the constitutional complaint about the Compulsory Military Service Act (1956), lodged by women representing their sons who were under age. Whether material of this kind is to be classified under the „gender aspect" or not is a question of research rather than a question of archiving methods. In the AdsD’s usual cataloguing itself the term „gender" is applied (mostly with more recent documents) only when referring to content which have already been classified as belonging to this term in the files themselves. Free and indexed description as well as subject cataloguing (e.g. with collections), however, include terms such as equality, women’s movement, women’s history, etc. Therefore, the following remarks concentrate first of all on applying the aspect of women’s history, women’s movement, and women’s policies, which are easier to identify. Nevertheless, starting points for gender-related research will be referred to.

The record groups, files, or documents in the Archives of Social Democracy in the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in consideration are, as far as written material is concerned, primarily records related to individuals or former files from organisations and institutions originating from of the labour movement, particularly German social democracy, the trade unions, as well as other democratic and social movements. As regards the material on women’s history, this means first of all that the corresponding documents originate from this political and organisational context. However the scope of the topics is much wider. Thus, it is immediately plausible that record groups such as the files of the Parliamentary Party of the SPD in the Bundestag reflect at the same time important aspects of the general socio-political discussion in the Federal Republic. The same is true, for example, for some collections including documents of different political background such as the collection of leaflets also including documents on the position of the non-socialist parties regarding women as voters or the political activities of women. As the AdsD’s work is no longer limited to safeguarding and archiving political party and trade union files alone but includes other groups (e.g. the peace movement) or individuals (e.g. publicists), as well, the files often comprise material and aspects one might not expect in the first place in the record groups of our Archives.

The particularly problematic nature of recording archival material relevant to women’s and gender history derives not least of all from the tension between great amounts of documents of relevant provenance (e.g. files from different offices or departments of women’s affairs of individual organisations) of strongly varying significance as regards content and rather isolated documents (e.g. correspondence) which might be of great value for a certain research project. Therefore, the generating of a special inventory on the basis of content hardly seems practicable. The EDP indexing of personal records alone, including only parts of the personal papers archived here, list for example more than 1200 entries for the keyword „woman-…". Thus, a detailed listing of material seems to make sense only when related to a certain research project – and many documents will definitely count as gender-relevant documents only when looked at under a certain aspect. In the end, the difficulties indicated above can only be dealt with by means of a user support with intensive consultation services. Consequently, the following remarks are first of all meant to draw attention to greater record groups which might be of interest to women’s and gender history as well as to explain the nature of documents possibly to be found by means of describing certain archive-material.

Generally, one should take into account that not all our files have been recorded by archivists yet. Particularly, when it comes to documents from the field of party or trade union organisations where single record groups often comprise hundreds and thousands of meters of files, very often, there is no order or index available or at least not as detailed as it exists for most of the personal papers. Moreover, even though part of the indexed archival material is recorded in the archive database „Faust" conventional finding aids (sometimes in the form of acquisition lists or card files) have still to be referred to.

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Personal Papers(cf. Appendix)

Personal papers from women can be linked with women’s or gender history most easily in a very general sense through the registry-forming persons’ names. One can not assume, however, that the papers have to include necessarily material particularly on women’s issues or women’s policies. The appendix includes a overview of women’s files in our Archives independent of the content of the individual files. Compared to the total number of personal papers of men and women in the AdsD the situation as regards sources is still relatively weak the personal papers of women. Only 125 (13.6%) out of the 920 personal files are by women (status summer 2002) already including those of married couples registered under both names. For the older groups of documents beginning at the end of the 19th century this situation can hardly be improved. In spite of all progressive theoretical and political approaches that the labour movement pursued with regard to women’s issues this situation reflects the marginal role women played as functionaries in political parties and in the trade unions. Looking at the period before 1918, archival material by women exists in the AdsD only in the form of microfilms from the Moscow Russian State Archives of Socio-Political History (RGASPI). As to original documents for this period there are only isolated documents by women to be found in men’s papers. For the time of the Weimar Republic and the Nazi period the situation as regards source material is also not much better. There are at least some files by women including material from this time or – and this is typical – files by women who were politically active during this time, but whose papers originate from the time after 1945 (e.g. personal papers of Marie Juchacz). It is yet surprising that there are hardly any records from women active during the Weimar Republic e.g. as members of parliament. Undoubtedly, it is true for this group (just as for the group of politically active men) that a lot of material was lost because of the Nazi period, emigration, or the effects of the war. One can only speculate as to other reasons that might have played an additional role (varied appreciation of the material of political work of women and men by their families or lack of interest on the side of the archivists acquiring this material). The situation as regards sources has improved for the post-World War II period even though the generation of early members of the Parliamentary Council and of the Bundestag is represented only by a few files. However, in some cases these files are quite extensive and significant as regards their content (e.g. Helene Wessel, Käte Strobel).

