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Hedwig Dohm, "What the Pastors Think of Women" (1872)

Hedwig Dohm (1831-1919), author and women’s rights advocate, was married to Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Dohm, editor of the satirical magazine Kladderadatsch. Through her husband, she came into contact with Berlin’s intellectual elite. In a career spanning more than fifty years, Dohm published novels and plays but remains best known for the ironic and sharp-witted essays that she wrote between 1872 and 1879 on the subject of women’s rights. The following essay, one of the first of this sort, brought her national attention. Here, Dohm attacks a pamphlet – Zur „Frauenfrage“ [On the “Question of Women”] (Halle, 1871) – by Philipp von Nathusius-Ludom (1842-1900), a Protestant theologian and editor of the Conservative Party’s leading newspaper.

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What the Pastors Think of Women. On the Question of Women, by Philipp von Nathusius and Professor of Theology Jacobi in Königsberg

(Page 2)

[ . . . ] If I devote brief attention to these writings despite their triviality, it is firstly because the women’s question is yet another matter in which the authors, strictly conservative, devout men, largely advocate the views of their influential party, of orthodox circles in the church, of the conservatives in politics, and secondly because Mr. von Nathusius expressly states his wish to be refuted.

Whether the souls of the devout pastors (for I also regard Mr. v. N. as a servant of God) came to each other through free elective affinity or whether one drew his murky water from the spuming fountain of the other – this I cannot decide.

Of course, there is no way this essay can provide an exhaustive refutation of the two pamphlets; the one by Mr. v. N. alone comprises 150 pages. I have to content myself with submitting some of the salient points of the two gentlemen’s theories to the insight and judgment of readers.

When the authors take refuge in the field of religion and use biblical passages as evidence, taking them as immediate revelations from God, I can neither follow them nor give pursuit. The temple has been a shelter for all sorts of wrongdoers since time immemorial.

Mr. von Nathusius begins his work by attempting to prove that marriage is women’s sole calling.

(pp. 49ff)

“’The home is the woman’s world! Women’s calling and purpose in life rest once
and for all in the firm orders of nature and the godly commandment and cannot
budge an inch!!’”

Mr. von Nathusius, like most who think the same way he does, continuously confuses customs or historical conditions and the laws of nature. Exploring the laws of nature is reserved solely for the deepest minds, the most sublime geniuses. A Newton, a Copernicus discovered the laws of nature governing the earth. But up to now who has explored the laws of nature that apply to the human spirit in a way that builds upon an eternal world order? You perhaps, Herr v. Nathusius?

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