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Zitz-Halein, Kathinka

Zitz-Halein, Kathinka was born in Mainz on November 4, 1801, the daughter of a well-to-do merchant family. She received the benefits of her familial wealth in the form of the best education then available to a female, even though her family's decline would eventually force her upon her own resources. Early in her upbringing, which took place in several boarding schools in Germany and France, she began to show a talent for writing; her first works were published at the age of sixteen. Over the next sixty years, she produced voluminous essays, short stories, poems, translations, and novels. Her early writing, while not directly relevant to her later political involvement, demonstrated an acute awareness of political and social issues.

In 1833 Kathinka Halein met Franz Zitz, her future husband, to whom she was engaged within a year and married in 1837. The marriage failed from the very start, for Franz, as he explained it, could not be satisfied with one woman. Kathinka left him after 18 months. He subsequently initiated divorce proceedings, which she contested successfully in order to continue receiving support payments. Her family's bankruptcy had forced her to rely on his support to continue her career as a writer.

During the 1840s she began her political activities, perhaps as an outgrowth of her involvement in Mainz with the German-catholic reform movement. Shortly before 1848 she became involved in a campaign to defend the progressive legal codes of Mainz and other German cities, which the government intended to replace. She wrote a series of articles attacking the government's plan and urging the people to resist it.

Beginning at the end of February, 1848, and continuing for four years, Kathinka Zitz-Halein carried on a wide range of activities in support of the German revolution. Her writings during this period are sharp, incisive, and courageous. She commented prolifically on political and social issues both during the period of lessened censorship and after censorship had been reinstated in Mainz. Only once was her work officially challenged, but as her authorship could not be conclusively proven no action was taken.

Although her writing was motivated out of strong political beliefs, her most direct involvement in the political arena of 1848 Mainz was with the Humania Association. Formally constituted on May 4, 1849, the organization was one of many similar groups founded by women to support the spring 1849 revolt to defend the Frankfurt Assembly's constitution.Although the uprising was ended by July of 1849, the work of the women's groups continued and new ones sprang up to aid refugees in prison or in exile. The Humania Association was formed by the merger of two newly formed women's organizations, and Kathinka Zitz-Halein and Amalia Bamberger (Ludwig Bamberger's mother) were named president and vice president respectively. This reflected not only the leadership of the rival women's groups, but also the leadership of the Democratic Association; 16 of 21 women who served on the board were related to members of the Democratic Association. The Humania Association's 1647 members represented the largest official participation of European women in civic affairs during the mid-nineteenth century.

When the focus of the Humania Association shifted and began to center on providing aid directly to insurgents and their dependents, Zitz-Halein herself travelled extensively. The purpose of these trips was to dispense money directly to refugees in need of support. Conflicts arising from the dissemination of these funds, however, later prompted the departure of Zitz and several board members in June 1850, although the exact cause is unknown. Even though she had resigned, Zitz-Halein continued much of the work of the association on a private basis. The association itself survived for over a year after her resignation, but soon faded from existence.

Zitz-Halein held strong views on the proper role for women to take in these times of political turmoil. She urged the membership of the Humania Association to "cease being merely women and become completely citizens and patriots." Although she acknowledged the different roles of men and women in society, she believed fervently that women, within their own sphere, could make significant and independent contributions to the revolution. For the remainder of her life, until 1877, literature was Kathinka Zitz-Halein's profession and politics her avocation. Her significance as a female literary figure places her in a select group. Her civic activities, which she considered an appropriate role for women, place her among the most significant female figures in the revolution. Although this activity lacked a conscious feminist ideology, it demonstrated the capacity of women to contribute while still technically in their own sphere. Like most of her female contemporaries, Kathinka Zitz-Halein did not seek to apply the lessons learned in 1848 to the goal of female emancipation. Her understanding of the relationship between social and political reform, however, certainly represented the most progressive elements of German society.

Stanley Zucker


Zucker, Stanley "1848 and the Birth of Politics in Mainz" in The Consortium on Revolutionary Europe Proceedings 1976, Lee Kennett ed. Athens, Georgia: 1978.

_______. "Female Political Opposition in Pre-1848 Germany: The Role of Kathinka Zitz-Halein" in German Women in the Nineteenth Century John C. Fout ed. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1984.

_______. "German Women and the Revolution of 1848: Kathinka Zitz-Halein and the Humania Association" Central European History 13 (September 1980): 237-254.

_______. Kathinka Zitz-Halein and Female Civic Activism in Mid-Nineteenth Century Germany Carbondale: SIU-C, 1991.

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