The overview of files by women in the Archives of Social Democracy included in the appendix does not exclusively refer to those documents related to women-specific issues. Especially under the aspect of gender it seems to make sense to document the entire range of political work by women represented in the archives. Nevertheless, one has to take into account that many files document the activities of the women in question only in a fragmentary way.

The Provenance ranges from the (few) documents of former members of the Reichstag (Marie Juchacz, Anna Zammert) to files of former or current members of the Bundestag (Lisa Albrecht, Elfriede Eilers, Ilse Elsner, Katrin Fuchs, Liesel Hartenstein, Renate Lepsius, Ingrid Matthäus-Maier, Annemarie Renger, Renate Schmidt, Brigitte Schulte, Sigrid Skarpelis-Sperk, Käte Strobel, Helga Timm, Helene Wessel, et al.). The files of members of the European Parliament (Erika Mann, Leyla Onur, Heinke Salisch, Barbara Simons, et al.) and trade unionists (Thea Harmuth, Ruth Köhn, Maria Weber, et al.) are included just like the papers of politicians who were ministers in the past or of those who still hold that position, e.g. Katharina Focke, Rose Götte, Edelgard Bulmahn, Herta Däubler-Gmelin, Ulla Schmidt, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (including also files from her function as chairperson of the Young Socialists). There are also files of women who have occupied prominent positions in the Arbeitsgemeinschaft sozialdemokratischer Frauen [Working Group of Social Democratic Women] (Elfriede Eilers, Karin Junker, Ruth Zutt, Inge Wettig-Danielmeier). In addition, there are personal papers of women who have been public figures in numerous ways – be it as publicists and journalists (Carola Stern, Else Reventlow, Gerda Weyl, Friedel Oelrichs), as workers’ poet (Emma Klara Döltz), or as revue performer (Karin Hempel-Soos). There are also documents on the work of women having been active in the peace movement like Christel Beilmann or Charlotte Boecken, or of women who – apart from their political work – held functions in the educational field, in adult political education, in the legal profession, or as scientists (e.g. Minna Specht, Erna Blencke, Nora Platiel, Susanne Miller, Grete Henry-Hermann). At the same time, many of them played a role in the political emigration or the resistance during the Nazi period.

Of course, „women’s files" can always provide only part of the sources on women’s and gender history. One should keep in mind that relevant material is always (and on quite a large scale) to be found in personal papers of men. On the one hand, these personal papers often „reflect" directly the activities of women as correspondence partners or authors of notes, applications, or other documents. On the other hand, personal papers of politicians in general often comprise documents on gender issues – as in the papers of the social democratic federal chancellors, chairmen of the party, and chairmen of the parliamentary party in the Bundestag such as Willy Brandt, Helmut Schmidt, Herbert Wehner, Hans-Jochen Vogel, and others - up to the papers of a great number of members of parliament having dealt intensively with gender issues in commissions, committees, and working groups (e.g. Nils Diederichs, Hartmut Soell). Particularly in view of biographical research for the time before 1945 it can be worthwhile to check the papers of prominent Social Democrats of the post-war period with regard to curricula vitae and individual fates communicated by letters or other documents by women (about themselves or their families) in retrospect to the Nazi period.

