„Unsere Stellung zu diesem Problem der Abtreibung ist ganz klar”

Parlamentarierinnen der SPD und KPD zur Abtreibungsdebatte 1926

Anna-Josepha Kriesche studiert Gymnasiallehramt Geschichte und Französisch an der Friedrich-Schiller Universität Jena. Diesen Text schrieb sie im Rahmen des Seminars „Sexualitäten der Revolution – Revolutionen der Sexualität“ (im WiSe 20/21 bei Pia Marzell) als Hausarbeit und überarbeitete ihn für den Blog. In ihrer anstehenden Abschlussarbeit wird sie sich weiterhin mit der Thematik, dann in Zeitschriften der SPD, auseinandersetzen.

„Eine Schwangere, welche ihre Frucht vorsätzlich abtreibt oder im Mutterleib tötedt, wird mit Zuchthaus bis zu fünf Jahren bestraft. Sind mildernde Umstände vorhanden, so tritt Gefängnißstrafe nicht unter sechs Monaten ein. Dieselben Strafvorschriften finden auf denjenigen Anwendung, welcher mit Einwilligung der Schwangeren die Mittel zu der Abtreibung oder Tödtung bei ihr angewandt oder ihr beigebracht hat.“[1]

Seit der §218 erstmals im StGB von 1871 auftauchte, wurden Debatten um dessen Änderung geführt. Als ein Höhepunkt dieser Diskussionen kann sicherlich die breite außerparlamentarische Protestbewegung politisch engagierter Frauen, Künstler*innen und Ärzt*innen in der Weimarer Republik bezeichnet werden, die sich Ende der 1920er herausbildete. Diese öffentliche Protestbewegung formierte sich aus dem Bund für Mutterschutz und Sexualreform, der feministischen Frauenliga sowie dem Bund deutscher Ärztinnen. Im Reichstag waren es Parlamentarierinnen aus SPD und KPD wie Marie Juchacz, Lore Agnes oder Martha Arendsee, die sich seit 1920 mit Anträgen für eine Strafrechtsänderung einsetzten, und entsprechend die Positionen ihrer Parteien in der Abtreibungsdebatte und in den Verhandlungen im Mai 1926 vertraten.

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“Zwey Knaben in einem Bette”. Spuren der Antimasturbationskampagne im habsburgischen Bildungswesen um 1815

Waltraud Schütz ist Post-Doc am Institut für die Erforschung der Habsburgermonarchie und des Balkanraumes an der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Aktuell, Forschung in Briefbeständen zur Rolle adeliger Frauen in der Entstehung von Freizeitkultur im 19. Jahrhundert. Arbeitsschwerpunkte: Gender History, Geschichte der Bildung, Biographieforschung, Analyse von Dynamiken sozialer Ungleichheit

Experten aus Medizin und Pädagogik sowie Vertreter des Klerus produzierten ab dem 17. Jahrhundert, zuerst in England, umfangreiche Literaturen zum sogenannten „Laster der Selbstbefleckung“.[1] Detaillierte Schilderungen von damit verbundenen Krankheitssymptomen und deren körperliche und geistige Folgen, stützten sich auf Konsultations- und Brieftexte von vermeintlichen Onanist:innen im medizinischen Kontext. In diesen, oft im Stil von Beichten, verfassten Berichten  wurden die Konsequenzen drastisch beschrieben, so galt eine gelbliche Verfärbung der Haut als sichtbares Zeichen.[2] Der Onanie vorzubeugen  wurde zum zentralen Anliegen der Anti-Masturbations-Kampagnen, die im deutschsprachigen Raum ihren Höhepunkt in den 1780er und 1790er Jahren erreichten. Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts waren vor allem Pädagogen Wortführer der Debatte. In ihren Werken können die Auswirkungen dieses Diskurses auf Lehrwerke und gesetzliche Bestimmungen nachvollzogen werden.[3] Bemerkenswert ist, dass die Kampagnen überhaupt erst ein breiteres Bewusstsein für sexuelles Verhalten im Kindes- und Erwachsenenalter schufen. Die Historikerin Isabel Hull bringt diese diskursive Veränderung auf den Punkt: “some people suddenly discovered they had been having sex all their lives (and that it was dangerous).”[4]

