German Women in the Nineteenth Century: A Social History

By John C. Fout | Go to book overview

The Radicalization of Lily Braun 1

ALFRED G. MEYER

Lily Braun, 2 born 1865, was the daughter of Hans von Kretschmann ( 1832-99), who served with great distinction in the Prussian Army, rising to the rank of General of the Infantry. He was authoritarian father, stern, irascible, and punitive, yet generous and even tender at times -- an impulsive man who was lavish in giving and spending, and totally inept in handling money. Politically he was reactionary, Prussian rather than German in his loyalties, opposed to Bismarck and to the Reich. As a child, Lily feared him; as a young adult, she had contempt for him; in later life, she revered his memory.

Her mother, Jenny von Kretschmann, was descended from an age-old baronial family (Uradel.) She too was a stern disciplinarian, but, in contrast to her husband, looked on life with profound pessimism. She felt herself to be a victim and believed that women were born to be victims. In the family she was the voice of practicality and common sense; she preached and practiced self-control. The relationship between her and Lily became very warm; but in the daughter's memoirs the figure of the mother is cold and forbidding.

Lily von Kretschmann received the conventional upbringing of an aristocratic daughter; she was taught French and English, reading, writing, and reckoning, but got little formal training of an academic sort. She took piano and drawing lessons, and was introduced to literature and history by private tutors. But her principal training was in being a future lady and housekeeper. Cooking, sewing, needlework, and related skills were stressed. Sex education, of course, was not included in this curriculum, although she did receive it, at age thirteen, from a chamber

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