Become Who You Are: With an Additional Essay, The Old Woman (Suny Series, Women Writers in Translation)

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Hedwig Dohm

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Two textsone novella and one essaythat exemplify Dohms passionate arguments for gender equality.

Hedwig Dohm (18311919) was a thinker and writer significantly ahead of her time. She championed womens rights in Germany and criticized with acerbic wit the social, political, and familial inequities inherent in gender relationships at the time of the first wave of the womens movement. Her novella Become Who You Are is about a woman, Agnes Schmidt, whose husband has died and who is grappling with finding an identity for herself as an aging widowreflecting the restrictions imposed especially on aging, widowed women who often yearn for a life and identity of their own. Also included here is the English translation of Dohms essay, The Old Woman, which is a compelling call for women to resist the social, intellectual, psychological, and physical restraints placed on women of Dohms time.

Dohms argument that old age renders women superfluous and invisible still applies today, as does her remedy: activity and growth. Ametsbichlers careful translation has a good flow and captures Dohms style. This attractive, informative book will delight those interested in 19th-century German literature, gender, and age. It deserves a wide audience. CHOICE

For a modern reader, it is shocking to realize that womens lives were over so soon and that nineteenth-century German society made no provision to integrate independent women once their husbands died. While in many cases Hedwig Dohm separates her political views from her fiction, this piece resonates with an indictment of the restraints placed on bourgeois womens education and identity formation. Susan L. Cocalis, editor of The Defiant Muse: German Feminist Poems from the Middle Ages to the Present


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