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Archives of the Executive Committee of the SPD

The archive material amounting to a total of about 4,000m comprise records in the form of files (of varying density) of the Executive Committee of the SPD since 1945. The record group Executive Committee of the SPD includes the files of the Office of Women’s Affairs („Frauenbüro" (Referat Frauen) amounting to approximately 1200 file units. A brief description (file group, file title, time, additions as to content only in exceptional cases) exists in the form of finding aids and in the archive database Faust. All in all, the files cover the period between 1946 and 1998. On a large scale, they reflect women’s work in the SPD from the first years after the war to the present day.

This record group (correspondence, minutes, circular letters, news services, also including files of the member of the Executive Committee Herta Gotthelf [1902 – 1963], head of the Women’s Secretariat and editor of „Gleichheit" [Equality]) comprises among other papers: material on SPD national women’s conferences, correspondence with the different party districts, the military government, members of the Bundestag, trade unions, non-party women’s organisations, material on contacts abroad, annual reports, documents of the committee for women’s issues in the Executive Committee, minutes of meetings of the National Women’s Committee, documents on international women’s organisations and conferences and on events such as meetings, trainings, seminars, on election campaign preparations, Berlin contacts, contacts with the Arbeitsgemeinschaft sozialdemokratischer Frauen (AsF), on § 218 [termination of pregnancy], material on issues such as gender equality policy, part-time work, anti-women advertisements, peace activities, International Women’s Days, women in male-dominated professions, policies relating to the family, affirmative action law, promotion of women, Women’s Initiative October 6th, foreign women, women’s history, biotechnology and genetic engineering.

Further files on women’s issues are included in the files of the Bureau of Organisation (Referat Organisation) (voters’ initiatives, campaigns, etc.), the Secretariats Fritz Heine and Erich Ollenhauer (campaigning for women) and other sections of the Executive Committee of the SPD.

Informative material on women’s work and on women’s history can also be found in the record groups Office Erich Ollenhauer (scattered all over the record group) and Office Kurt Schumacher (in different places as well as concentrated in the 5 file units „Women’s Office in the Executive Committee of the SPD [Herta Gotthelf]" from the years 1946 – 1948, including correspondence with the party districts).

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Files of the SOPADE (Record Group Emigration)

The record group comprising the files of the SPD leadership in exile from the years 1933 to 1946 includes – next to extensive correspondence with individual persons and organisations – minutes of the party organs and material on the political discussion on the fighting against National Socialism and the reconstruction of Germany after the war. At the same time, it provides information on the fate of individuals during the Nazi period, including a number of active female Social Democrats, who shared their husbands’ fate of political persecution or of women who were directly affected themselves by persecution for political or racial reasons.

Out of the material on well-known Social Democrats one should underline the correspondence of Marie Juchacz (1933 – 1945), Hanna Kirchner (1933 – 1940), and Herta Gotthelf (1934 – 1945) with the SOPADE, as well as documents on individual fates during the Nazi period.

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Parliamentary Group of the SPD in the Bundestag and other Parliamentary Records

The files of the parliamentary group of the SPD in the Bundestag (1949 – 1998) reflect on a large scale the discussion led in the Federal Republic on legislation in the field of women's affairs policy, gender equality policy, and policies relating to family topics. The files up to the end of the 6th legislative period (1972) have been made accessible by means of conventional finding aids and the database Faust. Tape recordings of the parliamentary group meetings exist for the years 1971 – 1989, in some cases even before that.

The files of the working group „law policies" are of special interest for research on women’s affaires. They include the documents on the great reforms of the 1960s and 1970s: on the changes in matrimonial and family law, in divorce law, on the reform of the illegitimacy law, and on the discussion about the reform of § 218 (termination of pregnancy). Since 1987 the parliamentary group created a special working group „equality of women and men". The files of which are essential source material for all women’s topics. In the same way several other working groups like „familiy affairs, senior citizens, women and youth" or „social policies" contain informative material on family, youth law, on old age pension (particularly provision for old age of women), and the Maternity Protection Act.

In this context, one also has to point out the record groups „Round Table" and „SPD group in the Volkskammer of the GDR" (1990) including some material on women’s issues and women’s policy in the period of radical change during German reunification.

