German Women in the Nineteenth Century: A Social History

By John C. Fout | Go to book overview

Henriette Schleiermacher
A Woman in a Traditional Role

GWENDOLYN E. JENSEN

Henriette von Mühlenfels was born in Pomerania and in 1804, when she was sixteen, married Ehrenfried von Willich, a pastor serving as chaplain in the war against Napoleon. She was widowed two years later and left with a daughter and a son, who was born after his father's death. She lived for a time near her late husband's relatives on the island of Rügen, off the Pomeranian coast, and within a year and a half became engaged to another pastor, a bachelor over twice her age who had been a friend of her late husband's. They were married in 1809, and set up their home in Berlin, where they lived until his death in 1834. They had three children of their own, including one son who died when he was nine years old.

Because her second husband was Friedrich Ernst Daniel Schleiermacher, the most distinguished German theologian of the time, many of her letters have been available in published form for over a century. 1 These letters have been standard source material for scholars working on Schleiermacher. What is proposed in this essay is to use these letters once again, not for what they reveal about her second husband, but rather to see what can be learned from them about Henriette.

Most of the letters were written in the first decade of the nineteenth century during a period of military and political turmoil and intellectual and religious regeneration. In both these spheres Schleiermacher played a major role. The army of Prussia was defeated by Napoleon at Jena and Auerstädt in 1806, and the royal family and government had to flee east to K2önigsberg. Within that government there emerged leadership demanding reform of the state along lines that had been proposed before but had never been supported by the force of military disaster. Therefore, the era

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