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Three German Women: Personal Histories from the Twentieth History by Erika Esau


Erika with
                        bookThis book was a real labor of love, about women I knew, who lived through the most turbulent times in Central Europe, and managed to persevere and survive. This is my most personal work, not at all like the academic books and articles I’ve written in the past: a bit memoir, a bit women’s studies, a bit German history, it’s very hard to decide where it fits in book publishing categories. I do think it is important in recovering from obscurity the lives of intelligent, professionally active women who made contributions to their culture.



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Cambridge Scholars Pubishing   Three German Women cover

The book presents the life stories of three women of the German-speaking realm whose lives inspired the author directly: mathematician Maria Weber Steinberg (1919-2013); journalist Irmgard Rexroth-Kern (1907-1983); and Viennese art historian Fr. Dr. Anna von Spitzmüller (1903-2001). The lives of these three women serve as emotional mirrors to the cultural transformations and tumultuous history of the 20th century. Their stories tell of the hardships, struggles, and victories of intellectual European women in this era. Each woman was related to men who played a prominent role in European cultural life, men who received some recognition in history books. As intellectual professionals, these women, in contrast, received very few public accolades for their important achievements. Placing them in the cultural context of the times in Germany and Austria, the book highlights the traumatic choices imposed on ordinary people by political and social circumstances over which they had no control. Along with the women’s individual stories, the chapters focus on overarching themes, including educated women’s roles in European society, narratives of perseverance in confronting Nazism, and specific historical background describing the incidents affecting their life trajectories.