Accepted Paper:

Marianne Schmidl (1890-1942)  
Katja Geisenhainer (University of Vienna and Frobenius Institute Frankfurt)

Paper short abstract:

The paper offers an introduction to the life and work of one of the earliest professional female anthropologists in Germany and Austria, M Schmidl, and her attempts to find her place among scientists as a woman with Jewish ancestors and without a permanent position in an ethnological institution.

Paper long abstract:

The anthropologist Marianne Schmidl was born in 1890 in Berchtesgaden/Germany. She was disadvantaged in the scientific community for two reasons: she was a woman and many of her ancestors were Jewish. She grew up in Vienna, attended a progressive school and studied first mathematics then ethnology. Her teachers were amongst others Michael Haberland, Rudolf Pöch and Moritz Hoernes. In addition she was constantly in contact with the exponents of the Viennese School of Cultural History. In 1915 Schmidl was the first woman in Austria who receive a doctorate in ethnology. To this day her dissertation about number systems in Africa is an important ethnomathematical survey. After her graduation Schmidl worked in German museums (Berlin, Weimar, Stuttgart) for several years. Regardless of all that and despite positive evaluations from leading ethnologists of the time, she was unable to find a job in an ethnological institution. Therefore she had to continue her ethnological studies besides working for the National Library in Vienna, where she was a member of the permanent staff until 1938. Schmidl, who did not marry or have children of her own, spent almost all her free time travelling for her studies. She wrote articles about the Schopen in Bulgaria and about the history of Africa. However, her main interest was basket-making in Africa. She started these studies in Berlin in 1916 and received financial support from the "Staatlich-Saechsisches Forschungsinstitut fuer Voelkerkunde" from 1926 onwards. In 1939 the director of this research institute forced Schmidl to hand in her unfinished manuscript so she was not able to complete this work before her deportation and death in 1942.

The paper will deliver insights in how Schmidl tried to find her place in the scientific community as a woman with Jewish ancestors, positioned between the Viennese School of Cultural History and their opponents, and without a permanent position at the university or the museum.

Panel W083
Early European women anthropologists