Unruly Daughters and Modernity: Irmgard Keun's Gilgi-eine von uns

by Barbara Kosta
Unruly Daughters and Modernity: Irmgard Keun's Gilgi-eine von uns
Barbara Kosta
The German Quarterly
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University of Arizona
Unruly Daughters and Modernity: Irmgard Keun's Gilgi--eine von uns

Aphotograph of an urban setting in the 1920s. In it, a woman is shown crossing a street and sprightly jumping over a large puddle onto a curb. She iswearing a sleeve- less dress with a hemline above the knee, a purse tucked under her arm,and has short cropped hair under a stylish "Glocken" hat. Unlike the flaneur, who was known to amble through the metropolis, her stride exudes purpose and self-confi- dence. Thus begins the retrospective nar- rative of the modern woman in New Fmuen: Die zu~anzigerJahre published by the Elefanten press in 1988.l Read with optimism, the image represents a meta- phorical leap into the modern age of unprecedented opportunities for women, paralleled by a remarkable freedom of movement and m~bility.~

It reflects the new possibilities of employment, owing to edu- cation, rapid developments in technology, and the establishment of large-scale trad- ing and retailing organizations in the cities, that afforded a type of independence little known to generations of women before the Weimar period. The image also suggests a transformation of the cityscape as women became a more visible part of the metropo- lis.

As proof of the modern woman's emer- gence, the photograph supports Russian Bmigr6e Alexandra Kollontai's rhetorical query that begins the Elefanten press edi- tion: Wer ist das, die neue Frau? Existiert sie uberhaupt? 1stsie nicht das Produkt der schopferischen Phantasie moderner Belle- tristen, die nach sensationellen Neuheiten suchen? Schauen Sie sich um, sehen Sie scharf, iiberlegen Sie, und Sie werden sich iiberzeugen: die neue Frau ist da--sie exi- ~tiert."~

With this statement, Kollontai in- timates the intricate interdependence of representation and the historical appear- ance of the modern women. The "modern woman" had indeed "entered the public space of the metropolis and popular imagi- nation as amass phenomenon."* Owingher existence to the rise of technological inno- vation, socioeconomic changes, mass me- dia, and New Objectivity, she emerged at a time marked by flux, indeterminacy, and economic instability. Despite the actual ob- stacles that the modern woman faced, she became an icon of modernity-for better or worse. On the one hand, she came to sym- bolize a push toward modernization and Americanism, an enthusiasm for technol- ogy, and the democratic contours of the Wei- mar Republic, on the other hand, she was looked upon as the agent of the Republic's instability and demise. In short, the mod- ern woman served asa surface upon which various ideologies played themselves out.

By the early 1930s, the modern woman had become a social furture and an integral part ofthe cityscape and fictional discourse. Pulp novels, popular magazines, film, the fashion industry, not to mention the labor market and other institutions, had shaped and anchored her existence. Contraposed to the image of the femme fatale and the femme enfant of the silver screen, the cleri- cal worker graced the streets of the me- tropolis. These stylized young women, who took their cue from the flickering images of movie stars and glamour, performed in of-
The German Quarterly 68.3 (Summer 1995) 271

fices as secretaries, stenographers, typists, and salesgirls. Predominantly between the ages of 18and 25, this generation stood at the vortex of social change.

Irmgard Keun's first novel Gilgi--eine von uns (1931)contributed to the numerous representations of the modern woman in her portrayal of GQ, a young stenogra- pher and typist who belonged to the class of female white-collar workers that rapidly emerged during the 1920~.~

Soon a best- seller with more than 30,000 copies sold within the first year, followed by a film adaptation, Irmgard Keun, a sensational suc- cess at age 26, had struck a nerve.6

With her novel Gilgi, Keun creates a thick description of modernity. She formu- lates the conflicts and contradictions, and the problematic experience of Weimar plu- ralism, while featuring the casualties of modernity embodied in the figures who in- tersect with Gilgi's world. Above all,Keun's novel takes issue with the incompatibility of modernity and motherhood. The mater- nal is the "dark plotn that Lies at the center of the narrative; it is the plot that Gilgi undertakes to leave behind, yet it remains performed thro~ghout.~

It enters the nar- rative through the representation offemale sexuality and desire, the issue of abortion, the reconfiguration of the private and pub- lic realm, and through gender expectations. Modernity prided itself on progress and at- tempted to sever itself from the trauma of war, loss, and the past. For daughters, this meant leaving the sphere of the mother. It is this struggle of the modern woman for identity that Keun showcases in a cultural environment beset by turmoil.

The modern woman that Keun fashions is rooted in the social context of Weimar optimism and rationalization, associated with Germany's economic recovery in the mid-1920s. Independent, practical, and ambitious, Gilgi's life isorganized mechan- istically, from her early morning exercises and cold showers (a reference to the popular Koperkultur movement)to her methodical office work, her evening language courses meant to improve her marketability, and meetings with her friend Olga, an artist who paints film marquee^.^ Both Gilgi's tempo and time schedules, punctuated by Keun's rapid scene changes, fragmented writing, and abrupt sentences, replicate the pulse of the city and "the intensification of emotional life due to the swiftand continu- ous shift of external and internal stimuli" that Georg Simmel observes in hisessay on urban life in the 1920~.~

As a child of the times, Gilgi's repertoire of popular hits, her clothes, and her physical appearance con- form to the mandates of mass culture and fashion.

That Gdgi earns wages and enjoys rela- tive economic independence distinguishes her from earlier generations of women. The purchase of her own Erika typewriter to supplement her poor SE&I-Y with evening jobs, the room of her own where she can study and entertain, and her intention one day to have an apartment and business suggest shifting parameters for women. Gllgi faces the challenges set before her, even if it means landing a job by engaging her "sex appeal," a commonly used phrase in the 1920s in its English variant. Unlike Marieluise Fleisser's female figures or Christa Anita Briick's sexually harassed female employees in Schicksal hinter Schreibmaschinen(1930) (a title that Keun evokes when she writes: "Hauptsache: man versteht, ihnen [Mannern] geschickt aus- zuweichen. Blo13 keine grol3e Beleidguqptragijdie a la Schicksale hinter Schreib- maschinen!" [681), G@ adeptly maneuvers her way through the sexualized office envi- ronment and resists the position of prey or victim.loMoreover, Gilgi prides herself on her pragmatism. Sentimentality and romanticism, she asserts at the outset of the novel, only impede her progress and per- sonal growth. Pathos is suspiciously snubbed asa remnant of a past generation's dusoperandi.This tendency seems to be in step with what Max Brod observes as a trait that characterized the youth of the 1920s: "it is unacceptable either to sing or

to speak of love," he writes. "It is incompat- ible with 'objectivity,' the supreme postu- late of the present."11 He explains that the younger generation's suspicion springs from the disillusionment of a postwar gen- eration whose system of beliefs was be- trayed.

