"Tall and slender, radiant with beauty and grace, of elegant manner and tone, of vivacious and fiery expressions, combing a sharp mind and with a gay disposition, well read and a master of foreign languages as well as her own, she was a most striking and strange phenomenon in Vienna." Contemporaries could not praise enough the qualities and virtues of Fanny von Arnstein (1758-1818), a Jewish woman belonging to the Viennese High Society. The daughter of the influential Prussian Court Jew Daniel Itzig, she came to Vienna in 1776 and gained soon entry into the first families. She was perceived as a highly educated woman whose opinions were listened to and who was greeted and addressed by Emperor Joseph II whenever he saw her. Discussing new books and philosophical ideas she brought to Vienna from her native Berlin and actively supporting music, she was to become the hostess of a "salon" which during the Vienna Congress of 1814-15 attracted members of all the reigning European families, high clerics and statesmen. Ennobled with her husband in 1798, she was never baptized, believing in the equality of all religions.
Her daughter Henriette von Arnstein-Pereira kept an open house as well and her "salon" became one of the few centers of cultural activities before the 1848 Revolution. She was a friend of Haydn and Beethoven and welcomed the writers Stifter and Grillparzer, the painters Schwind and Amerling and the actors Anschuetz and Rettich to her Friday gatherings.
Related to her was the great Jewish hostess of the age of Liberalism, Josephine von Wertheimstein, who gathered the literary, musical and theatrical talents in her Doebling villa. Sophie Todesco, Rosa and Helene von Lieben also formed educated Jewish circles with a serious and passionate concern for the arts in Vienna.
Karoline von Gomperz-Bettelheim (1845-1925) not only hosted a salon, but was also an acclaimed opera singer and pianist in her own right who held a position at the Vienna Opera, gave concerts in London and performed together with Clara Schumann who was deeply impressed by her singing. After her marriage with the major industrialist Ritter von Gomperz she withdrew from Opera and performed only for charity events. The "Viennese nightingale", singer Pauline Lucca (1841-1908), boasted a soprano voice stretching over 2 ½ octaves and performed more than 60 roles in operas, being highly successful in Berlin, London and Vienna.
The dancer and choreographer Gertrud Bodenwieser (1890-1959) belonged to the first generation of modern dancers in Vienna. She developed her own style of modern Expression Dance, which has sometimes been characterised as "typical Viennese", combining dance and music and referring to Secessionism and Jugendstil art movements. She taught from 1921-1938 at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna and opened her own studio in 1920. Her important piece "Doemon Maschine" (1924) boosted her success abroad and she was invited to Japan, the first western dancing group to perform in that country. Fleeing the Nazis in 1938 and losing her husband in French exile, she emigrated to Australia where she opened a studio which became highly influential on modern dance.
The modern media of photography attracted Madame d'Ora (Dora Philippine Kallmus) (1881-1963) and Trude Fleischmann (1895-1990). Starting out with a small Kodak camera, Dora eventually opened an elegant photo studio that attracted customers from Viennese intellectual, artistic and noble circles. She was commissioned with photographing the crowning of Emperor Karl as King of Hungary and her portraits of the royal family were a financial success. She specialised in pictures of fashion and art, had connections to the "Wiener Werkstoette" and was intrigued by catching the movement of dancers on film. In 1927 she moved to Paris where she worked for the fashion industry. After surviving the Second World War persecution in a monastery and a farm in France, she returned to Austria, changing her artistic focus and making pictures of refugee camps and of slaughtering houses.
Trude Fleischmann started her career with a short stint in Madame d'Ora's studio and opened her own in 1920. She perceived herself as artist and became successful with portraits of her artists' friends and of female acts with excellent relations to the Viennese art scene which she caught on film. Immigrating via London to New York, in 1949 she opened a studio in Manhattan where she specialized again in portraits of artists.
Psychoanalysis was another modern field where Jewish women could make a remarkable impact. Helene Deutsch (1884-1982) studied medicine without much support from her family. While working at a psychiatric clinic in Vienna, she developed an interest in psychoanalysis. She joined the Wiener Psychoanalytische Vereinigung ("Psychoanalytic Society") and began analysis with Sigmund Freud. As the first director of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Institute she held an influential position. She immigrated to the USA in 1935 where she worked as a widely acknowledged therapist and trainer. Her theoretical work deals mainly with the psychology of women. Melanie Klein (1882-1960) discovered the writings of Sigmund Freud in Budapest where she started an analysis with his close collaborator Sandor Ferenczi. Encouraged by him, she started analyzing her own children and gained official recognition in 1919. Her main expertise was the early development of children. Having moved to England in 1926, she faced difficulties with the different approach of Anna Freud (1895-1982). She founded her own school, but lost her prominent position in the British Psychoanalytic Society.
Anna Freud received training as a teacher, but developed an interest in psychoanalysis while being closely involved in the work of her father Sigmund Freud. After analysis with him, she opened her own children’s clinic in the parental home, combining psychoanalysis with educational theory. When her father fell ill in 1923, she nursed him for 16 years. The Gestapo arrested her in March 1938, thus prompting the emigration of the Freud family to London. After Sigmund Freud's death, Anna became the editor of his collected works. In 1947 she founded an institute for the training of children's analysts in Great Britain.
After the young Lise Meitner (1878-1968) gained her Ph.D. in physics (1905/06) she moved to Berlin to work with Max Planck. There she started a 31-year collaboration with Otto Hahn and became eventually the first female academic researcher in the subject in Prussia and later the director of the physical-radioactive department. Several of the fundamental studies in nuclear physics were carried out by her. Losing the right to teach in 1933, she had to flee to Sweden in 1938 where she was unable to continue her research on nuclear fission for which Otto Hahn received the Nobel Prize in 1944. Despite later acknowledgements of her major contribution, she found it difficult to overcome this injustice.
