The place of women in the new Germany

Reich Women’s Leader

When National Socialism became the ruling power in Germany (1933), we women realized that it was our duty to contribute our share to the Leader’s reconstruction programme side by side with men. We did not say much about it, but started to work at once. Our first concern was to help all those mothers who had suffered great hardships during the War and the post-war period and all those other women who – as mothers  – have now to adjust themselves to the demands of the new age.

Acting in accordance with the recognition of these facts, we first created the Reich Mothers’ Service (Reichsmütterdienst), the functions of which are set forth in Article I of the regulations governing it:

The training of mothers is animated by the spirit of national solidarity and by the conviction that they can be of very great service to the nation and the State. The object of such training is to develop the physical and intellectual efficiency of mothers, to make them appreciate the great duties incumbent upon them, to instruct them in the upbringing and education of their children, and to qualify them for their domestic and economic tasks.

In order to provide such training, several courses of in:ruction have been drawn up, each of which deals with one particular subject only, e.g., infant care, general hygiene, sick nursing at home, children’s education, cooking, sewing, etc. These courses are fixtures in all towns with a population exceeding 50,000, whilst itinerant teachers conduct similar ones in the smaller towns and in the country. Every German woman over 18 can join them, irrespective of her religious, political or other views. The maximum number of members has been limited to 25 for each course, because the instruction given does not consist of theoretical lectures, but takes the form of practical teaching to working groups, where questions will be asked and answered. Since the establishment of the Reichsmütterdienst, i.e., between April 1st, 1934, and October 1st, 1937, some 1,179,000 married and unmarried women have been thus instructed in 56,400 courses, conducted by over 3,000 teachers of whom about 1,200 are employed full-time, whilst the remaining 2,300 (also possessing the necessary qualifications) act in an honorary capacity or in that of part-time instructresses.

Our next concern was with those millions of German women who, day after day, attend to their heavy duties in factories. We look upon it as most important to make them realise that they, too, are the representatives of their nation. They, too, must take pride in their work and must be able to say: “I have a useful duty to fulfil; and the work I do is an essential part of the work performed by the whole nation.”

With this end in view, we have created the Women’s Section of the German Labour Front (Frauenamt der Deutschen Arbeitsfront), which has now a membership of over 8,000,000. Foreign critics have frequently stated that German women have no chance of earning their livelihood by working in industrial or other undertakings. I therefore take this opportunity of emphasising that more than 11,500,000 women are employed in the various professions and occupations; the Women’s Section of the German Labour Front attending to their interests. Moreover, we are of the opinion that a woman will always find it possible to secure paid employment provided that she is strong enough to do the work demanded of her. This applies to women workers of all categories, irrespective of whether the work is of the physical or intellectual kind. It is therefore the business of the Frauenamt to ensure that women are not employed in any capacity that might prove detrimental to their womanhood and to give them all the protection to which they are specifically entitled. In order to translate these ideas into practice, the Frauenamt has proceeded to appoint a “social industrial woman worker” (soziale Betriebsarbeiterin) for every undertaking in which a considerable number of women are employed. The functions to be exercised by these Betriebsarbeiterinnen are of a general and a special kind. They have to see to it that all women employed in the same undertaking look upon their own interests as identical with those of the latter and that a proper spirit of comradeship grows up among them. They are assisted in their task by the works’ leader and the confidential council, and they are in a position to gain the confidence of the other women workers because all of them are comrades of one another. They have to prevent strife, jealousy, and irresponsible talk from poisoning the social atmosphere of the works, to help those of their fellow-workers who may be oppressed by domestic worries, and to assist in rendering the conditions of work as dignified as possible. To that end, they have to furnish the works’ leader with suggestions for any measures that may be required to adapt the processes of work – in conformity with the technical peculiarities of the undertaking – to the natural capacities of women. Finally, they have to assist in the transfer of women workers to other places of employment, in the task of making the aspect of the working premises as pleasing as possible, etc. This enumeration of their functions shows that they must not only be experienced social workers, but must also be familiar with the actual work. For this latter reason, they are required to devote several months to such work before they are appointed to the post of social workers. During that time they receive the same wages as the other women workers and are subject to the same regulations as they. Similar arrangements, although on a more modest scale, are made in connection with smaller works, i.e., those where the number of women workers is less than 200.

Special care is devoted by our organisation to married women workers with children and to those expecting to be confined. In this domain of social work we provide assistance, in conjunction with the National Socialist Welfare Organisation (N.S. Volkswohlfahrt), exceeding the standards set by the existing legislation. Such supplementary assistance consists in money, food, linen, etc.

I must not omit to add a few words in reference to the women students who spend part of their holidays for the benefit of those women workers – notably those who have large families – who are in need of a week’s relaxation in addition to their regular holidays. The students generously attend to the factory work of these women during their absence; and as they demand no wages, the workers suffer no pecuniary loss whatever. In many instances, free quarters are provided for the students by the National Socialist Women’s Organisation (N.S. Frauenschaft), whilst the Welfare Organisation grants special facilities to the women on holiday, such as additional food parcels, board and lodging in one of their mothers’ hostels and so on. During the first few years of the operation of the scheme, the students relieved the workers to the extent of 57,700 days’ work. Large numbers of letters are received by us every day, in which workers and students alike tell us how grateful they are for their unforgettable experience. Works’ leaders, too, continually inform us of the beneficial results achieved.

After completing the inauguration of the above schemes, we continued our work in a different direction, i.e., by organising ourselves. We have now co-ordinated the previously existing women’s associations and thus created the German Women’s Association (Deutsches Frauenwerk), which is sub-divided into sections along the lines laid down by the N.S. Frauenschaft.

The Deutsches Frauenwerk consists, apart from the Mothers’ Service already mentioned, of the following sections : National and domestic economy; cultural and educational matters; assistance, and a foreign section. In addition, there are four large administrative departments, viz., general administration; finances; organisation and staff; the Press and propaganda matters, which latter also deals with the radio, films, and exhibitions.

In the section for national and domestic economy, women and girls are trained to apply the principles of national solidarity. They are taught that, in every household, the mother is responsible for the health of the whole family by providing good food and by generally exercising her duties with skill and efficiency.

The cultural and educational section makes the nation’s cultural assets available to women; women artists are assisted in their work, and particular attention is paid to the achievements of women in the realm of science.

The assistance section deals with the work done by female nurses, the Red Cross, and the air defence society.

The foreign section establishes contact with women’s associations abroad, supplies information to foreigners, exchanges experiences with foreign organisations, makes arrangements for seeing the institutions in connection with the work of the Deutsches Frauenwerk, etc.

All these groups are under the general direction of the N.S. Frauenschaft, which may therefore be regarded as the leading organisation, whilst the Deutsches Frauenwerk and the Frauenamt der Deutschen Arbeitsfront constitute the joint foundation for the work done by women throughout the country.

Foreigners have repeatedly asked me about the kind of compulsion exercised to make women take part in all this work. I wish to assure inquirers that we know of no compulsion whatever. Those who want to join us, must do so absolutely voluntarily; and I can only say that all of them are joyfully devoted to their work.

Let me conclude by quoting a remark which I made on the occasion of the Women’s Congress held at the time of the Nuremberg party rally (1935): “All the work done by us as a matter of course, which is now so comprehensive that we cannot any longer describe it in detail, is only a means to an end. It is the expression of the determination of German women to assist in solving the great problems of our age. A spirit of comradeship animates all of us; and our devotion to our nation guides all our efforts.”

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