In contrast to the passive, submissive female figures that populate nineteenth- century novels, as well as those of her con- temporaries, Keun tellingly introduces Gilgi's determination to take hold ofher life: "Sie hdt es fest in der Hand, ihr kleines Leben, das Madchen Gilgf (5). However tenuous this control is revealed to be, it is precisely Gis determination that Hans Fallada lauds in a 1931 review of the novel inDieLiteratur, where he writes that rarely has he read a book "das so vie1 von dem Mut der Jugend in sich birgt."12

With the novel's subtitle ein,e von un,s, Keun evokes a commonality of experience, along numerous registers, of a generation of young women whose experience of mod- ernity is defined by the socioeconomic hard- ships they faced and by their conflicts with desire and with "the public and private as- pects of life," as Alice Riihle-Gerstel offers, "that could not be synthesized."13 That Keun's novel provides a glimmer of hope for her generation of women elicited applause from critics like Fallada. For a contingent of the population, however, that perceived their own era, their values, and their habit- ual ways of viewing the world as subjected to a process of turbulent transformation, this youthful courage aroused horror. The disparate experiences of modernity that stirred the writings of this era are ex- pressed most notably in the generational conflict between father and son. So oRen cited as a topos in expressionist Literature, it represented the younger generation's an- tiauthoritarian struggles against Wilhelminian patriarchy. (It is noteworthy that Freud theorized the Oedipal struggle at this same point in history.) The father- son conflict revealed only one evolvinggen- erational confrontation in the early part of the twentieth century, however. It was par- alleled by another, less articulated story of a rapidly growing riftbe tween mothers and their modern daughters. This rupture re- sulted, as Vicki Baum observes, from the need many daughters felt to leave the re- strictive maternal realm in order to partici- pate in new lifestyles:

he Miitter von 1890!Eure Welt war so eng wie ein Kcininchenstall, auf allen Sei-ten mit Brettern vernagelt und ohne Liiftung. Wie haben wir euch erschreckt, als wir aus euren Whden ausbrachen, . . . wir mit ... unserer Rebellion gegen das Biirgerliche,wir mit der Forderung nach eige- nen Wegen und Luft und Arbeit und dem Hunger nach wirklichem Leben ohne Ver- schleierungen und ~ikti0nen.l~

The reorganization of the private and public spheres in the 1920s, coupled with the new woman's desire for sexual hedom and equality of gender, set the daughter apart from a prewar understanding of women's roles. More dramatically, the generation of so-called modern daughters was perceived as an affront to the maternal and to tradi- tional womanhood. Different than the tradi- tional private sphere that reformers at- tempted to conserve as women's sole realm, the modern woman was stepping into the limelight of the public sphere and altering its contours.

Little research has focused on the mother-daughter relationship during the Weimar period, despite its central role in understanding modernity (economic rela- tions of production, consumption, urbani- zation, and the rearticulation of normative systems). Inquiry into the way in which this relationship was articulated and into the ideological basis of the conflict sheds light particularly on the reformulation of the family, of work, and of leisure, as well as on the transitions that gendered identities un- derwent in the throes of social change in Germany and the anxieties that these changes produced. Held responsible for rupturing conventional models of social or-

der, the modern woman, as sexualized daughter, alltoo predictably provoked deep fears about the status of motherhood and the family, and about conventionally de- fined male and female gender roles. l The mother-daughter relationship represented in both historical and fictional discourses of the Weimarperiod reveals the tensions and struggles that configured modernity. These struggles retain a haunting acuity today.
Modernity and the Maternal

On the morning of her 21st birthday, Gilgi learns that she was adopted by the Kmns, a middle-class couple. Her fmt reaction is one of shock which she tries to restrain: "Immer schon fest aufden Fukn stehn, ja nicht wackeln. Wenn weiter nichts ist. IhrGesicht istgleichmutig, sie reagiert nach innen" (21-22). As she regains her calm,the protagonist detaches herselffrom emotion: Tine kleine Naerin istihre Mut- ter. Vater unbekannt. Von Proletariern stammt sie ab. Das hut sie, denn sie hat nie Wert darauf gelegt, zur biirgerlichen Gesellschaft zu gehoren" (22). Besides Keun's spirited critique of the middle-class, the vexing question of origins israised and a complex lineage of mother-daughter rela- tions developed. In search ofher parentage, more specifically her mother, Gdgi visits the seamstress Tlischler and finds a spent woman in a dingy apartment. Several drinkslater, after resigning herself to the fact that "Geld kostet so 'ne Muttersuche! Jetzt will sie's aber wissen, jetzt geht sie aufs Ganze," G&i discloses the reason for her visit (32). Keun undercuts this poten- tially melodramatic reunion with Gllgi's dispassionate reaction to Ttischler's out- burst of astonishment. GdgI wonders "ob das die Stimme des Bluts war, die eben gesprochen hat. Stimme des Bluts wiire jetzt vorschriftsmaBig. Mein Blut ist taubstumm, ich mu13 mal zum Arzt gehn, vielleicht hab'ich auch zuvie1 getrunken" (33). To her surprise, GdgI determines that Tiischler is not her biological mother, but that she was born to the daughter of an upper-middle-class family who paid Tach- ler to take the infant in order to save the family's reputation and the daughter's market value. (Asa sign of exchange value on the marriage market, female chastity, particularly among the upper classes, was of supreme importance.) Her biological mother is "die Keil Tochter," Taschler ex- plains, young and single from "ne Familije, Mutter un Tochter . . .,derAlte war tot" (33- 34).

Thus,Gllgi's search proceeds through various social strata of women. Herjourney suggests the modern woman's rootlessness, her dispossession and displacement: an urban nomad. Like the modern woman, Gi is "illegitimate," which means born outside of any traditionally sanctioned space and not compliant with the notions of family that Freud was plotting at the time. It is interesting that Freud revised his theory to recognize the sign5cance of the daughter's pre-oedipal attachment to the mother at a time of perceived crisis in this relationship.16

Finally, after one failed attempt, Gi contacts her biological mother, only to bor- row money for her unemployed friend Hans and his impoverished family. The rela- tionship between mother and daughter breaks off thereafter-no expectations are aroused, no desire for a resuscitated bond is expressed, no melodramatic reunion staged. In fact, there seems to be no "in- tense, passionate, and ambivalent preoccu- pation with the mother," in Keun's work, which, according to %h's study of mod- ernists and the maternal, usually "oscil- lates between a longing for connection and a need for disconnection."17 Unlike the daughters in contemporary works by women authors whose self-analysis de- pends on working through the mother, Gilgi struggles to distance herself from any of these maternal spheres and ultimately re- jects this relationship. Gib expresses a unique indifference:

Vie1 merkwiirdiger aber ist ihre tiefe,

nicht zu erschiitternde Gleichfltigkeit

fiir diesenBegriff. 1st doch nicht normal-

von Rechts wegen mate sie doch aufge-

regt sein .. . nichts zu machen-man ist

nicht aufgeregt. Ob das denn wirklich so

wasWichtiges ist: Mutta! (148)