Charity has always been a traditional Jewish virtue. Israelitische Frauenvereine, ("Jewish Women’s Societies"), often connected to Israelitische Tempelvereine, organisations responsible for the maintenance of the synagogue, existed in each quarter of Vienna. Middle-class Jewish women not only collected money for charity, but fought actively for a better world.
Bertha Pappenheim (1859-1936) – she was Freud's "Anna O." in his studies about hysteria – moved in 1889 to Frankfurt am Main where she engaged in social work and the feminist movement. She tried to improve the situation of Jewish girls and women through better education and professional training, seeing this as a "mitzva" according to her religious background. She founded the Juedischer Frauenbund in 1904, established a boarding school in 1917 and a Central Bureau for Charity of the German Jews in 1917. She dealt with the problem of Jewish women in the 1920s.
Koethe Leichter (1895-1942) met the dark and crowded workers' flats in Vienna while working for a nursery for children whose fathers fought in World War I. These encounters led the young middle-class student to sociology and politics. After meeting in Heidelberg Socialist students around Ernst Toller, she published on the work conditions of women and the life of unemployed women and wrote for Socialist newspapers. Fighting against the rising Fascism, her professional work as a woman and a Jew became more difficult. She joined the underground after the beginning of Socialism in Austria in 1934. Before she could join her husband in Czechoslovakia, she was arrested by the Gestapo and deported to Ravensbrueck concentration camp. Fondly remembered by surviving women for her support and strength, she was murdered in February 1942 together with 1,500 other female prisoners.
The socialist politician, writer and feminist activist Therese Schlesinger-Eckstein (1863-1940) managed to escape Nazi persecution after the Anschluss. Having experienced sad personal losses, through her friends Marie Lang and Auguste Fickert she joined the middle-class feminist movement. She became a prolific writer, demanding access for women to university, the right to vote and protection of women at work. She became a member of the Socialist Party, Member of Parliament and the Bundesrat.
Regine Ulmann (1847-1939) who opened the first World Conference of Jewish Women in Vienna in 1923, was one of the most important pioneers of the Viennese feminist movement. She dedicated her whole life to women’s issues. At the age of 19 she co-founded the Moedchen-Unterstuetzungsverein for free education for poor Jewish girls for whom she worked for more than 70 years. She was active in many societies catering for Jewish and non-Jewish women and elected as the first woman into a position in the Jewish Community. A mother of six, she was the chief-editor for 25 years of the Blatt der Hausfrau, a women’s magazine. She lived to see the destruction of her life's work when she died in 1939, aged 91.
The educational reformer Dr. Eugenie Schwarzwald (1872-1940) founded the first co-educational school in Vienna in 1901. In this remarkable school, at some point Adolf Loos lectured on architecture and table-manners, Schoenberg taught music and Oskar Kokoschka painting. Dr. Schwarzwald was also a tireless welfare worker who set up soup kitchens during World War I, opened recreation homes for victims of the war, established homes for female apprentices and fruit and vegetables farms for town children. She had to leave Austria after the Anschluss.
Combining the tradition of having a salon and supporting the arts with political engagement was Bertha Zuckerkandl (1864-1945) who, as the daughter of the founder of a large liberal newspaper, learned the trade of journalism early. She met the French sculptor August Rodin in Paris and promoted the Viennese Secession movement in her daily art columns. She supported the Salzburger Festival and translated French literature. In 1917 on a secret mission she tried to reach peace between Austria and France and wrote passionately for peace and understanding between peoples. Like all other Jewish women she had to flee Austria after the annexation to Nazi Germany in 1938. She survived the war in France and Algiers and died in October 1945 in Paris where she is buried.
Famous Austrian Jewish Women
Fanny von Arnstein (1758-1818)
Henriette von Arnstein-Pereira
Vicky Baum (1888-1960), author
Elisabeth Bergner (1897-1986), actress
Tina Blau (1845-1916), painter
Gertrud Bodenwieser (1890-1959)
Ottilie Bondy (1832-1921), journalist, feminist
Helene Deutsch (1884-1982)
Else Federn (1874-1946), social worker
Trude Fleischmann (1895-1990)
Anna Freud (1895-1982), psychologist
Karoline von Gomperz-Bettelheim (1845-1925)
Henriette Herzfelder(1865-1927), editor and writer
Dora Philippine Kallmus (Madame d'Ora) (1881-1963)
Ernestine Kisch (1877-1946), suffragete
Melanie Klein (1882-1960)
Leopoldine Kulka (1872-1920), journalist and suffragete
Grete Kracauer nee Wolf (-1970), painter
Hedy Lamarr (Hedwig Kiesler) (1913-2000), Hollywood actress and inventor
Koethe Leichter (1895-1942)
Lotte Lenya (Karoline Blumauer) (1898-1981), singer and actress
Helene von Lieben
Rosa von Lieben
Pauline Lucca (1841-1908), singer
Lise Meitner (1878-1968), scientist and Nobel Prize laureate
Bertha Pappenheim (1859-1936)
Therese Schlesinger-Eckstein (1863-1940)
Dr. Eugenie Schwarzwald (1872?-194?)
Olly Schwarz (1877-1960), social worker
Regine Ulmann (1847-1939)
Josephine von Wertheimstein
Vally Wieselthier (1895-1945), artist and designer
Bertha Zuckerkandl (1864-1945)