restricted access MAYREDER, Rosa (1858-1938)
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319 MAYREDER, Rosa (1858–1938) Theorist and activist of the Austrian women’s movement; co-founder and later Vice-President of the Allgemeiner Österreichischer Frauenverein (General Austrian Women’s Association) (1893–1903), leader of the Österreichische Frauenliga für Frieden und Freiheit (Austrian Women’s League for Peace and Freedom); writer of novels, short stories, sonnets, essays and sociological and political studies. Rosa Mayreder (nee Obermayer) was born in Vienna on 30 November 1858, and grew up in a family of thirteen children . Her father, Franz Obermayer (1811–1893), was the owner of the famous Winterbierhaus in Vienna. He embodied contemporary values, a mixture of patriarchal authority and liberal middle -class views. Magdalena Bösch, Obermayer ’s first wife, died after giving birth to her eighth child. His second wife, Maria Engel (1840–1929), the mother of Rosa, bore Obermayer five more children. Since Obermayer was a Protestant and both wives Catholics, the boys were raised in the religion of their father, the girls in that of their mother. Rosa’s favorite brothers were Adolf (1853–1940), an architect, and Friedrich (1861–1924), a physician in Vienna. Though not studious types, the Obermayer boys were allowed to pursue higher education—a privilege refused to the girls. At a time when women had little opportunity to participate in public life, Rosa Obermayer tried to break out of the constraints imposed on her sex by acquiring knowledge and education. She saw herself as an exception, while believing that her behaviour would become the norm for women at some time in the future. Apart from studying subjects deemed suitable for middle-class women and girls, she also took private painting lessons and persuaded her parents to allow her to study Greek and Latin alongside her brothers. Rosa Obermayer married the architect Karl Mayreder (1856–1935) in 1881. They had known one another for ten years and had been engaged for four. Her husband worked in the studio of Heinrich Freiherr von Ferstel, professor and rector of architecture at the Technische Hochschule. Karl Mayreder retired from the studio in 1924, after suffering from mental illness. Inheriting substantially from her father’s estate, Rosa Rosa Mayreder, 1928, on her seventieth birthday 320 Mayreder was always financially independent. With her husband, she tried to sustain a marriage based on non-hierarchical ideals. Following a miscarriage in 1883, the couple remained childless. Rosa Mayreder was an enthusiastic painter and the first woman to be admitted to the Aquarellist Club. In 1891, one of her watercolors was exhibited for the first time at the annual exhibition of the Viennese Künstlerhaus (House of Artists). She complained about the amateurish state of art education for women and—together with Olga Prager and Karl Federn—founded the Kunstschule für Frauen und Mädchen (Art School for Women and Girls). She also composed the libretto for Hugo Wolf’s opera, Der Corregidor (The corregidor). Under the pseudonym Franz Arnold, Mayreder wrote art reviews for the Viennese daily, the Neue Freie Presse (New free press). In her naturalist novels and novella, Mayreder draped her theoretical ideas in literary forms. She placed her ideal figures in realistic settings and did not succumb to sentimental realism. Her greatest literary contribution however, was her collection of critical cultural and philosophical essays, devoted to contemporary themes such as the constrictions placed upon girls by their education, nineteenth-century ideas of femininity, the tyranny of convention and the double standards of bourgeois marriage. She also wrote critically on the representation of masculinity and paternal rights and was an advocate of international peace. Rosa Mayreder held her first public lecture in 1894—criticizing discrimination against prostitutes. She co-founded and was later Vice-President of the Allgemeiner Österreichischer Frauenverein (General Austrian Women’s Association) (1893–1903), Chairperson of the Österreichische Frauenliga für Frieden und Freiheit (Austrian Women’s League for Peace and Freedom) (from 1919) and a member of the Österreichische Friedensgesellschaft (Austrian Society for Peace)—activities demonstrating Rosa Mayreder’s commitment to radical change in the status of women and international peace. From 1899–1900, Mayreder co-edited the journal, Dokumente der Frauen (Documents of women), issued from 1899 to 1902. Rosa Mayreder was deeply engaged in the main intellectual debates of her time. Her favourite prose form, the essay, was subjective, but she used it to criticize the scientific community and reveal the contradictions in various schools of thought claiming to be ‘objective.’ She focused her critique on traditional ideals of femininity and contemporary...


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