In German-speaking countries as elsewhere, women, especially from the middle classes, demanded entry into the male-dominated academic world with growing vehemence around 1900. Starting with the case of women’s rights activist Käthe Schirmacher, one of the first German women to earn a doctorate, this paper explores the constellations and dynamics that led to a re-organisation of the social field of knowledge production. Drawing on the concept of the scholarly persona as a mediating instance between individual aspirations and social relations it discusses the concept’s potential for a gender-sensitive history of science and knowledge. It argues that institutional and private arrangements that enable academics, intellectuals, and artists to concentrate on their work play an essential part in their production of knowledge and artistic work. Exploring these arrangements, the paper shows the emergence of gendered hierarchies of collaboration that accompanied the advancement of women into the academic field in the early 20th century. However, it also points to the development of alternative forms of scholarly households, and to female couples particularly. Therefore, this paper argues that questions about gender-specific (as well as class-specific) life plans and careers in academic and creative fields can only be examined in a differentiated way if the various forms of academic and non-academic private support are systematically included in research on the scholarly or creative persona.
About the speaker
Professor Johanna Gehmacher teaches history at the Institute for Contemporary History at the University of Vienna. During the academic year 2018/19 she was Gerda Henkel Guest Professor at the Department for International History at the London School of Economics. She has published widely in the fields of gender history and contemporary history as well as on biographical methods. Among her recent publications is a comprehensive biography of Käthe Schirmacher published together with Elisa Heinrich and Corinna Oesch.
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