Keun's radical departure from norma- tive representations of the mother-daugh- ter relationship, which stood on precarious ground during the 1920s, callsfor a critical analysis of the status of this bond. Numer- ous articles, especially in magazines such as Frau und Gegenruart, Uhu, or Die Dame that engaged a female readelship, contrib- uted to narrativizing the immense chasm that had formed between a generation of mothers and their 'modern" daughters.18 Many articles insist this conflict was fueled foremost by young women's relatively new and passionate fight for independence, the desire for education, and for a career or a job outside the private realm, opposed to the kind of career their mothers had had within the home as nurturem and bearers of children. The representations in these journals highlight a particular concern of mothers with their daughters' "urge to break away" (Drang nach draussen) to participate in the pleasures of leisure time and urban culture. Echoing wariness over the embattled mother-daughter relationship, the moderate magazine Frau und Ckgen- wart carried one critic's assessment: "Viele Miitter konnen und wollen sich nicht an den kiihlen, freien und unsentimentalen Ton ihrer Tbchtergewohnen, ihnen mi13fdllt die sportliche Ungeniertheit, die Kamerad- schaft von Geschlecht zu Geschlecht, zu Kollegen und Studiengenossen, das Tan- Zen, der Kinobesuch, die kurzen Kleider und Ham, sie db'ien die meist wirklich harmlosen und freundschaRlichen Sonntagsausfliige und Reisen."l9 In addi- tion to the general tendency among the new generation of mothers to remain youthful, she prescribes an attitudinal shitt on the part of mothers that calls for a sense of hu- mor and a continued interest in the younger generation to bridge the gap.

The estrangement between genera- tions, expounded on by a number of critics, had taken on an unprecedented acuteness during the Weimar Republic. Many voices warned against the undue restriction of daughters, and particularly cautioned mothers against imposing their own gen- eration's standards and gender assump- tions on their daughters. More tolerant ob- servers believed that interference on the part of the mother ultimately would impede a daughter's happiness and bar communi- cation. E. Falk of the VobachsFrauenzeitung recommends encouraging young women to strike out on their own.20 The author promotes a camaraderie between mother and daughter made possible through separation.

Falk's solution to intergenerational differences, shared by many of the author's contemporaries, echoes current feminist positions on the necessary separation be- tween mother and daughter for the daugh- ter's individuation process. Yet the separa- tion from the mother in Keun's novel exceeds feminist expectations of separation as a process that leads to a reidentification or a return to the mother. Much like mod- ernism's emphasis on progress and the diminished role ofhistory, the past, embod- ied in the mother-daughter relationship, is also disavowed in Keun's configuration of the mother-daughter dyad. That Keun's narrative produces little nostalgia for the maternal is suspicious nonetheless, since the mother and motherhood effectively be- come a significant preoccupation despite its repression. Gilgi pleads to be able to forget and to drown out her worries with the beat of popular music: Werrgott im Himmel-Olga, Pit, Mutter-hem mir, ich will nicht denken . . . Da ist was 10s mit mir-10s mit mir-10s mit mir. Man denkt in Schlagern, fiihlt im Schlagerrhythmus, taucht darin unter" (53).The denial of this plot in the formation of a daughter's identity calls for its recurrence in the gender assumptions that are passed on from one generation to the next. Even though the past provides no viable role model for the new woman, the structures it establishes must be exca- vated, since they loom in the body-politic of modernity.21 Frau Kron, Gilgi's adoptive mother, disappears by mid-narrative. Her dismissalsuggests an unresolved relation- ship with the past which is only spuriously concealed in the relationship to Martin, Gilgi's lover.

In more ways than could be cited here, the 1920s were cast as a new era that sought to break with long-standing social practices. Short hemlines, bobbed hair or the page boy, cigarettes, and cars all reified cutting loose from a conventional female existence of domesticity. In contrast to pre- vious generations of women, the modern daughter's identity ostensibly rested on progress, self-reliance, and financial inde- pendence. The mother was portrayed as having no place in the world of her Weimar daughter. As one young woman interviewed in the popular magazine llhu puts it:"Ich habe nichts rnit ihr [the mother] ge- meinsam. Sie kann meine Anschauungen nicht verstehn, und ich habe ein wenig Ver- achtung: sie ist so typisch die alte Penera- tion, die aus Angst vor der Konvention gar keine eigenen Anschauungen aufiubrin- gen wagt.. .."22 The dramatic break with the generation of mothers only disguised the continuities in the politics of gender that thwarted progress and that contributed to the undermining of the modern woman's emancipation. At least, Keun's narrative seems to imply as much.
Modernity and the Body

The open discussion during the Weimar period of sexuality, abortion, birth control, and the differences in women's and men's sexual conduct reflects the dramatic shift away from the Wilhelminian conservatism of the nineteenth century and from its restriction of any official discourse on sexual- ity. Information manuals and other publi- cations, such as Lehrbuch der Liebe und Ehe (1928) or Die Erotik in der Ehe (1928), attest to a loosening of the moral principles concerning sex and marriage, and the de- sire to redefine heterosexual liaisons. Helene Stocker, for example, one of the more vociferous advocates of sexual reform, promoted the sexual emancipation of women, that is, women's right to sexual pleasure, as the key to a harmonious mar- riage. This challenge to age-old taboos, ef- fectively associated with the modern woman, was perceived as a menace to domi- nant cultural practices. Even if sexual emancipation was practiced only by a minority of women, as Alice Riihle-Gerstel avers, it became an ideological tool to counter modernity and to alarm an ada- mant status quo:

Der PmzeD der sexuellen Emanzipation vollzieht sich, wie der sozialen, nur an der Minoritiit von Frauen. Aber das game sexuelle Zeitalter steht im Zeichen dieser Emanzipation, mag auch eine Mew von Frauen noch indifferent, naseriimp- fend oder hyperkeusch den angestamm- ten Formen der Empfindung oder Emp- findungs-losigkeit treu bleiben. Auch das Dasein der alten Familienhausfrau ist ja durch das Auftreten der emanzipierten Frau nicht einfach abgeschafff worden, nicht einmal widerlegt. Es ist nur pmble- matisch geworden, ins Schwanken mit hineingeri~sen.~~

This"sexualliberation" of the 1920s was seen to create a riftbetween daughters and their mothers whose sexuality was identified ex- clusively with procreation. Indeed, the mod- ern woman's body was scripted differently than her forebear's body. As a contributor to the woman's magazineFrau und Ckgenwart put it in 1927: "Die'lbchter] beansprucht auchfurihrprivates Leben Selbstiindigkeit, VerfUgungsrecht iiber ihre freie Zeit, ihre Ausgaben, ihre Kleidung, sogar vielleicht auch iiber ihren K~rper."~~

Critic Lola Lan- dau, in 1928, takes this recognition one step further when she observes: mnn gerade in der Erotik hat sich die junge weibliche Generation zu einer umstiirzlerischen, von allen Konventionen freien Auffassung entr wickelt; die Liebe ist fir sie der geheimnis- vollen Illusionen beraubt, sexuelle Hingabe nicht mehr dmhaus rnit seelischer Hingabe oder ehelicher Bindung verkniipft. So blickt dieVierzigjahrige,die Mutter ratlos.. .."25 In defiance of the maternalgaze and breaking with the mores of previous generations, Keun casts Gilgi as someone who casually experiences her sexual encounters as natural, without self-reproach or inhibition, and with the practicality and repudiation of love esteemed in the age of New Objectivity:

