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447 POPP, Adelheid (1869–1939) Leader of the Austrian social democratic women’s movement and the first Chairperson of its Frauenreichskomitee (women ’s section). Adelheid Popp (nee Dworschak) was born on 11 February 1869, into a poor Viennese working-class family. She was the youngest of five children to survive out of fifteen. Her father (data unknown) was an impoverished weaver and a physically abusive alcoholic. Violence and poverty were an integral part of Adelheid ’s early childhood. Her father died when she was six years old, leaving the family in even greater poverty. After only three years of formal education, Adelheid had to leave school at the age of ten in order to support her family. Following short engagements as a domestic worker and seamstress’ apprentice, she became a factory worker. Her interest in politics began to develop in the mid-1880s. Through a friend of her brother’s, she learned of the demands being made by working class social movements and came into contact with social democratic newspapers and literature. While reading reports on the living conditions of working class families, she came to understand the misery of her own life; that her suffering was not individual, but the product of an unjust society. When, in 1889, Adelheid Dworschak went to her first public meeting, accompanied by her brother, she was the only woman at the meeting hall. In 1891, she joined the Arbeiterinnenbildungsverein (Working Women’s Educational Association), founded by female relatives of social democratic functionaries just one year earlier. Its main goal was to teach women political skills in rhetoric and agitation . She gave her first speech at one of the meetings of the Association. When she heard the speaker describing women’s working conditions, she spontaneously reported on her own experiences and pleaded for women’s education. The audience, mostly men, applauded and asked her to produce a written version of that speech. From the very moment she entered public life, Adelheid Dworschak became an energetic agitator on behalf of women. Using her own childhood and working experiences to fuel political agitation by generating class solidarity through identification, she encouraged working women to join social democratic associations and unions. In 1894, the young agitator married Julius Popp (1849–1902), a high ranking offi- 448 cial with the Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei (Social Democratic Workers’ Party) and a man twenty years her senior. In her autobiography, she wrote that she had known that he was the man she wanted to marry long before he spoke any word of love to her. Julius Popp was involved in negotiating and organizing the first Party congress in 1889, an event now regarded as the official foundation of the Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei Österreichs (Austrian Social Democratic Workers’ Party). As the administrator and editor of the Arbeiterzeitung (Workers’ newspaper), and later appointed Party treasurer, Julius Popp did not prevent his wife from agitation; on the contrary, he encouraged her to continue recruiting women workers even after the births of their two sons in 1897 and 1901. Adelheid Popp was left a widow in 1902, after eight years of marriage. She lost both children at an early age too: the eldest never came back from World War I; the younger son died of influenza at the age of 24. The inauguration of the Arbeiterinnenzeitung (Working women’s newspaper) in 1892 marked the beginnings of the Austrian social democratic women’s movement. Adelheid Popp was chosen to be editor of the newspaper. However, dominant attitudes to politics as a set of activities independent of ‘the domestic sphere’ (where women were seen to belong) inhibited women from seeking political prominence and men from welcoming women’s activism. As the Party’s first woman official, Popp had to struggle against male chauvinism on the one hand and female political indifference on the other. Politics, conventionally defined, was regarded as an ‘unnatural’ activity for women. A Marxist focus on class consciousness over gender issues, as well as antifeminist attitudes among the proletariat, caused the social democratic leadership to hold back from promoting women in politics with any enthusiasm. Disillusioned with this state of affairs, women’s movement leaders founded a Frauenreichskomitee (women’s section) without asking Party officials. Adelheid Popp was its first Chairperson . In 1907, when an increase in the proportion of women recruits had still not led to adequate representation of women within the Party leadership, Popp initiated a campaign to introduce the mandatory delegation of women’s representatives to Party conferences. In 1909, the first edition...


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