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Rote Frontkämpfer*innen? – Männlichkeit durch Exklusion in der Weimarer KPD

Felix Müller studiert Geschichte und Politik des 20. Jahrhunderts (M.A.) an der Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena. Seine Forschungsschwerpunkte liegen in der Europäischen Zwischenkriegszeit, der Weimarer Republik und der Intellektuellengeschichte. Kontakt: felix.konrad.mueller[at]posteo.de 

Der Rote Frontkämpferbund (RFB), wurde im Sommer 1924 gegründet. Der Kampfbund agierte zwar offiziell autonom, stand de facto aber unter Direktive der Parteiführung der Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands (KPD).[1]  Der RFB entwickelte sich zu einer großen Massenorganisation, erreichte gar eine ähnlich hohe Mitgliederzahl wie seine „Mutterpartei“ und entwickelte sich durch seine Demonstrationskultur bis Ende 1926 zum öffentlichen Gesicht des Weimarer Kommunismus.[2] Damit kann der RFB als eine der augenfälligsten Erscheinungen der politischen Kultur der Weimarer Republik bezeichnet werden. Bereits die Symbolik des RFB, die im weiteren Verlauf der 1920er Bestandteil kommunistischer Ikonographie werden sollte, verweist auf seinen militanten Charakter: Die Geste der nach oben gestreckten, geballten Faust bildete das Emblem des RFB und war zugleich die Gebärde des Rotfront-Grußes seiner Mitglieder.[3]

Der RFB war die manifeste Folge der politischen Strategie der KPD, die parlamentarische und reformerische Politiken weitestgehend ablehnte. Nicht der Reichstag war das politische Mittel zur angestrebten, zukünftigen Gesellschaft, sondern die Straße, welche sich genommen und zum öffentlichen Schauplatz kompromissloser, „revolutionärer“ Fundamentalopposition, entschlossener Militanz und der eigenen Stärke wurde. Dabei kam es dem RFB nicht auf tatsächliche militärische Taktik, sondern auf die Symbolhaftigkeit und Außenwirkung der demonstrierten Radikalität an. Anstelle einer professionellen „Roten Armee“ auf deutschen Boden, die sich illegal bewaffnete und den Aufstand vorbereitete, handelte es sich beim RFB vielmehr um eine „Demonstrationsarmee“, durch welche die Symbol- und Körpersprache der KPD deutlich soldatischer wurde. In optischer Anlehnung an die Heeresorganisation des Kaiserreiches, die 1918/19 durch das Zutun der Arbeiterbewegung beendet wurde, marschierte der RFB in militärisch anmutenden Uniformen, mit Fahnen und mit Marschmusik in Reih und Glied öffentlich auf.[4]

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Trans Rights and Cultures in the Weimar Republic

Katie Sutton is Associate Professor of German and Gender Studies at the Australian National University. She is the author of Sex between Body and Mind: Psychoanalysis and Sexology in the German-Speaking World, 1890s-1930s (University of Michigan Press, 2019) and The Masculine Woman in Weimar Germany (Berghahn, 2011), and has published on sexuality, gender, and sexology in early 20th-century Germany, including interwar queer and trans subcultures. Contact: katie.sutton@anu.edu.au

In 1932 popular illustrated daily newspaper Tempo, which had a circulation of around 125,000 copies, took up a theme it believed captured the Zeitgeist: “Women who live as men”.[1] This “reportage from an unknown world” by one C. A. Jank ran for almost thirty issues from April to June, detailing stories of individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB) who lived and worked, sometimes for decades, in a society that viewed them as men. 

It opens with the story of Karl, a working-class Swabian who runs into problems at the Berlin unemployment office because his ID document is issued to a “Henriette.” In a colourful report that speaks to Depression-era readers with its evocation of bored queues and timestamps, Karl confronts a perplexed official demanding to know the truth of his gender: “The thing is this: I’m a girl. But for fifteen years I’ve been living and working as a lad.”[2] What might stories such as Karl’s tell us about the development of trans legal rights and cultures during the Weimar Republic?