Du weiat, ich hab' Freunde gehabt zwei-drei . . . man hat sich gefallen ge- genseitig, man hatte Freude zusammen, und die Haut sagte ja zueinander. Das war natiirlich und uniibersehbar, es hat mir absolut keine Gewissensbisse ge- macht und mich nicht beunruhigt. Ich fiihlte mich immer sauber und klar,ich war meiner sicher und hatte meinen Wdlen und eine selbstgezogene Grenze, die so selbstverstihdlich war, da13 man nicht dariiber nachzudenken brauchte. (113)

When judged by a conservative, relig- ious morality, Gllg.1indisputably oversteps the threshold of acceptability. Her bounda- ries are set too loosely for the likes of her middle-class adoptive parents, the Krons, and for a system of beliefs that functional- ized female sexuality for child-bearing. An example of the institutional management of the female body can be found in Leontine Sagan's 1932 filmMadchen in Tlniform.It produces a powerfiil illustration of the re- pression of female sexuality in the name of producing mothers for the ideal Prussian fatherland. Upon entering the boarding school, the girls in Sagan's film exchange their dresses for uniforms with vertical strips that iconographically incarcerate and de-eroticize pubescent bodies initiated into womanhood. Instead of acquiescing to such notions of womanhood similarly ad- vanced by the middle-class, Gilgi leaves the Krons and the confines they represent. With her departure, she writes herself out of the "bourgeois dramas" of previous cen- turies, in which daughters such as Lessing's Ernilia Galotti, Schilleis Luise Miller, and Hebbel's Maria Magdalena paid for their adventures with their lives. As anunruly daughter of the twentieth century, Gilgi leaves the bourgeois realm of her parents unpunished. In response to her fa- ther's ultimatum to change her ways or leave, she self-assertively rebels: "Man kann doch nicht hierbleiben, sich als Fehltritt behandeln, groRmutig verzeihen lassen, wo's gar nichts zu verzeihen gibt" (74).In view of the new social spaces open to women and the redefinition of "modern" relationships, it is not surprising that the bourgeois drama of previous centuries ex- hausted itselfwith the advent of modernity.

Aliberalized awareness of the body and female sexuality marked the 1920s. But de- spite attempts to introduce sex education, sexual knowledge and the use of contracep- tives lagged far behind seal practice.26 The reformers' campaign for increased tol- erance toward out-of-wedlock children and their mothers reflects the consequences of this unpreparedness. It was not uncom- mon, therefore, for women authors of the Weimar period to work through, in a fictional setting, such complex social issues as the status of motherhood, unwanted preg- nancies, out-of-wedlock children, sexually transmitted diseases, and abortion. Owing to the persistence of Paragraph 218 of the criminal code, which criminalized the in- tentional termination of pregnancy, and to the immense dangers of back-alley abor- tions, women had few alternatives as to whether or not to have ~hildren.~7

At issue were often economic ruin and loss of what few life choices modern women had, aswell as the deeper conflict of modernity and motherhood.

Keun7s novel appeared in the same year in which the volatile issue of abortion cli- maxed, with reports of "thousands of wom- en demonstrating in the streets and gath- ering together in rallies and meeting hall~."2~

These disturbances occurred si- multaneously with the arrests of both Else Kienle and Friedrich Wolf, doctors who were accused of violating Paragraph 2 18.29 In "The Kienle Case," Else Kienle describes her denunciation by a colleague, her sub- sequent arrest, hunger strike, and the en- suing trial. Apart from detailing her own circumstances, she demands a more pro- found understanding of the economic de- spair that drives women to terminate preg- nancies.30

The debate about the abortion issue re- sounded throughout the Weimar Republic from the ranks of the Right to the Left. While the Right, alarmed by an alleged "birth strike," fortified their argument with concern for demographic developments and the sustenance of the nation, vocal oppo- nents of Paragraph 218 appealed to a revision of this section of the penal code to comply with women's changing social position and needs. Bertolt Brecht's film Kuhle Wampe(1932) and Hans Tintner's film Cyankali (1930), based on Friedrich Wolf's play, are among the many cultural docu- ments that represented firmsupport of the decriminalization of abortion. Keun, too, produces a complex response to the issue of abortion that clearly features economic need as a compelling justification, and that resonates with beliefs commonly articu- lated by the LeR. When the doctor diagno- ses Gilgi as pregnant and prescribes mar- riage as the best solution, Gilgi responds caustically: "Das entzieht sich ja nun doch wohl ein biljchen Ihrer Kenntnis, was da dasbeste ist, nicht wahr?" (116-17). Similar to Kienle's commendation of women who recognize their responsibilities toward a child, Gilgi deems it immoral to have chil- dren for whom one cannot care:

Horen Sie, Herr Doktor, es ist doch das Unmoralischste und Unhygienischste und Absurdeste, eine Frau ein Kind zur Welt bringen zu lassen, das sie nicht erniihren kann. Es ist dariiber hinaus iiberhaupt das Unmoralischste und Absurdeste, eine

Frauein Kind kriegen zulassen,wenn sie

es nicht haben will. (117)

The question of the maternal reenters the narrative at this point. Two years after the publication of Gilgi, the National Socialist party blacklisted Keun's novels on grounds of the sexual politim represented in her fic- ti0n.~1

Concurrent with the decline in birth rates and women's changing lifestyles, the modern woman was configured as egre- giously non-maternal. The opponents of modernity bemoaned the national body's motherlessness and subsequent hunger for no~rishment.3~

Quoting a Catholic news- paper, Ute Frevert presents the anxieties that underpinned the discourses of the ma- ternal, or rather the lack thereof:

In 1929a 'desperate call'could be heard in a Catholic newspaper for a mother for the 'dying fatherland'; 'But she is nowhere to be found. We may see a few women wear- ing men's hairstyles; we may discover wo- men Olympic champions; and we may hear a young woman cooingfor her desires to be fulfilled; yet nowhere do we find a rnotheroa

An overview of images in women's fashion magazines of the 1920s underscores the modern woman's physical ideal as demonstratively non-mated. The prevahg aes- thetictowhich Giadhered promoted slen- der legs, small breasts, boyishly slim hips and waist, in short, a notable "masculiniza- tion" of the female body An advertisement posted in the magazine Frau und Gegenwart of 31May 1927 sought: "2 jg. Madchen evan- gel., gesund, ohm BubenkopL werden als Koch- u. Haushaltungsschiiler aufgenom- men."34This advertisement reveals a com- mon attitude toward the modern woman as unfit for the demands of the private sphere. Women who wore make-up were often placed in the same category. Some church groups called women with the page hairstyle "Andershaarige." Equality of the sexes translated into an androgynous look that bld gender boundaries with the Garpnneasits most provocative expression. GabrieleTergit reports: "Das Madchen sieht aus wie ein Mann, der wie ein Madchen aus- sieht, hie0 es von Za Garcome,' die in den zwanziger Jahren bewuBt die weiblichen Formen verle~~nete."~~

A segment of the fe- male population that cast themselves rn modern women strove to attain the same hedoms and privileges of men and styled themselves accordingly. In appearance, these women transgressed the limitations associated with traditional gender assump- tions.