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Files of Social Democratic Party Regional Sections and the Parliamentary Groups in the Parliaments of the „Länder"

The former files of the different subdivisions of the SPD (parliamentary groups of the „Länder", party organisations on the level of the „Länder", districts, subdistricts, and single offices of towns) collected in our archives are extremely extensive and begin in most cases not before the 1950s or even later. Material from earlier times (Weimar Republic or the Empire) is included only in very few exceptional cases. Most of the record groups of the regional archives are not indexed in detail. For many files there are acquisition lists, card files, or temporary finding aids. However, these files of the different sub-organisations are usually important for research on women’s work in the SPD at regional and local level because in almost all of the cases they include material (although of varying density) on women’s work in the different organisations and on the Arbeitsgemeinschaft sozialdemokratischer Frauen (correspondence, minutes, leaflets, press cuttings, notes). This material refers to the discussion within the party on the participation of women in political offices and mandates as well as to activities, events, and reactions on bills (e.g. matrimonial and family law, pregnancy counselling, establishment of shelters for battered women). In some cases, the files also include historical collections (e.g. on women’s history during the Nazi period, etc. and on biographies of female politicians in the respective regions) as well as some original material from the time before 1933. An example of that are the documents from the SPD women’s work in the district of Hamburg-Northwest from the years 1926-1933.

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Other Organisations and Institutions

The Archives of Social Democracy host a number of non-party record groups taken over from different institutions and organisations some of which are linked to the labour movement or coming from the wider field of social and cultural movements. These include the files of the Workers’ Social Aid (Arbeiterwohlfahrt, AWO) as well as files from the peace movement. All of these could be worth considering with regard to historical women’s and gender research issues.

Particularly worth mentioning at this point is the record group

    Internationaler Jugendbund [International Youth League](IJB) /
    Internationaler Sozialistischer Kampfbund [International Socialist
    Fighting Alliance] (ISK)

These archives cover the period between 1916 and 1979 as well as additions from later years. They document the activities of the Internationaler Jugendbund founded in 1917 by the Göttingen philosopher Leonard Nelson and the pedagogue Minna Specht and of the Internationaler Sozialistischer Kampfbund founded in 1926. Apart from material from the time before 1933 (IJB/ISK conferences, seminars, activities of different local branches) the files include mainly documents on the resistance activities against National Socialism and the political work during emigration as well as correspondence and documents from the time after the dissolution of the ISK. Compared to other political organisations the IJB/ISK stands out for its exceptionally large number of politically active women. Their work is made clear directly or indirectly through the correspondence, reports, and documents included in these archives.

Among others, one should mention: Hanna Bertholet (Hanna Fortmüller), Anna Beyer, Erna Blencke, Nora Block (Nora Platiel), Klara Deppe, Jenny Fliess, Grete Henry (Grete Hermann), Maria Hodann (Mary Saran), Regina Kaegi-Fuchsmann, Aenne Kappius, Eva Lewinski (Eva Pfister), Hilde Meisel (Hilde Olday / Hilda Monte), Mascha Oettli, Minna Specht.

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Feminist Archives

In the summer of this year the Archives of Social Democracy received files of women’s archives in Bonn comprising in particular records, material, and leaflets from autonomous women’s groups in Bonn as well as documents on national women’ s events.

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National and International Trade Union Movement

The trade union archives in the AdsD range from the former files of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (ADGB) [General German Trade Union Federation] to the DGB [German Trade Union Federation] archives which were integrated into the AdsD in 1995 up to the record groups of numerous individual national and international trade union organisations (a total of approx. 12,000m). [On the trade union record groups in the AdsD cf. Hans-Holger Paul: Gewerkschaftsakten im Archiv der sozialen Demokratie der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, in: VdA – Verband deutscher Archivarinnen und Archivare e.V., Mitteilungen der Fachgruppe 6: Archivare an Archiven der Parlamente, der Politischen Parteien, Stiftungen und Verbände im Verband deutscher Archivarinnen und Archivare e.V., No. 27, July 15th, 2002, p. 11 – 25; Klaus Mertsching: Das DGB-Archiv im Archiv der sozialen Demokratie, in: ebenda, p. 27 – 31. ]
Within a short period of time, a great number of former files have been given to the AdsD over the last years – not least of all because of the taking over of extensive trade union archives due to mergers of single-industry unions into larger associations. A small part of these archives is described in detail, almost all files are pre-structured and usable for research. It can be assumed that because of the membership structure of these associations which produced these files, a large number of them will be of interest for research on gender issues, women’s work, and on questions regarding occupational and trade union organisation of women. This is of course particularly true for the files of the Deutsche Angestellten-Gewerkschaft (DAG) [German Union for Employees], the Gewerkschaft Handel, Banken und Versicherungen (HBV) [Trade union for Commerce, Banking, and Insurance], the Gewerkschaft Nahrung-Genuß-Gaststätten (NGG) [Trade Union Catering and Food and Drink Industries], and the Gewerkschaft Textil-Bekleidung (GTB) [Trade Union for Textile Workers] – to mention just a few. Moreover, the trade union files will include informative material for research on the working terms of men and women.