Jank’s report of Karl’s encounter in the unemployment office forms part of longer biography that goes back to the persistent childhood demands of young “Henriette”: “Mother, when will I become a boy?” Today, we might be tempted to classify his identification as trans(*), although it is not clear whether Karl saw himself in a way that might easily align with such a twenty-first-century label.[3]

By the interwar years, though, adopting the term “transvestite” to characterize gender-variant expressions and identities had become a possibility. Sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld coined this popular label with a bulky 1910 study on the theme, publishing numerous case histories to help distinguish “transvestism” from older ideas of “inversion” or a “third sex.”[4] He viewed cross-gendered identifications as most often a lifelong condition—a view we also see reflected in Jank’s narration of Karl, albeit in a more popular mode. 

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Marital Rape and Women’s Rights in the Federal Republic of Germany

Jane Freeland is an historian of women and gender in modern Germany. She is currently a research fellow at the German Historical Institute London, where she coordinates the International Standing Working Group on Medialization and Empowerment. She holds a PhD from Carleton University (Canada) and is completing a monograph on domestic violence activism in divided Berlin.

On April 14, 1976, the illustrated news magazine Stern ran a special report on rape in marriage in the Federal Republic of Germany. “Rape,” it began, “It was until today a matter of sexual offenders, perverts, criminals. …for the first time it is now revealed that nowhere is rape committed more than in the marital bed.”[1] Surveying women throughout the Federal Republic on sex and intimacy in marriage, including their experiences of marital rape, for the first time the report revealed that in one in five marriages in West Germany women were raped by their husbands. It further showed that in a majority of cases marital rape was violent, and closely connected with physical and emotional abuse. “The bed,” it seemed to reporter Ulrich Schippke “has become a battleground.”[2]

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The Eminent Lesbian or the Passionate Spinster? Posthumous Representations of Amelia Edwards’ Love for Women

Travel writer Amelia Ann Blanford Edwards (1831-1892) loved women. This article examines how various generations of writers have represented her same-sex desire, which material and conjectures underpinned their representations, and how we might approach reading and writing about the desires of Victorian-era women-loving women today.

Bianca Walther is a freelance historian and conference interpreter based in Berlin. She produces the podcast Frauen von damals and hopes one day to finish her dissertation on women-loving women in Germany and Sweden around 1900. She is also interested in historical women travellers and has edited the Indian travel diary of German feminist Anna Pappritz. While simultaneously working on a podcast on Amelia Edwards and studying anti-lesbian rhetoric in early 20th-century literature, she stumbled across an obscure reference to an English tribad who married a pastor’s wife. This blog post is the result.
Helen Ferguson is a freelance conference interpreter and translator based in Berlin, specialised in art/architecture, film, and cultural history.

Amelia Edwards was a talented writer, passionate traveller, and self-taught Egyptologist. She was a successful novelist by the time she was in her mid-twenties, but it was a trip to the Dolomites and a subsequent journey up the Nile that were to establish her fame as a travel writer. Her bestsellers Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys (1873) and A Thousand Miles up the Nile (1877) captivated their audience with humorous observations and evocative descriptions of landscapes. 

During her trip to Egypt, Amelia Edwards acquired a lasting fascination with Egyptology. In 1882, she therefore co-founded the Egypt Exploration Fund (today: Egypt Exploration Society) and, during the last ten years of her life, dedicated nearly all her time and energy to it. Her will stipulated that monies from her estate be used to endow the Edwards Chair of Egyptology at University College London, which still survives as the Edwards Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology

Amelia Edwards and Women

While Amelia Edwards’ achievements already made her a well-known public figure during her lifetime, her private life has long remained an enigma – even to her biographers Joan Rees (1998) and Brenda Moon (2006). Amelia Edwards formed emotional attachments almost uniquely with women. As an adult, she lived with Ellen Drew Braysher, a friend 27 years her senior, whose husband and daughter had died not long after Edwards had lost her parents. In early 1864, they moved to Westbury-on-Trym, where they were to live until both women died within the first months of 1892. 

Amelia Edwards in 1890, published: in Edwards, Amelia B. (1891):
Pharaohs, Fellahs and Explorers, New York:
Harper & Brothers (frontispiece).