To a large extent, new attitudes toward sexuality called for the reconceptualization of heterosexual relationships. Yet Keun shows that, despite the attempt to liberate and reconfigure gender relationships, the modern woman could only tenuously suc- ceed in negotiating the demands of moder- nity and those of desire. Among the critics who spoke highly of Keun's novel, Kadidja Wedekind applauds Keun's astute thema- tization of what she perceived as women's greatest dilemma at the time. In Wede- kind's words, the novel struggles "rnit dem Konflikt der modernen Frau, die zwischen Arbeit und die grol3e Liebe ihres Lebens gestellt Indeed, Keun presents a young clerical worker who meet. the chal- lenges of work with ease until love inter- feres, and the play of male and female desire begins. The heterosexual love rela- tionship and sexual desire test the fragility of the new woman's identity. After reading Keun's novel, Kurt Tucholsky, in a 1932 issue of the Weltbiihne, snickers: "Wenn Frauen iher die Liebe schreiben, geht das fast immer ~chief."~~

When Martin, an unemployed, penni- less aesthete and bon vivant writer, enters her life, Gilgi can no longer suppress her body and emotion. The more her longing for Martin grows, the more her sense of agency vanishes. The language is most excessive in this part of the narrative and harks back to melodramatic romances familiar to nineteenth-century readers of pulp novels. Mar- tin constructs and consumes, literally dresses and infantilizes Gilgi, as she sur- renders to his desire. Her efforts to reform him and to impress middle-class values upon his lifestyle in her role as caretaker are but failed attempts to assert her own needs and interests. AU that remains of Gilgi, the typist, are her two index fingers (the rationalized portion of her body). She despondently reflects: "ich gehore mir ja nicht mehr. Das, was ich im Spiegel seh', hat ein andrer aus mir gemacht, ich kann nicht stolz darauf sein" (90). She has lost the signifiers of her independence, her own room, her language lessons, and her job, and has relinquished her goals. Moreover, she has forgotten her past, except for the few times she tries to retrieve remnants of who she was from her friends Olga and Pit. Keun perceptively presents the barriers of modernity in Gis face-off with love, and then especially with motherhood. It is at this juncture that modernity abandons the modern woman to a negotiation of double binds without social support. It offers few alternatives but to welcome its transgres- sive daughters back into the fold of the pri- vate sphere.

Critical of the price women paid when they surrendered independence, Keun plays out the pitfalls of the New Objectivity and of unreflected progress for women of the 1920s. As readers, we remember that Gilgi scoffed at romanticism at the begin- ning of the novel and ded it a cog in the machinery, "eine Betriebsstiirung" (71). It is female desire and romanticism that cata- pult women out of the machinery of moder- nity. What remains is unreflected and sub- sequently intact, an emotional structure, cultivated, for example, by the sentimental narratives, harlequin romances, and women's films that script women as objects of desire and as self-abnegating. These nar- ratives provide structures of meaning that elicit women's suffering, as Keun shows, in the melding of a mass-culture product with Gllgi's tears: "Bestiint sieht Olga ein paar Trlinen auf die Platte purzeln" (71). Mass cultm fueled the production of romantic fantasies that regressively privatized fe- male existence and reinforced the ideologi- cal positioning of women in the private sphere, while promising opportunities of employment and participation in the public sphere often onlyuntilmarriage. Moreover, Keun persistently articulates the necessity of negotiating a public and private exist- ence that simultaneously allows for work and a love relationship, and criticizes the repressive pragmatism of New Objectiv- ity.38 Gilgi admonishes herself throughout the novel to pull herself together. "Sie ist keine sentimentale Gans, sie braucht nie- manden, kommt allein durch," she tells Martin at their first rendezvous (62). For women, the challenge ofmodernity appears almost insurmountable once they enter into a relationship in which the "darkest plots" arerepeated. For Keun, the term 'in- dependence,"asthe successful mediation of the two life spheres, becomes the story's incantation of impossibilities. Herta, who lives in abject misery with her two children and unemployed husband, advises Gllgi: "Schaff dir Selbstandigkeit und Unab- hlingigkeit--dann kannst du einen Mann lieben und dir die Liebe erhalten" (138). Even Olga, characterized as an incurable romantic, warns Gilgi: Wicht dein Leben aufihn aufbauen, nicht ales auf eine Karte setzen. Wie miide du aussiehst! Du brauchst deine Arbeit und deine Selbst#n- digkeitn(98).In the schema of Weimar, it appears that love, and with it gender ex- pectations that are woven into thevery fab- ric of culture and that deny women their identity, deplete its modern women. These conditions, along with economic instability, led to a resistance of women's full acceptance in the public sphere. Keun's direct appeal to her contemporaries then became even more urgent.39

The short-lived age that seemed with- out limitations retained a strong hold on women's possibilities. Breaking out of the private sphere and away from their motheis lifestyle, daughters were faced with low wages, with jobs that were largely gender-specific, with limited access to edu- cation, and with a legal system that pre- sided over theirbodies.* Notions ofgender, therefore, remained conservatively in- flected despite the extension of the spheres in which women began to circulate. The Weimar Republic, moreover, was founded on old Imperial institutions whose master narratives continued to wield power if not directly, then from the culture's unconscious. This explains the unfaltering pro- motion of restrictive family values and gen- der roles, as well as the persistence of institutions that pushed daughters into marriage and motherhood by appeals to morality and self-sacrifice or by punitive social policies. Rehgion, custom, law, school, the workplace, the medicalinstitution, and the mass media seemingly conspired to re- turn unruly daughters to the private sphere. Keun's work points out the contra- dictions and conflicts within modernity, as they impact the new woman's life.

As can be seen, the new woman, shaped by Weimar cultural criticism and economic opportunity, occupied a cultural space fraught with the tensions among many con- flicting ideologies that played themselves out on the female body. These various ten- dencies made their way into numerous fic- tional settings whose spectrum ranged from premiering wealth, innovation, and emancipation to representing poverty and de~titution.~'Female authors of the 1920s often selected this second stage to cast the lives of their female protagonists. Their works stand in sharp contrast to the films that display the modern woman asthe per- ilous other, a femme fatal who threatened law and order.42
Modernity and the Family

For women, modernity seemed a dead- end at the entrance of the home as hearth. It is no surprise, then, that Keun's resis- tance to conventional notions of the mater- nal, traditional gender arrangements, and to ideologically earmarked discourses on family and its values are accentuated by an unsentimental image of the family. The family appears as a failing institution in Keun's work, as none of the families repre- sented promise a vital or hopeful image of family life: the unhappy upper-class Keil (Gisbiological mother) is entangled in a litany of betrayah; Gilgi's poverty-stricken friends, Hans and Herta, are driven to sui- cide; Gilgi's friend Pit, a poor embittered student, has severed ties withhis bourgeois father; Gilgi's boss delights in extramarital affairs while his wife vacations; and then there isthe dull, petite-bourgeoisKronfamily (Gilgi's adoptive parents). Keun's de- scription of the Krons in particular ridicules the monotony and stagnation of the mid- dle-class family. It is morning and the fam- ily communes at the breakfast table:

