The aim of this project is to seek knowledge about and understanding of the situation and experience of Baltic German women between 1905 and 1939. A period when the Baltic Germans position in society was challenged and eventually lost, but where this challenge also made it possible for Baltic German women to assume a more active role in the public sphere.
The focus of the project will be: 1) the study of tree major events: the 1905-1906 revolution when Baltic German manors were attacked. The independence of the Baltic states in 1919 which brought about the downfall of the Baltic German elite but at the same time gave men and women alike, irrespective of ethnic origin, full political rights. Baltic German women thus received the right to vote, a right their women’s movement had never fought for. The agreement in 1939 between Germany and the Soviet Union that resulted in the Baltic Germans “returning” to Germany. 2) The Baltic German women’s movement, which had focused more on the right to education and work than political rights. 3) Baltic German women’s autobiographies
Beside autobiographies, annual reports and minutes from women’s organizations and material from the universities in the Baltic area will be used, as well as newspapers, for example Baltische Frauenzeitschrift that presented itself as the women’s movements official mouthpiece.
The project draws on the theoretical concept of intersectionality, the standpoint that class, ethnicity and gender are interrelated categories. The Baltic Germans constituted a group where class and ethnicity coincided. The project will also make use of theoretical perspectives on autobiography stressing the genre’s double character of being both immersed in context but at the same time characterized by the author entering into a “truth contract” with the reader.
The main questions are: how did the Baltic German women’s movement perceive and relate to the events of 1905, 1919 and 1939? How did Baltic German women describe their experiences of these events? Where and what did Baltic German women study? How did Baltic German women describe their experiences of the women’s movement and higher education? In what way did class, ethnicity and gender interact in relation to Baltic German women’s self- understanding as women and as members of the Baltic German group during the period 1905-1939? In what way did Baltic German women later use the writing of autobiographies to shape their own and their group’s history?