However, Edwards always had other attachments to women too. Her papers, archived at Somerville College, Oxford, contain a number of letters from painter and world traveller Marianne North (1830-1890), whom she had befriended in 1870. While Edwards’ letters have not survived, Norths’ replies reveal that Edwards had developed quite a crush on her new friend. North, who did not reciprocate these feelings but was obviously relaxed about them, set her boundaries in a gentle and light-spirited tone: “Bless you, what love letters you do write”, she wrote one Friday in May 1871, “what a pity you waste them on a woman!” (SCO ABE 228). A few days later, after Edwards had come up with the suggestion (or should it be ‘proposal’?) of giving North a ring to wear on her next journey, Marianne North writes:

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“Catharina Schlegelin had hidden her pregnancy viciously from everybody”: extramarital pregnancies in three different sources on infanticide from the 18th century

Eva Marie Lehner is a historian and Early Modernist. She specializes in the history of the body, gender, and sexuality, historical anthropology, identity, and ecclesiastical record-keeping processes. Her most recent publications and presentations related to her Ph.D. project on south German parish registers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. eva.lehner[@]uni-due.de

During the early modern period (1500–1800) infanticide was a criminal act and punished by death.[i] In German-speaking territories, the term used for infanticide was KindsmordKindsmord meant a woman killing her illegitimate newborn. In contemporary German legislative texts, unmarried women were the only ones who could commit this crime. Court judgments saw hiding an extramarital pregnancy and illegitimate childbirth as evidence in a trial on infanticide. 

Early modern judicial treaties describe the crime as “unchristian” and “inhuman”.[ii] Simultaneously, executions of Kindsmörderinnen (women who had committed infanticide) were difficult to enforce and carry out by local authorities.[iii] Reactions to these executions by the audience were complex, ambivalent, and often unforeseeable.[iv] During the 18th century, the attitude towards infanticide changed fundamentally. A reform of the penal law at this time evoked debates in which infanticide played a crucial role.[v] The discussion centered around the question if one should abolish the death penalty for infanticide. The social, moral, and emotional situations of unmarried women, which could socially degrade when she got pregnant, played a remarkable role in this debate. Extramarital intercourse was not only severely frowned upon but could also be incriminating for the participants. The stigma which was associated with illegitimate children applied primarily to women. In the following, I will present three different sources from the 18th century discussing infanticide and showing different perspectives on extramarital sexuality, gender, and law.

Legal norms

The judicial debate on infanticide in the 18th century was deeply interlinked with the judgment of extramarital intercourse. This connection was also part of legal norms decreed by the authorities. The instructions which Count Palatine Karl Theodor legislated for Palatinate and Bavaria in 1726 and 1744 are two examples. The government in Palatinate Sulzbach referred to his instructions when it released a local regulation in 1766. According to this law, women were obliged to report an extramarital pregnancy. Hiding a pregnancy, covering it up, or sheltering a pregnant woman was defined as a criminal act. In an instruction published in 1789, unmarried women were suspicious when they had hidden their pregnancy and no one could testify for the childbirth.[vi]

In the 18th century, the authorities in Bavaria and Palatinate Sulzbach tightened the edicts against infanticide. These legal norms criminalized women hiding an extramarital pregnancy to prevent infanticides. 

Court records

What impact did these measures have on legal practices and judgments concerning infanticide? During the first half of the 18th century, the court in Sulzbach convicted six women of this crime.[vii] On October 3, 1739, one of these women, Catharina Schlegelin, was sentenced to death by the judge and executed in public. The court records cover the circumstances of the pregnancy, birth, and homicide. The files also document the physical and mental condition of Catharina, how she treated her dead child, buried it, and prayed for it. The records focus on the hidden pregnancy as part of the crime or as its starting point:  

“Because the convict Catharina Schleglin had hidden her pregnancy viciously from everybody: she repeatedly felt labour-pains, and she went home alone from work on the field. Because she gave birth to her child separated from other people and in secret. Because she did not stanch the umbilical cord of the newborn, but mainly squeezed its head, and pressed its throat, put it in water until it drowned.”[viii]

Court records: One page from the court records on Catharina Schlegelin, Sulzbach 1739.[1] 

Parish records

Two protestant clergymen supervised Catharina Schlegelin during her trial and after her conviction. Both ministers wrote her burial entry in the local parish register after her execution.[ix] They documented the ambivalent attitude towards infanticide and convicted women in the 18th century: 

“Once again – God be merciful! – we both supervised and stood by a woman who killed her infant [kinder-Mörderin] and therefore was happily brought from life to death with a sword.