The record groups of the single-industry unions usually include special files which are obviously relevant for research on women’s history due to their provenance, namely files from their corresponding offices of women’s affairs. These files mainly comprise documents providing information about the attitude of the trade unions themselves towards women’s interests and gender equality issues (demand for appropriate representation of women in the different functions and for women employees in the trade union organisations as well as wage negotiation problems). Here, one can also find statements on certain political issues of relevance for women’s policies and policies relating to the family or on trade union demands and activities concerning these topics. Material on working conditions of women, often very specific surveys under the aspect of gender equality, is also included in a number of files of national and international trade unions. The files of the tariff secretariats and bargaining commissions are of special significance as they provide insight into wage negotiations and wage structures which not least of all are an expression of gender issues.

When planning research projects on the working conditions of women, their organisation or conflict behaviour, one should concentrate not only on the files of the corresponding boards or central bodies. In many cases it is precisely the material of the trade union organisational subdivisions on the level of the Länder, districts or other offices that provides information on work situations, material on the situation of women in different companies, for example on the issue of precarious employment relationships or on strikes. In order to understand the regional scope of documents one should have a look at the files in our archives concerning different administrative sections in the Gewerkschaft Textil-Bekleidung representing numerous towns ranging from Heidenheim in Baden-Württemberg to Bielefeld-Gütersloh in North Rhine-Westphalia to the regions of the Vogtland and the Erzgebirge.

General German Trade Union Federation (ADGB) 1919 - 1933

The remainder files of the ADGB reflects both the contacts of the umbrella organisation with some single unions as well as its general political activities. Material on women’s issues or documents referring directly to women belonging to a trade union are very rarely to be found in these files, e.g. seminar for youth workers and youth leaders in Bonn in 1928, Adult Education School Castle Tinz: This file includes documents on „men’s courses" (1922 – 1933) and „women’s courses" (1927 – 1932). Another part of the ADGB former files which came to the Archives of Social Democracy with the archives of the DGB include a few documents by Gertrud Hanna, editor of the „Gewerkschaftliche Frauenzeitung" [Trade Union Women’s Newspaper] and head of the Arbeiterinnensekretariat [female workers’ secretariat] (correspondence, documents on the International Trade Union Female Workers’ Conference in Paris, in 1927).

Archives of the German Trade Union Federation (DGB) in the AdsD

Material on women’s issues can be found in the files of the members of the Managing Board (Thea Harmuth, Maria Weber, Irmgard Blättel, Ursula Engelen-Kefer) and in the office of women’s affairs. Moreover, drafts and resolutions on women’s policies are included in the minutes of the National Managing Board, the National Board, and the National Committee. These documents from the years 1949 –2000 refer to the remuneration of women, equality of men and women (opinions on legislation), maintenance of industrial health and safety standards for women, action programmes for women’s work in the trade union, women and co-determination, guidelines for women’s work in the DGB, promotion of women in the organisation of the DGB itself, national and international trade union activities regarding women’s issues (DGB women’s campaigns, etc.) national women’s conferences. In addition to the files of these bodies, the files of the offices of social policy and policy for wages and salaries should be taken into account particularly for specific subject matters.

