born August 15, 1873 in Pappenheim, Franconia
died April 4, 1943 in Dachau
150th birthday on August 15, 2023
“Books, the witnesses of lost passions,” as a character in one of her novels puts it, were important to Sophie Höchstetter. Between 1896 and 1941 she published almost fifty novels and novellas: historical novels, novels from her native Franconia, and love stories. This division seems slightly arbitrary, however, as Höchstetter actually skillfully combined all three genres. Characterized by precise observation, an exciting plot, and a use of language that is at times playful, witty, and self-deprecating, her works are entertaining reading even today.
Sophie Höchstetter was made an honorary citizen of her hometown of Pappenheim, which also named a street after her. This, despite the fact that she had had the audacity to dedicate her first novel to a woman friend and to appear in public much as a man would: with short-cropped, curly hair and in a stiff-collared shirt with a bow tie under her chin.
Together with her friend, the writer Toni Schwabe (1877-1951), she also sat on the extended board of Magnus Hirschfeld’s Scientific-Humanitarian Committee (Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee, WhK), which advocated for the interests of homosexuals. Her portrait of Queen Christina of Sweden in the Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen (Yearbook for Intermediate Sexual Types), published in 1908 by the WhK, cites contemporaries of the queen who refer both to Christina’s androgyny and to the love she felt for lady-in-waiting Countess Ebba Sparre.
Höchstetter later also wrote biographies of the writer Frieda von Bülow and the Prussian Queen Luise. She lived with Toni Schwabe and in later years with the writer Carola von Crailsheim (1895-1984), spending summers in Pappenheim, winters in Berlin and springtime and autumn in Dornburg.
Love, work and a commitment to social causes through writing are the central themes of Sophie Höchstetter's works. She writes of love that is limited by barriers of class (Die Verstoßenen), religious affiliation (Max Mühlen) and social norms (Das Krongut) as well as a fulfilled love that leads to self-sacrifice. She regards friendship as important. comparing it to the love between siblings. Marriage is depicted as an institution which reshapes the individual’s love and gives the man sovereign rights over the woman. In Sehnsucht, Schönheit, Dämmerung (1898/1909), the artistic production of women is linked to the love between women. By contrast, the devotion of a woman surrendering herself to a man in such a complete love leads her first to destroy her art and then to commit suicide.
She felt her love to be like sinking - as if all life force in her passed to him - as if her red-hot blood poured into his heart in a glowing stream. A madness of devotion - a madness of self-dissolution.
(Text from 1992. Translated with DeepL.com; edited by Ramona Fararo, 2023.)
Please consult the German version for additional information (pictures, sources, videos, bibliography).
Author: Madeleine Marti
I have given my whole heart to one person. This person is a – woman friend. You will not smile at this, otherwise I would not speak. But do you understand me? There is no more ardent feeling in me that I could give to another person - no matter whether a man or a woman.
(From: Sehnsucht, Schönheit, Dämmerung, 1898/1909)
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