Catharina Schlegelin is the daughter of Johan Schlegel who is still living and a wealthy peasant in Schellersdorf, part of the parish Edelsfeld. She is his only daughter with his first wife. He and his second wife are childless. She [C.S.] was on duty as a maid when she got impregnated by the male servant, Jobst Pferber from Fronberg. She hid her pregnancy from her parents and the boy because she was afraid of her parents. They did not like the Pferber, because he was not wealthy, and she could get another man. Finally, she was so desperate that she killed the infant when her parents and everyone else were out on the field. She buried it in the barn. She did confess to her doing when the midwife questioned her during her first arrest in Königstein, she realized the extent of her sin and finally regretted it tearfully. She prepared herself honestly and freely for her death and many people were astonished by her youth of 23 years […].”[x]

In this entry, the clergymen tried to show that Catharina understood the bearing of her actions and regretted her doings. Therefore, her soul could be saved. In contrast to the court records the burial entry explains Catharina’s environment in detail. The young woman received a short biography in the parish records. The authors described her actions as brutal and sinful. However, the priests also mentioned her personal life. In their reading, the circumstances caused her a great deal of desperation and led to her actions. Part of her conflicted situation was the social or class distinction between her and her child’s father. She was the daughter of a wealthy peasant, and he was a poor servant. So, her parents did not accept him as her husband. Hence, she could not marry him even after the pregnancy which led to her desperate situation. Also, the two clergymen described that Catharina responded positively to them, emphasizing her regrets and catharsis. She confessed to her crime immediately and accepted her punishment. According to the burial entry, her behaviour amazed the priests and many people who attended her execution. The entry shows that the execution of women, convicted of infanticide, was reviewed in different ways. The church record offers a contra narrative to the legal norms and the judgment the court made. These three different perspectives on extramarital sexuality, gender, and law were part of the reevaluation of infanticide as a criminal act in the 18th century. 


Cite this article: Eva Marie Lehner, “Catharina Schlegelin had hidden her pregnancy viciously from everybody”: extramarital pregnancies in three different sources on infanticide from the 18th century, in: History | Sexuality | Law, 25/03/2021, https://hsl.hypotheses.org/1621, (abgerufen am: Datum).


[1] Image Copyright: In puncto Infanticidy. VII. Allgemeine Landespolizei. 1. Sicherheits- und Sittenpolizei. Schöffenurteile, signature A 69: 4. Katharina Schlegl, 1739, fol. 49 v.