Keiner spricht. Jeder ist stumpf betlissen mit sich selbst beschgtigt. Der vollkom- mene Mange1 an Unterhaltung kenn- zeichnet das Anstiindige, Legitimierte der Familie. Das Ehepaar Kron hat sich ehr- bar bis zur silbernen Hochzeit durchge- langweilt. Man liebt sich und ist sich treu, eine ntsache, die zur Allk%glichkeit geworden, nicht mehr besprochen und emp- funden zu werden braucht. Sie ruht wohl- verpackt und etwas angegilbt zusammen mit dem Hochzeitssilber irgendwo in dem Biifett aus dem neunzehnten Jahrhun- dert. Die Langeweile ist die Gewahr fiir das Stabile ihrer Beziehungen, und da13 man sich nichts zu sagen hat, macht ein- ander unverdachtigt. (8)

The decline of the family amplified in Keun's novel supports Heidi Soltau's obser- vation on the remarkable absence of parents in women's literature of the 1920s. In her study Dennungs-Spuren, Soltau draws attention to a number of narratives that situate the new woman, asa displaced and dispossessed daughter, outside the nu- clear family. In ChristaAnita Biuck's novel Schicksal hinter Schreibmaschinen, the protagonist is orphaned; Vicki Baum's eponymous character in Stud. Chem. Helene Wdlfiier loses her father; and LilIi Haller's novel Die Stufe has the father com- mitted to an asylum aRer the mother's death, which leaves three sisters to fend for them~elves.~~

Soltau attributes the demise of the family and the representation of daughters without parents to the loss of the father aRer World War I. Does it reflect the loss of authority that the newly founded democracy could not provide? The daugh- ters in Baum's and Briick's novels play out the paternal narrative structure in which the mother is replaced, fmt by the father, and later by a husband. Soltau, however, has no explanation for the marginal role mothers play or for their complete omission. Unlike Gilgi, a figure of agency and trans- formational identity, these daughters nos- talgically long for the family As a result, the female protagonists are nestled safely back into the family at the end through marriage.

Consistent with Keun's critique of the family, Gilgi's attitude toward marriage sets her apart from these figures. She nei- ther aspires to marriage, nor to participating in the fantasies that preoccupy many of her fictional contemporaries: "Vielleicht wird sie spater ma1 in Paris oder Berlin ein kleines Modeatelier aufmachen, vielleicht -vielleicht-, auch, sie ist noch jung, und aukr Ehe, Filmschauspielerin und Schon- heitskonigin zieht sie jede Existenzmoglichkeit in Betracht" (19). The with- drawal from the private sphere, reflected in Gilgi's wishes, fueled the debate on the crisis of the family during the Weimar pe- riod. The collapse of the traditional family, then as well as now, was blamed for the most part on the modern woman and her unabashed egoism, displayed in her desire to pursue her goals of independence and personal freedom to the detriment to and neglect of her "natural"responsibilities.

Such manifestations of women's agency threatened the very fabric of a society de-

pendent on female subservience and sub- mission. In Wntergang der Ehe," psycholo- gist Alice Gerstel-Riihle persuasively dmgnoses the reason for the failure of tra- ditional marital arrangements: "Der Mann ist langst durchindividualisiert. Aber die Frau ist noch auf dem Marsch zur Personlichkeit und dadurch istin der Ehe Zugluft ent~tanden."~~

The Left applauded this march through the institutions, while the Right wanted to stop it in its tracks. For those disoriented by the stagnant economy and military defeat, and bed by falling birth rates, the economically and socially emancipated new woman became an all- too-convenient target. With the so-called crisis of male subjectivity, oftentimes cited as the underlying trauma of the Weimar era, and the pervasive reorganization of gendemd spaces and boundaries, the mod- ern woman appeared to imperil social and economic stability, thus inextricably con- necting the new woman and the problems of modernity. All too predictably, she became the other, a creature ofthe city so often demonized and associated with sexually degenerate behavior and held responsible for social chaos, disequilibrium, and patri- archal impotence.

Contrary to popular images of a happy end and domestic bliss, Keun's anti-illu- sionist representationunreservedly under- mines the notion of the family (the reposi- tory of social idealism) as the panacea for women during the Weimar period. Disin- terested inmarriage, yet consumed by Mar- tin, Gilgi is jarred by her unwanted preg- nancy and her confrontation with the stark economic realities of the time. The period, flanked by two wars, could neitherpreserve the private sphere as a refuge, not even as an illusion, nor allow for its change. Aware that the demands of family may alter Mar-tin's desire and force him to subscribe to a role he may not be able to sustain, G&y leaves Martin. With Gilgi's departure for the metropolis, Berlin-an open s-er associated with progress and modernity, Keun breaks with the normative trope of female seduction, betrayal, and abandon- ment which features the male's sexual irresponsibility and a woman's victimization. Separate from her partner, she attempts to take control of her life once again. Curi- ously, Gllgi repeats her own history as a child born outside of marriage, yet she simultaneously breaks with this repetition. Unlike her mother, whose family covered up the daughter's pregnancy, Gilgibecomes a single mother-the most visible affront to notions of family and dominant culture. She joins her friend Olga, who earlier in the narrative prophetically recognized "1st dir nicht schon aufgefallen, Gilgi, --daB wir in einer Zeit leben, wo's mehr wirkliche Soli- daritat unter Frauen gibt als unter Mlin- nern?" (133).

In leavingfmt the Krons and then Mar- tin, Gilgi turnsher back on both her parents and their possible replacement through her lover. Perhaps Keun's narrative resolution holds the tenuous promise of a new family structure in a modern, secular society that does not bind marriage with maternity. Perhaps she alludes to the possibility of re- imaging the maternal. The narrative shows little nostalgia for the old paternal order and posits a new, if only tenuous, politics of identity for women.

The precipitous gain in National Social- ist popularity occurred simultaneous with the publication and enthusiastic reception of Gilgi-eine von us. While women's achievements during the Weimar years were being celebrated in the article "Bilanz der Frauenbewegung" (1932), a synchro- nous erosion of these very advances be- g~n.~~

The modern woman's alleged depar- ture from origins and her break with tradition, as I argue, was answered by the National Socialist's insistent return to ori- gins, which resulted in a conflation of fe- male identity and motherhood as women's sole purpose. In addition to its function to fortify the Third Reich, motherhood was used to reinstate age-old gender divisions, to allay the "war between the sexes," andto restore paternal order. ARer 1933, daugh-

tern had little choice but to return to their wifely and maternal duties. Thus, the mod- ern woman's career notably ended with the conclusion of the Weimar period before it ever really began.

