Is Nobody Listening? (8)
Equal Opportunity In Principle (9)
Germany, 1986
16 mm
2 x 45 min
B/W & Color


Ulle Schröder,
Ula Stöckl

Ula Stöckl
Konrad Kotowski
Barbara Schönfeld


UNERHÖRT - The History of the German Women's Movement
This 12-part series deals with the history of the German women's movement from 1830 until today and was produced by 7 female filmmakers. Episode 8: Equal Opportunity in Principle and episode 9: Is Nobody Listening? were filmed by Ula Stöckl

About Episode 8

Is Nobody Listening?
The period is between 1918 and 1924, when German women, after World War I first got the vote, but did not yet have full legal equality. It is 1918 and Germany has lost the War. The Kaiser has left the country, without his army having been dismissed. There is demand for universal suffrage for men and women. A new society must be created. After the war there were 2.8 million more women than men. In the war 58, 000 children had lost both parents, 1, 134, 000 children had lost one parent, 533, 000 women had been widowed and 2 million people had been killed.

Other consequences of the war included housing shortages, rocketing infant mortality, TB infections as a result of malnutrition and the spread of Syphilis, as women turned to prostitution in an effort to feed themselves. The Mark had become worthless. These circumstances brought people together, including the extreme feminists: before the war left-wing feminists broke away from the main organization, which, they declared, had betrayed the country by not opposing the war. They called for a new understanding of politics amongst women, to get away from living solely in the social milieu. They wanted "the revolution of the spirit, which would use the old rough methods to do away with rape on every level."

In 1919 none of the radical feminists, the most famous being Lyda Gustava Heymann and Dr Anita Augspurg, were elected into parliament. In 1919 78% of women had taken part in the elections of National Assembly, which was responsible for deciding the constitution. 41 of the 423 Members of Parliament were women. After much argument with each other and with their male colleagues, the National Assembly agreed on the first constitution in the National Theatre in Weimar. Article 109: men and women have the same basic rights and duties of citizenship.

BASIC, which means that exceptions are possible. These exceptions meant that, for example, in times of increasing unemployment redundancies could be carried out in the following order:
1) Women whose husbands were in employment.
2) Single women and girls.
3) Women with only one or two dependants.
4) All other women and girls.
This however didn't happen until the end of the twenties. Between 1918 and 1925 it looked as if it might be possible, despite the desperate situation, to do a lot for the plight of the young, the old and those injured, widowed or orphaned by war.
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About Episode 9

Equal Opportunity In Principle
1924-1933: Implementation of the Social laws, the fight against article 218 (abortion law), Global economic crisis and the rise of fascism.

"In the Weimar Republic, which was doomed to failure because of the growing inflation, citizens lost every feeling of security. They had no idea what would come next. This tragedy was however only one side of the coin. The other side was increased cultural progression, individual development, personal freedom and collective tolerance." Charlotte Wolff, Bisexualität 1977

The lawmakers had also allowed unmarried mothers to be put under the protection of the state. The federation for the protection of mothers, which had been set up in 1905 by Helene Stöcker, called for divorce laws to be loosened, equal rights for single and married mothers, self-determination of women as regards their own bodies, recognition of the importance of motherhood, free access to contraception, abolition of article 218 and free abortions. The women of the central party, however, voted against this. They refused to accept equality for unmarried mothers. The BGB law of 1900 therefore remained. This stipulated that unmarried mothers did not have parental control over their children and that the father was legally unrelated. The law of 1871 was still valid and abortions were punishable with a minimum of five years imprisonment.

In the chemical factories the working conditions were so appalling that women working there were either unable to get pregnant or had nine miscarriages for ever ten pregnancies. In 1925 the federation of socialist doctors called for article 218 to be repealed. A self-regulating committee attempted to prove the inadequacy of the law. The SPD and KPD also fought against article 218. The Soviet Union was at the time the only country to legalize abortion. The figures speak for themselves: in 1925 in Leningrad there were 2.5 deaths per 1000 terminations, whereas in Berlin the figure was 12.

What was achieved was that punishment in the workhouse was changed to a prison sentence. Female members of parliament also managed to decriminalize prostitution, thereby help fight against sexually transmitted diseases. In 1929 the stock market crashes. In 1930 the NSDAP pass the law of racial purity, which is both against abortion and relations between people of different races. Alice Lex-Nerlinger's picture protesting against article 218 is banned by the police and removed from a Berlin exhibition. In 1932 all women's organizations are disbanded. A break in the constitution seals the fate of female civil servants. In January 1933 the communist former president of the Weimar Republic, Clara Zetkin, hands over the German Reichstag to the senile General Field Marshall von Hindenburg. Clara Zetkin dies on 20th June 1933 in Moscow.

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UNERHÖRT - The history of the German women's movement from 1830 to the present day. This 12-part series was produced by the NDR, the WDR and the HR and was broadcast in 1987 on channel three. The pieces were all made by seven different women filmmakers.

The 8th and 9th episodes were made by Ula Stöckl, together with Ulle Schröder.