[i] Besides the topic of infanticide being present during the early modern period, deadly violations against newborns were infrequent: Garthine Walker, Child-Killing and Emotion in Early Modern England and Wales, in Katie Barclay/Kimberley Reynolds/Ciara Rawnsley (ed.), Death, Emotion, and Childhood in Premodern Europe, London, New York 2016, pp. 151-171, p. 154.
[ii] Art. 131: Straff der weiber so jre kinder tödten, in: O.A., Constitutio Criminalis Carolina. Peinliche Gerichtsordnung Kaiser Karl V. Faksimiliedruck der ausgabe Augsburg 1533, Osnabrück 1973, S. XXVIII; Art. 35 und 36: Vom heimlichen kinder haben/ und tödten durch jre mütter genugsam anzeygung, pp. VIII, IX. 
[iii] Jutta Nowosadtko, Hinrichtungsrituale. Funktion und Logik öffentlicher Exekutionen in der Frühen Neuzeit, in: Sigrid Hirbodian/Michael Matheus (ed.), Kriminalität und Gesellschaft in Spätmittelalter und Neuzeit (Mainzer Vorträge 8), Stuttgart 2005, pp. 71-94, see p. 89.
[iv] Walker, Child-Killing, p. 152. Regarding the different emotions on infanticide in France during the 16th century: Susan Broomhall, Beholding Suffering and Providing Care: Emotional Performances on the Death of Poor Children in Sixteenth-Century French Institutions, in Barclay/Reynolds/Rawnsley (ed.), Death, Emotion and Childhood, pp. 65-86, see pp. 70-72.
[v] Otto Ulbricht considers infanticide as a key crime for the legal reforms in the 18th century. The death penalty should be replaced by preventative measures. Otto Ulbricht, Kindsmord und Aufklärung in Deutschland, München 1990; Otto Ulbricht, Kindsmord in der Frühen Neuzeit, in: Ute Gerhard (ed.): Frauen in der Geschichte des Rechts. Von der Frühen Neuzeit bis zur Gegenwart, München 1997, pp. 235-247.
[vi] Staatsarchiv Amberg, Pfalz Sulzbacher Regierung, Sulzbacher Akten, signature: 42 279.
[vii] Stadtarchiv Sulzbach-Rosenberg, infanticides 1734-1752. In puncto Infanticidy. VII. Allgemeine Landespolizei. 1. Sicherheits- und Sittenpolizei. Schöffenurteile, signature A 69: 1. Katharina Heringloher, 1734; 2. Margaretha Beer, 1735; 3. Magdalena Ebenhöher, 1739; 4. Katharina Schlegl, 1739; 5. Katharina Grünthaler, 1743; 6. Jüdin Hanna, nachgehend getaufte Maria Franziska Eleonora, 1751.
[viii] All English translations of quotes from German sources are my own. „Inquisitin Catharina Schläglin wegen daß sie ihre schwangeschafft vor jedmann boshafft versch verborgen gehalten: ohnmalst der etlichmahl empfunden wehen vom feldt allein nach haus gegangen, und das nicht nur dem da vor alle leuthen abgeßondert, heimlich gebohrenen kind die nabelschnur unverbunden gelaßßen sondern so hauptsächlich demselben daß köpfle zerquetschet heirnach auch noch den halß zugedrukt, und das kind ins waßßer, bis es ganz ertrunken, geleget.“ Stadtarchiv Sulzbach-Rosenberg, infanticides 1734-1752. In puncto Infanticidy. VII. Allgemeine Landespolizei. 1. Sicherheits- und Sittenpolizei. Schöffenurteile, signature A 69: 4. Katharina Schlegl, 1739, fol. 49 v. 
[ix] Eva Lehner: „einschreiben und vleißßig auffbehalten, auff daß man sich inn mancherlei fällen zeugnuß zu gebrauchen habe“. Dokumentieren als Praxisform in frühneuzeitlichen Kirchenbüchern, in: Jan-Hendryk de Boer (Hg.): Praxisformen. Zur kulturellen Logik von Zukunftshandeln, Frankfurt/New York 2019, S. 147–163.
[x] „Wurde bey der Gotterbarme es ! eine abermahlige kinder-Mörderin bey unser beiden zubereitung u begleitung durchs Schwerd vom Leben zum todt glückl. Gebracht Catharina Schlegelin, des nochim Leben sich befindenden Johan Schlegels, wohlhabenden Bauers-Tochter zu Schnellersdorf Edelfelder Pfarreien zwar eintziges kind vom 1ten Weib, mit der 2ten aber ohne kinder lebend weliche von Jobst Pferber von Fronberg gebürtig; aber dermahlen zu M[?] im dienst stehenden knecht impregnirt worden. Sie hat ihr schwanger=schafft aber denen Eltern u dem kerl beständig geläugnet, aus furcht vor den Eltern, welche diesen Pferber, weil er nicht reich war, und sie einend andern hätte haben können, endlich aus desperation das kind umgebracht, da die Eltern und alles auf dem felde war, und es in den stall vergraben. Sie habe aber ihre grausame that bey der ersten arrestirung in königstein w. visitierung durch die amm gleich umständlich bekannt, die größe ihrer sünde erkant letzlich mit viel Thränen bereuet u sich zum todt rechtschaffen und sehr frei bereitet, mit vieler leute verwunderung bey ihrer Jugend im 23te Jahr ihres[?].“ Evangelisch-lutherisches Pfarrarchiv der Christuskirche Sulzbach-Rosenberg, church register 8: baptisms, marriages, burials 1702-1769; since 2015 the register is stored im Landesarchiv der Lutherisch-Evangelischen Kirche in Bayern, 505/8, burial entry 3th October 1739, pp. 115 and 116, n. 27.