As a symbol of Weimar liberalism, the new woman was forced into exile much in the way that Irmgard Keun was forced to fleefrom her homeland &r herbooks were banned by the Reichsschrifttumskammer as "Asphaltliteratur, mit antideutschen Tbndenzen."46 As for many authors of the Weimar period, the narrative context had shifted drastically with the rise of National Socialism. In her novels Das Madchen, mit dem die Kinder nicht verkehren diirfen (1936) and Kinder aller Ltinder (1938), as well as in a collection of correspondences with the Jewish doctor Arthur Strauss, her confidant and former lover, Keun repre- sents the frightening years she spent in ex- ile.47

In Gilgi--eine von uns and Das kunstseidene Machen, Keun represented modern young women who were seduced by the promises of a new era and caught within the cultural crisisof modernity and its economic and ideological constraints. These protagonists stood under the star of a dissolving and torn Republic that could never fulfill these women's dreams. For many like Keun, the political changes put a sudden end to their careers. Baffled and disoriented, it is no wonder, then, that Keun's modern women receded into the background ofher texts, only to be replaced by representations ofchildren portrayed as vulnerable, uncomprehending, and dis- placed, much like their author who, with them, witnessed a time ofunparalleled hor- ror. Even though Keun left the fate of her protagonist G&p open-ended, it would be history that, two years later, would write the ending for her.

lSee Kristine von Soden and Maruta Schmidt, ed., Neue Frauen: Die manziger Jah- re (Berlin: Elefanten, 1988).

2The car became an emblem of the modern woman. Keun mocks the social status the car claims and chides its status in her allusion to Germany's national anthem: "Auto, Auto iiber ahalles" (59). At the same time, she ridicules the values of the middle class and its desire for status through consump tion: Wenn ein Mann nur einen guten Charakter hat', sagt Tante Hetty. 'Charakter! Charakter! Wenn einer en erstklassigen Wagen hat, ist das Charakter ge- nug, sollte man meinen." Irmgard Keun, Gil- gi--eine von uns (Munich: Deutscher bchen- buch, 1979) 59.

3Alexandra Kollontai, "Die neue Frau," Neue Frauen 6-7, here 6.

4Atina Grossmann, "Girlkultur or Thor- oughly Rationalized Female: A New Woman in Weimar Germany?" Women in Culture and Po- 1itics:A Century of Change, ed. Judith Friedlan- der (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1986) 62-80, here 65.

5For an analysis of the emergence of a class of white collar employees, see Ute Frevert, Women in German History: From Bourgeois Emancipation to Sexual Liberation, trans.Stuart McKinnon-Evans (Providence: Berg, 1989) 176.There were almost 1,.500,000 female white collar workers in 1925. See SiegGied Kracauer, "Madchen im Beruf," Querschnitt 12 (1932): 238-43. He describes the workday ofyoungwo- men, many stenographers, who were caught between the hardships of their daily jobs and unfulfilled dreams promoted largely by cinema. See also Siegfried Kracauer, Die Angestellten (Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1971). In his stu- dy of white-collar workers, first published in 1929, Kracauer fixes his ethnographic lens on a growing class of employees that, as he main- tains,comprise the inner workings of the me- tropolis.

6The main role in the film Gilgi, eine von uns [Johannes Meyer, 19321 was played by Bri- gitte Helm. A number of "Angestellten" films appeared in the early 1930s. Die Privatsekretii- rin [19311, according to Kracauer, became so popular that its director Wdhelm Thiele was praised as a master of this genre. Kracauer

writes that owing to the vulnerable economic situation toward the end of the Weimar period, these 6lms attributed woman's job market suc- cess either to luck or to her coquettish finesse, rather than to a woman's personal qualifica- tions or ability. Other film titles that belong to this genre include Das Geld auf der Strape [Georg Jamby, 19301, Kleiner Mann-was nun? [F'ritz Wendhausen, 19321, and Es wird schn wieder besser [Kurt Gerron, 19321. Keun's book, adapted for film, enjoyed a wide audience among clerical workers even though it aroused much controversy through its installments in the SocialDemocratic magazine Vorwarts.See Vorwarts (1931) and also Der Weg der Frau 1 (1933).

7I borrow the concept of the "dark plot" from Marianne Hirsch, The Mother-Daughter Plot: Narrative, Psychoanalysis, Feminism (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989) 91-121.

8Eugenie Schwarzwald, "Das gluckliche Madchen von morgen," Querschnitt 12 (1932): 235-37.

gGeorg Simmel, "The Metropolis and Men- tal Life," On Individual and Social Forms: Se- lected Writings, ed. Donald N. Levine (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1971) 324-39, here 325.

'Osee Christa Anita Briick, Schicksal hinter Schreibrnaschinen (Berlin: Sieben Stiibe, 1930). See also Irmgard Keun, "System des Miinnerfangs," Bubikopfi Aufbruch in den Zwanzigern: %te von Frauen, ed. Anna Rheinsberg (Darmstadt: Luchterhand, 1988) 115-19. Here, Keun demonstrates her fine- tuned wit and insight. She humorously devises intricate strategies for "catching"men of vari- ous professions. Her overriding counsel to women is to display unreserved awe.

"Max Brod, Women and the New Objecti- vity," The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, ed. Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimend- berg(Berkeley: U of California P, 1994) 20546, here 205.

12Hans Fallada, Vom Mut der Jugend,"rev. of Gilgi--eine von uns, Die Literatur 34 (1931- 32): 249-60.

13Alice Riihle-Gerstel, 'Back to the Good Old Days," The Weimar Republic Sourcebook 218-19, here 218.

14Vicki Baum, "Die Miitter von morgen- die Backiische von heute," Bubikopf 31-35, here 32.
15See Patrice Petro, Joyless Streets: Womzn and Melodramatic Representation in Weimar Cermany (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1989).

16Sigmund F'reud, 'Femininity," New Intro- ductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, trans. Ja- mes Strachey (New York W.W. Norton, 1965) 99-119. Freud's revised lecture on "Femininity" (1931), in which he poses the maternal as the only means of female fruition, appeared the same year that Gilgi was published.

I7Hirsch 96.

lqhere were over 2,000 magazines circulating in Berlin in the 1920s, Hanne Loreck, "Auch Greta Garbo ist einmal Verkiiuferin gewesen: Das Kunstprodukt 'Neue Frau' in den Zwangiger Jahren," Frauen Kunst Wissenschaft 9/10 (1990): 17-26, here 18.

lgAnnette Nobody, "Miitter und 'Richter- getrennte Welten?" Frau und Cegenwart (13 Dec. 1927): 4.

20E. Falk, "Miitter und 'Richter," Vobachs Frauenzeitung 35 (1927): 6. See also Elsa Her- mann, So ist die neue Frau (Hellerau: Avalum Verlag, 1929).

21Sigrun Anselm, Tmanzipation und !lhdition in den 20er .Jahren," Rurnph und Schei- tern in der Metropo1e:Zur Rolle der Weiblichkeit in der Ceschichte Berlins, ed. Sigrun Anselm and Barbara Beck (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer, 1987) 253-74, here 260. It could be argued that, as seen in Sigrun Anselm's description of the metropolis, the modern woman is unwittingly perceived as "geschichtslos, kultur-und tradi- tionslos . . ., daf* als absolut gegenwMg."

22"Gespr;dche zwischen jungen Leuten: Ste- nogra6erte Dialoge," Uhu: Das Magazin der zwanziger Jahre (Berlin: Ullstein, 1979) 10-16, here 10.

23Alice Ridde-Gerstel, Das Frauenproblem unserer &it (Leipzig: n.p., 1932) 155.

24Nobody 4.

25Lola Landau, "Mutter und 'Richter von heute," Frau und Cegenwart 17 Jan. 1928: 2.