While the regional boards of the Länder in general did not turn over their files to the DGB Archives the women’s bodies at a regional level were obliged to transfer theirs. As a consequence, today, the subject files of the national board also include, although incomplete, the documents of the regional women’s committees of the Länder and of the women’s district committees. An exception to this are the files of the DGB in the British-occupied zone or today’s Land districts of Nordmark, Bremen-Lower Saxony, and North Rhine-Westphalia that were also transferred to the DGB Archives (and thus, the corresponding women’s offices, as well as the former files of the Women’s Secretariat in the British-occupied zone, are included in these record groups and will be of particular interest to research on women’s work in trade unions during the early post-war period).

A peculiarity to be mentioned is the fact that the documents of the National Managing Board also comprise files of the German Women’s Council having come into the possession of the DGB Archives because of the functions of the DGB board members Maria Weber and Irmgard Blättel in the German Women’s Council.

Almost half of the DGB files have been made accessible by finding aids (some even in digitalised format), the other files are recorded in acquisition lists.

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Some of the extensive collections of written material in our archives will here be presented as they are of particular interest for themes like Gender / Women / Women’s Movement / Women’s History:

Collection „Minor Acquisitions"

The record group „Minor Acquisitions", amounting to approximately 17m, comprises first of all individual documents, membership books, autographs or dossiers on different people and topics. The following accentuations are again rather to be seen as examples of possible findings concerning the topic women’s history.

Particularly interesting is the material in the files „personalia and dossiers" including autographs, memoirs, documents. They cover among others: Eva Pfister (memoirs), Ruth Schmidt, Eva Macias, Gundel Trantofsky, Elfriede Trautmann (memoirs), Helene Troost (personal documents), Rose Frölich, Clara Zetkin, Irmgard Enderle, Hildegard Behrisch, Agnes Behm, Frieda Paul, Bertha von Suttner, Anna Blos, Margarete Susman, Hanna Kirchner (correspondence). The files „Third Reich and Second World War 1933 – 1945 /Nazi Justice" include a number of documents on political law suits covering among others: Margarete Leupold (Generalstaatsanwaltschaft Hamm, 1934), Käthe Lenau (Oberlandesgericht Hamm, 1935), Hedwig Sylvia Leibetseder [Gertrud Rath] (Kammergericht Berlin, 1936), Margarete Kellershohn (Volksgerichtshof, 1935).

Furthermore, the record group comprises a collection of membership books of famous and unknown members of the SPD, also including numerous women. Finally, there are some „Curiosities„ among them a „magazine" with the title „Die Rote Universität. Organ der marxistischen Amazonenschule Tinz" [The Red University. Organ of the Marxist Amazons’ School Tinz] edited by participants of the 4th women’s course at Castle Tinz in 1924.

Collection „Personalia„

The collection „Personalia" is primarily a collection of material related to individual people (press cuttings, press releases, in some cases other documents, like correspondence, speeches, biographical and autobiographical notes). The collection is in alphabetical order and not indexed separately; it is accessible to researchers only by looking through the file units concerning the relevant names. Since press articles often consist of contributions on specific occasions (birthdays, appointments into an office, obituaries) the files include an abundance of biographical information on well-known and less well-known politically active women from different regions mostly (before 1989) in the old Federal Republic - in some particular cases also from the area of the Soviet zone /GDR.

Collection of Press Cuttings

The collection of press cuttings is mainly used to file newspaper articles, press services, etc. under headwords. Material covering our topics can be found in the old subject catalogue (1945 – 1959) generally under „Women’s and Family Issues", in the more recent parts of the collection (1973 ff.) under „Population" and its corresponding gender specifications. Under the headwords „Social Affairs", „Labour", „Welfare", „Youth", relevant material can also be found.

Information and Press Services

The information and press services of the SPD and the SPD group in the Bundestag arranged in chronological order include material dating back up to the immediate post-war period. With regard to women’s and gender issues, they are a prime source for the day-to-day discussion of politics. Particularly interesting is the „Frauen-Korrespondenz" [Women’s Correspondence], regularly inserted in the „Sozialdemokratischer Pressedienst" (Politik) [Social Democratic Press Service (Politics)] published since 1946. From November 1967 onwards the correspondence became an independent supplement named „Frau und Gesellschaft" [Women and Society], continued as a series of brochures after 1974.

