Table of Contributors   Table of Contents   Return to Encyclopedia Home Page

Mathilde Franziska Anneke

Mathilde Franziska Anneke was considered by her contemporaries as the most prominent woman among the German Forty-eighters. Sh e was a social activist, feminist, educator and writer. Born as Mathilde Franziska Giesler, April 3, 1817, in Leveringhausen, Westphalia, she enjoyed a happy childhood at the estate of her grandfather, a friend of Freiherr vom Stein. Her first marriage to Alfred von Tabouillot, a well-to-do wine merchant, ended in divorce. Forced to support herself and her infant daughter through literary endeavors, she gained some modest prominence by writing and editing a number of almanacs, short stories, and poems in the traditional vein. Her drama, Oithono oder die Tempelweihe, also stemed from this Biedermeier phase of 1838-1844. This work may be the only successful 19th century German tragedy authored by a woman. Oithono was not only published but was also produced on stage in Münster, Westphalia and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The harsh experiences of the Biedermeier phase, when she struggled to keep herself and her child fed and housed, and her descent from upper middle class into poverty, led to a fundamental change of her world view. In 1847 she married Fritz Anneke, a young Artillery officer with socialist leanings, and joined him in Cologne, where she founded the Neue Kölnische Zeitung, a daily paper for the working class. The newspaper was edited by both Annekes under his name and his friend, Fritz Beust. Using readily understandable language, the paper aimed to raise people's political and economic cons ciousness and to agitate against the existing order. During Fritz Anneke's imprisonment, Mathilde single-handedly edited, managed, and printed the paper. When this publication was banned, she founded on September 27, 1848 the Frauen-Zeitung, the first German feminist newspaper. Her published treatise, Das Weib im Conflict mit den socialen Verhältnissen, defended the writer Louise Aston and denounced the suppressed position of women.

Fritz Anneke joined the insurgents in 1848 and fought in the Palatinate, with Carl Schurz serving as his aide-de-camp. Because of her excellent horsemanship, Mathilde stayed with her husband as his orderly, and was able to keep an insider's diary of the revolution. After the crushing of the Baden uprising in 1849, the Annekes joined the large number of political refugees who emigrated to the United States. Among her few worldly possessions was the draft of her Memoiren einer Frau aus dem badisch-pfälzischen Fe ldzüge, which was published later in Newark, N.J.

In America, Mathilde Anneke continued to fight for the ideals of the 1848-49 revolution. Although the United States presented a much more liberal environment than she had experienced in Germany, she nevertheless found the social and political situation far from perfect. In addition to the virtually unanimous support for the abolitionist cause which she shared with the other Forty-eighters, she also carried on the battle for wo men's rights. Her journalistic and literary work is inseparably intertwined with her political, social, and pedagogic activities. In March 1852, soon after arrival in Milwaukee, she issued the Deutsche Frauen-Zeitung, thereby founding the first feminist paper published by a woman in America. Mathilde Anneke was one of the leading feminists who collaborated closely with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She was an eloquent speaker at the national level and lobbied in Washi ngton for women's rights.

Mathilde was also a dedicated wife and mother. She gave birth to seven children, of whom three survived childhood. When Fritz Anneke attempted to travel to Europe to report on Garibaldi's uprising, Mathilde followed him with the children. But hardly had the family been reunited in Switzerland then the American Civil War broke out, and Fritz Anneke returned to the United States to serve in the Union Army. Without funds for the family's return, Mathilde remained in Switzerland for four difficult years. With unflagging industry, she now wrote in the most prominent German publications in support of the Union cause. Her short stories resembled Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, but Anneke's protagonists are more militant; they actively liberated themselves from their bondage. The stories emphasized women as double slaves. Scattered over various German newspapers in Switzerland, Germany and America of the 19th century, these stories were collec ted only recently as a book.

After her return to the United States at the end of the Civil War, Mathilde Anneke was concerned with passing on her democratic ideals to a new generation. Realizing that equality for women in the work place and in public life could only be won by education and training, she founded a women's academy in Milwaukee, which she directed until her death on November 25, 1884. A lasting desire for freedom, equality and justice was the hallmark of her institution. Wit h other notable German Forty-eighters, Mathilde Anneke lies buried in Milwaukee's Forest Home Cemetery.
Maria Wagner


Mathilde Anneke Oithono, oder die Tempelweihe (Wesel: Fr. Klünne, 1842).

Mathilde Anneke "Das Weib im Conflict mit den socialen Vernhältnissen," Neue Kölnische Zeitung, 1847.

Mathilde Anneke Memoiren einer Frau aus dem badisch-pfälzischen Feldzüge (Newark, N.J.: Newarker Zeitung, 1853).

Mathilde Anneke Die gebrochenen Ketten Maria Wagner ed. (Stuttgart: Akademischer Verlag Hans-Dieter Heinz, 1983).

Gebhardt, Manfred Mathilde Franziska Anneke (Berlin: Neues Leben, 1988).

Martin Henke and Rolf Taubert Das Weib im Conflict mit den socialen Verhältnissen: Mathilde Franziska Anneke und die erste deutsche Frauenzeitung (Bochum: Egalite, 1976).

Dorothea Diver Steucher, "Double Jeopardy: 19th Century German-American Woman Writers" PhD Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1981.

Maria Wagner, "A German Writer and Feminist in 19th Century America" Beyond the Eternal Feminine: Critical Essays on Women in German Literature Susan Cocalis and Kay Goodman,eds. Stuttgart: Akademischer Verlag Hans-Dieter Heinz, 1982, 159ff.

Maria Wagner "Mathilde Anneke's Stories of Slavery in the German-American Press, MELUS, VI, 4 (1979) 9ff.

Maria Wagner Mathilde Franziska Anneke in Selbstzeugnissen und Dokumenten. (Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1980).

Table of Contributors   Table of Contents   Return to Encyclopedia Home Page

JGC revised this file ( on October 14, 2004.

Please E-mail comments o r suggestions to

© 1999, 2004 James Chastain.