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Kinkel, Johanna

Kinkel, Johanna, composer, poet and revolutionist, was born in Bonn on July 8, 1810. She was highly esteemed because of her intelligence and extensive education, her exceptional musical talent and her humor, and by others she was considered as overeducated and, thus, looked down upon as unfeminine and as emancipated woman.

Estranged from her perceived hypocrities of Catholicism,, her turn to rationaism influenced her political emancipation; questioning religious was a presupposition for her questioning political authority.

She freed herself from the tyranny of her first and unhappy marriage by leaving her husband, thereby rejecting conventional beliefs to demanded fulfillment by exercising a right to pursue a career of her choice. In Berlin (1836-1839) she proved her artistic independence as composer, holding her own in a man's domain despite prejudices against female composers.

Back in Bonn Johanna Kinkel founded a literary circle, the Maikäferbund (Ladybug Society), in 1840. With sharp-tongued and satirical texts she mocked the narrow-minded bourgeois of Bonn as well as the situation in the Rhineland at the time in the magazine, the Maikäfer.

In the 1843 she married the Protestant theologian and professor Gottfried Kinkel from Bonn. During the next six years, while giving birth to four children and taking care of the daily housework, she financed a good part of their livelihood by giving music lessons.

In March of 1848 three political groupings were organized at the public convention in Bonn. The conservatives tried to preserve the authority of the government, while the constitutionals advocated liberal demands for a constitution and for free press and freedom of assembly. The democrats advocated social reform.

Johanna Kinkel eventually joined the democrats, although she still supported a constitutional monarchy in March, 1848 because she feared anarchy, she soon evoled to support a democratic republic which it now seemed able to remedy social grievances. "Formally exiled" from the circle of professors in Bonn, they considered a suporter of "people" tantamount to an anarchism.

Johanna supported her husband, who became spokesman for the democrats in Bonn. Indeeed many considered Johanna Kinkel the true driving force behind her husband's politica. Gottfried Kinkel, himself, attributed his political radicalism to his wife's influence; "I feel so strangely that you were the one who made a man out of me who can hold his own at this time.... without you I should have become a pitiful representative in the Pauls Church, maybe like the other pack in Bonn, who do not have the strength to suport open rebellion."

In May 1849 Johanna Kinkel took over the editorship of the Neue Bonner Zeitung, the mouthpiece of the Bonn democrats. She saw it as her duty to maintain the newspaper as the "last free press in our region." She discussed the course of the revolution and commented on the political events, causing reactionary women in Bonn to slander her with false accusations and haras sing articles. Rather than allowing herself to be intimidated, she saw it as confirmation of the importance of her political struggle. "I myself was actually given the understanding of the justification of the proletariat, and if I had not done it out of conviction, I now would safeguard interests with double-enthusiasm." She dismissed the ideas of the ruling bourgeois ideas concerning womens' participation in politics. Turning her back on banishment to homes and a private domain, Johanna Kinkel published her political views. Beside her responsibilities as editor, she had to earn a living and take care of her home and family.

Her problems multiplied when her husband was taken prisoner and sentenced to life in July 1849 for participation in the uprising in Baden. During this difficult time she received moral and material support from democratic women. Kathinka Zitz, founder of the club Humania in Mainz for persecuted female democrats and their families, campaigned for donations for the Kinkels. Malvida von Meysenbug gave Johanna Kinkel a written contact in October 1849 in demonstrate her solidarity.

During her husband's imprisonment Johanna Kinkel devised a successful plan for Gottfried Kinkel's escape from prison in Berlin-Spandau in November 1850.

Arriving early in 1851 in London, the Kinkels encountered difficult work-conditions. Gottfried Kinkel, believing a new revolution would break out soon in Germany, left his family to collect donations in America for a revolutionary invadig army. Johanna Kinkel assumed the full responsibility to support the family in London by giving music lessons. In January 1852 she wrote him in America, "Your men talk about glory, sacrificing the family for the fatherland. Have you also thought out all the consequences, and do you know what a sacrificed family looks like?"

Without losing hope for a republic in Germany, her sense of political realism made her see the emigrants' revolutionary conspiracies as pointless. "Now it is time to wait until those involved turn on one another. Every hint of revolution can cause only a quick appeasement at any price between the dynasties."

Johanna Kinkel concentrated on her work as a music teacher until her death from a fall from a window in 1858 the age of 48, vicitm either of a suicide or an accident.

Almuth Bartels


Ulrike Brandt, et al. eds. Der Maikäfer: Zeitschrift für Nichtphilister, No.1-4 (1840-1846). Bonn: Röhrscheid, 1982- 1985.

Bröcker, Marianne. "Johanna Kinkels schriftstellerische und musikpädagogische Tätigkeit". Bonner Geschichtsblätter, No.29 (1977), 37-48.

Goslich, Marie. ed., Briefe von Johanna Kinkel", Preußische Jahrbücher, No. 97 (1899).

Kinkel, Johanna. ed. Neue Bonner Zeitung May 20, 1849 - July 1, 1849.

_______. "Erinnerungsblätter", Deutsche Revue, 19 (1894)

______. Acht Briefe an eine Freundin über Clavier-Unterricht. Stuttgart/Tübingen: Cotta, 1852.

______. Hans Ibeles in London Stuttgart: Cotta, 1860.

Meysenbug, Malwida von. Briefe an Johanna und Gottfried Kinkel 1849- 1885, ed. Stefania Rossi and Yoko Kikuchi. Bonn: Rührscheid, 1982.

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