26The rhythm method was introduced in 1929 by the gynecologists Hermann Knaus and Kiusako Ogino, who studied women's menstru- al cycles. Otherwise, condoms and pessars were available but relatively expensive, and women were encouraged to douche.

27See Barbara Beuys, Familienleben in Deutschland: Neue Bilder aus der deutschen Vergangenheit (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1980) 455. Beuys draws attention to the number of women who faced sentencing. In 1924, for example, 5,296 women were sen- tenced to prison for their violation of Paragraph 218 of the penal code.

28Atina Grossmann, "Abortion and Econ* mic Crisis: The 1931 Campaign Against Para- graph 218," When Biology Became Destiny: Women in Weimar and Nazi Germany, ed. Renate Bridenthal, Atina Grossmann, and Ma- rion Kaplan. (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1984) 66-86, here 67. See also Atina Grossmann's article "GermanWomen Doctors hm Berlin toNew York: Maternity and Moder- nity in Weimar and in Exile," Feminist Studies 19.1(1993): 65-88.

29Friedrich Wolf authored the controversial play Cyankdi in 1929, about the conditions of the working class and the issue of abortion. See Grossmann, "Abortion and Economic Crisis"

67. 30Else Kienle, 'The Kienle Case," The Wei- mar Republic Sourcebook 213-16.

31This scene irritated the Nazis long before 1933. ARer 1933, contraceptive devices were declared pornographic, and the mere recom- mendation to have an abortion was met with a tweyear jail sentence. See Jiirgen Serke, Die uerbrannten Dichter (Weinheim: Beltz, 1977) 160-75.

32To offset what conservatives viewed as a prevailing moral bankruptcy and to revive the national body, Dr. Rudolph Knauer began to actively promote Mother's Day (1922) in Ger- many. Florists had already toyed with the idea of importing Mother's Day from the United States. For an excellent discussion of the begin- ning of Mother's Day in Germany, and its im- plications, see KarinHausen, "Mother's Day in the Weimar Republic," When Biology Became Destiny 131-52.

33Frevert 193. 34SeeFrau und Gegenwart (31 May 1927): 31 (my emphasis). 351n her court reports, Bliiten der Zwanzi- ger Jahre: Gerichtsreportagen und Feuilletons

1923-1933, ed. Jens Briining (Berlin: Rotation, 1984) 67, Gabriele Tergit describes a young cou- ple and the blurring of gender boundaries: "Manchmal sieht man jetzt auch junge Paare in Wmdjacken, bei denen man immer erst ei- nen Augenblick hinsehen md3, wer der miinnliche %il ist, weil die Madchen eine jiinglings- hafbKiihnheit in Gesicht und Haar haben und ihre %cht sich nicht von der des Begleiters unterschiedet. Nur eins ist beim alten geblie ben. Der junge Mann erk1ik-t die Vorgiinge dem Madchen und nicht urngekehrt." I include this vignette toillustrate the transgression of tradi- tional gender boundaries and their simultane ous persistence. See Erika Thiel, Geschichte des Kostiims: Die europaische Mode uon den Anfin- gen bis zur Gegenwart (Amsteh Heinrichs- hofen, 1980) 398.

36Kadidja Wedekind, rev. of Gilgi-eine uon uns, Der Querschnitt 12 (1932): 74. 37Peter Panter, "Aufdem Nachttisch," Weltbiihne 28 (1932): 180.

38According to Heidi Soltau, protagonists like Gilgi "scheinen dem Typus Frau zu enb sprechen,fiir den die radikal-biirgerliche Frau- enbewegung eintrat. Ihnen geht es um das Recht auf Arbeit und Liebe und nicht um die Alternative Ehe oder Beruf, Sexualitiit oder Enthaltsamkeit." See Heidi Soltau, If-ennungs-Spuren: Frauediteratur der zwanzier Jahre

(Frankfurta. M.: extra Buch, 1984) 186.

39'he insurmountable obstacles that we men faced partially explain their ovenvhel- ming support of conservative platforms. Inas- much as they were apolitical, these young women enjoyed the gains women had made in terms of employment, sexual fkeedom, and lei- sure. It is ironic, however, that precisely the question of political awareness divided Keun's critics. Bernard Brentano, who wrote for the leftist magazine Die Linkskurve, criticizes the protagonist's political indifference to the trou- bles of the "silent" and oppressed majority. Even though Keun disappointed the expectations of leftist critics who primarily focused on the pm letariat, she sheds light on the hgility of the new woman's identity. See Bernard Brentano, "Keine von uns.Ein Wort an die Leser des Vorwarts,"rev. of Gilgi-eine uon uns, Die Links- kurve 4 Oct. 1932: 27-28.

4?l?revert 182-83. Asurvey reveals just how vulnerable women's economic power was: "Ac- cording to the Union of Female Retail and Office SM," Frevert reports, "almost half of its members under twenty-five earned a maxi- mum 100 Reichmarks per month which, after deductions of national insurance, placed them well below the poverty line in the Weimar Republic of about 100 Reichmarks."

41Frevert 176. 421n "Madchen im Beruf," Kracauer analy- zes the abundant narratives of secretaries or

stenographers who harbor romantic Cinderel- la-like htasies of marriage to provide upward mobility, an escape fhm parental surveillance, and economic security. Images of a home of one's own, community standing, and financial security seduced the modern woman whose working conditions were less than desirable and whose employment was vastly tentative.

43Soltau 13; Vicki Baum, Stud Chem. He- lene WillfiLer (1929) (Munich: DroemerscheVer- lagsanstalt, 1952); Lilli Haller, Die Stufe (Bern: n.p., 1923).

44Alice Gerstel-Riihle, "Untergang der Ehe,"Dieliterarische Welt 24.6(1930): 1-2, here


45Alice Gerstel-Riihle, "Bilanz der Frauen- bewegung", Die literarische Welt 10.8 (1932): 3-


46See Ursula Krechel, "Eine sauber geloste Rechenaufgabe: Irmgard Keuns Roman Gilgi --eine von uns," nankfurter Allgemhe Zcli- tung 22 Sept. 1979, and Circe, Chronistin, Er- trinkende," Zhgeszeitung 29 Oct. 1988; F'ritz Rumler, "Die KraR von Revolvern," Der Spiegel

15 Oct. 1979: 24347; Heinz Klunker, "Eine Aura der Aufsassigkeit: Melancholische Anmerkungen zu Irmgard Keun," Weltwoche Kdtur 27 Feb. 1980: 29; Martin Zingg "Irmgard Keun und Doris, das 'kunstseidene Madchen,'" Baseler Zeitung 23 Nov. 1977: 45.

47See Irmgard Keun, Ich lebe in einem wil- den Wirbel: Bnefe an Arnold Strauss 1933 bis 1947, ed. Gabriele Kreis and Marjory S. Strauss (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch, 1988). Keun went into inner exile after World War I1 where she remained nearly until her death in 1982. Feminist scholars hdiscovered" Keun's work in the late 1970s. See Elfriede Jelinek, Wie Sprache des Kindes: iiber die Literatur der Irmgard Keun," Extrablatt 4.2 (Feb. 1980): 88-


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