Leaflets and Pamphlets

The collection of leaflets (about 40,000 items) comprises material from the period around 1800 up to the present day. In spite of the fact that the emphasis is on leaflets and pamphlets of social democratic provenance, it also includes material of other political parties and organisations. Aside from leaflets related to individual female candidates for different parliamentary and other representative bodies there are e.g. election appeals by the SPD and other political parties specifically addressing women. Research in this record group is made possible by a subject and a name catalogue, in addition full-text search can be done within the scanned texts. [Cf. Harry Scholz: Erschließung und Dititalisierung von Flugblättern und Flugschriften im Archiv der sozialen Demokratie (AdsD) der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), in: Brandenburgische Archive. Mitteilungen aus dem Archivwesen des Landes Brandenburg, 200, 15, p. 11 – 14. ]
Leaflets relevant to gender issues can be found e.g. by means of the subject index leading from the headword „women" to „women’s movement"/„violence against women"/„equality"/„women’s suffrage"/„termination of pregnancy". Entries like „feminism" will also lead to further results.

Research on this record group can be done by means of a database on the Internet to be reached via the homepage of the Archives of Social Democracy in the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

Poster Collection

The poster collection with approximately 60,000 objects (period covered: 1848 up to the present day) centring on the labour movement, particularly social democracy and trade unions offers visual material mostly from the time after 1918. A major part of the collection has been digitalised and recorded through the archival EDP system „Faust". The collection comprises numerous picture motifs on posters for election campaigns specially addressing women and calling for women’ s votes, as well as presentations of women-related topics (e.g. employment of women, education, pension policy, reform of § 218). Here, research on a part of the collection can be done through the database on the Internet, as well.

Sound and Film/Video Archives

The extensive sound archives (period covered: 1918 up to the present day) includes some very rare sound documents of female politicians in form of digitalised shellac records and sound recordings (e.g. speeches by the members of the Reichstag Marie Arning, Marie Juchacz, and Toni Sender on the Reichstag election of May 1928, by Clara Bohm-Schuch on the Reichstag election on September 14th, 1930, by Clara Zetkin the opening speech as chairwoman by seniority of the Reichstag on July 31st, 1932).

The film and video archives begin in 1911 and contain approximately 61,000 films as well as about 10,000 videos. The archives store also documents which will be of interest to researchers in the field of women’s studies, e.g. amateur shootings of members of the Internationaler Sozialistischer Kampfbund in exile in London or the film „Die sozialistische Fürsorgeerziehung" [Socialist Welfare Education] (on the AWO facilities of Immenhof) including a film sequence with Marie Juchacz, founder of the Workers’ Social Aid. The video collection contains recordings from a series of FES events covering women’s issues (Socialist International Women Conference, Berlin 1992, etc.).

Photo Archives

The photo archives with their approximately 1,000,000 photographs have at their disposition extensive picture material on politically active women– particularly the in the section related to individuals (350,000 objects). Numerous photos, collected under subject matters show congresses, events, or motifs from the world of labour. Looking for pictures of Luise Zietz or Anna Nemitz at the extraordinary USPD Party Conference in Berlin in March 1919 will be equally successful as searching for photos of women’s demonstrations at the International Women’s Day 1927 or inquiring for pictures of the SPD Women’s Conference in Cologne in May 1953. The photo archives facilitates research via a database on the Internet.

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This brief overview shows the problems for archivists and historians researching records on women’s and gender history in our Archives. However, this presentation also makes clear through special questioning and strategies access to these documents can be considerably improved. In addition, archivists will certainly also have to give thoughts on further assistance to researchers. One step towards an improved recording of women’s records in the Archives of Social Democracy has already been taken: By now, files of men also including the documents of their wives are consistently indexed under both names or divided into separate files. Thus, one should always keep in mind that – as mentioned before – numerous record groups of „male" provenance can yet be of interest under the gender aspect. Nevertheless, the problem of „hidden sources" as the most difficult chapter in indexing archives material continues to exist. Finally the assistance of each staff member in the archives is indispensable because through their experience with the documents and the collected material in their respective field of work they are able to give essential insight, help and advice. This was the case with this paper, which – as should be mentioned at this point with grateful thanks – would not have been possible to compose without the support of the colleagues in the Archives of Social Democracy.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | November 2002

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