Fembio Special: European Jewish Women
born April 19, 1872 in Berlin/Germany
died August 30, 1948 in New York/USA
German social worker, educator, social reformer, economist and women's rights activist
75th anniversary of her death August 30, 2023
Alice Salomon was the fourth of eight children from a wealthy Jewish merchant family in Berlin. She was denied the opportunity to become a teacher and thus - according to her own description - her life did not begin until the age of 21, when she attended the constituent assembly of the Berlin Girls' and Women's Group for Social Aid Work in 1893. It was a charitable organization that had been founded by socially open-minded citizens of Berlin. Alice Salomon worked from then on in its volunteer social relief program and thus gained direct personal experience with the misery suffered by Berlin's working class. In 1908, she co-founded and headed the Social Women's School in Berlin, which offered young girls systematic and professional training for careers in social work; today the successor institution, Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences for Social Work and Social Sciences of Berlin, bears her name. Even before this institution was founded, Alice Salomon had earned her doctorate in economics from Berlin University in 1906.
The German and international women's movement became her second mission in life. Salomon was considered exceptionally young when she was elected in 1900 to the board of the umbrella organization of the German women's movement, the Federation of German Women's Associations (Bund Deutscher Frauenvereine, BDF), serving first as secretary and later as deputy chairwoman (until 1920). When her election as the federation's chairwoman later failed due to anti-Semitic currents in the BDF, this upset her deeply. Her memories of the international women's movement and of the International Council of Women (ICW) were more positive. She participated enthusiastically in its major international congresses in London in 1899 and Berlin in 1904, and was elected secretary at the 1909 meeting in Toronto.
In 1925, Salomon founded the German Academy for Women's Social and Educational Work, an institution for the continuing education of women managers in social work with its own research department. Similar to the School of Social Service Administration established in Chicago by the team of Edith Abbott, Grace Abbott and Sophonisba Breckinridge, this academy was at the forefront of the drive for the professionalization of the field of social work and social education. Alice Salomon published numerous writings on protections for mothers and workers, welfare work, and educational issues.
She was awarded high honors, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Berlin, on her sixtieth birthday in 1932. A year later she was stripped of all offices. In 1937, after a Gestapo interrogation, she had the choice of being deported to a concentration camp or emigrating. She died in New York in 1948.
(Text from 1996; translated with DeepL.com; edited by Ramona Fararo, 2023)
Please consult the German version for additional information (pictures, sources, videos, bibliography).
Author: Hiltrud Schroeder
I am now going into a life of struggle for bread - but with good cheer and in joyful confidence - spiritually and morally my strength remains undiminished, as does my self-respect. These cannot be affected from without. It is only the personal farewells which I find I am not strong enough for.
(Alice Salomon, farewell letter to her friends before her emigration in 1937)
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