WOMEN OF WICKLOW AND WURZBURG: INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY, 8 MARCH 2023
The following is the result of an informal initiative by a number of members of the Irish German Society of Co Wicklow and the Deutsch-Irische Gesellschaft Wurzburg, celebrating International Women’s Day, 8 March 2023, and marking the long-established links between Wicklow and Wurzburg.
These short accounts record the lives of two notable women, one each from Wurzburg and Wicklow. Both Johanna Stahl (1895-1943) and Anna Parnell (1852-1911) were politically-engaged women at a time when that was extremely problematic, both had women’s issues at heart, and both paid a heavy price – Stahl the heaviest of all - for their activism. We salute their contribution, the recovery of women’s stories and the links between women at local, national and international level.
Happy International Women’s Day, alles Gute zum Internationalen Frauentag!
Dr. Johanna (Henny) Stahl (1895-1943)
Johanna Stahl, also called Henny, was born into a Jewish family in Würzburg on 16th March 1895. She was the youngest of Samuel and Regine Stahl’s six children.
Although not yet common at that time, she started studying at university – initially German Philology at the University of Würzburg, later Economics at the University of Frankfurt/Main, in addition to taking classes at the Faculty of Law in Würzburg. In 1921 she sat her final exams. She had studied for four years for her doctorate and wrote her dissertation: The Social Significance of Furniture Hire Purchase Business and its Reform. Her father’s death in 1922 led to a drastic deterioration in the family’s economic situation. It was not until 1925 that her brother paid off the last instalment of her doctoral fees, which was merely 15 Marks.
Henny was actively involved in social and political issues. From 1927 she worked as a freelance journalist, primarily for the “Bayerische Frauenzeitung”. Her articles focused mainly on women’s issues, which included up to date information about the feminist movement.
Her great concern was social welfare and dealing with people affected by poverty. Within the Jewish community Johanna was committed to strengthening women’s rights, for example, by demanding managerial positions for women.
In the 1929 city council elections she ran for the left liberal “Deutsche Demokratische
Partei (DDP)”. Although she did not win a seat in the council, she got so many votes that she became a deputy council member which allowed her to take part in council meetings.
Under pressure from the Nazis, Henny had to give up writing for non-Jewish papers in 1933.
The many new restrictions on Jewish citizens made it clear to her that she had to intensify her work for the Jewish community in Würzburg. She took over the social and emigration counselling for the community members. The rapidly deteriorating situation for Jewish citizens meant that the best advice was to leave the country. Given that she was closely linked with organizations in Germany as well as abroad, she was able to forward vital information to those seeking advice.
From 1934 she was also involved in the working committee for counselling and economic aid for citizens affected by the occupational ban.
In 1938 Henny visited her brother Leo who was living in exile in Paris. She could have emigrated there and then, however, she returned to Würzburg to assist her mother and siblings, and to continue with the emigration counselling. For many persecuted people in Würzburg her help was their only chance to escape.
Henny was in contact with Dr. Gertrud Luckner, the resistance fighter who helped many to escape, and who in late February 1943 came to Würzburg to meet with ecclesiastical dignitaries and representatives of the Jewish community. Although no evidence has been found that the two women met, Henny was arrested under suspicion of conspiracy in March 1943.
On 17th June 1943 Henny, her sister Jenny and her brother Eugen were deported from Würzburg to Auschwitz concentration camp. They were murdered only a few days after their arrival there.
Johanna Stahl is the eponym for the Centre for Jewish History and Culture in Lower Franconia.
© Eva-Maria Barklind-Schwander
Text Eva-Maria Barklind-Schwander with the help of
Emma Phelan, Colette Steder and Salua Qidan
Riccardo Altieri: Jüdische Miniaturen - Johanna Stahl
Dr. Rotraud Ries: Mainpost 27th January 2023
Anna Parnell (1852-1911)
Born in 1852 at Avondale, Co Wicklow, Anna Parnell was one of eleven children of landowner John Henry Parnell and his American wife, Delia. Her father died when she was just seven, leaving considerable debts, and the family had to leave Avondale, living in a series of homes in Dublin and later for a time in Paris. Like most well-born girls of the time, Anna and her sisters were educated at home by governesses but were able to read widely and developed an early interest in Irish politics. While her sister Fanny had literary ambitions, publishing poems in praise of nationalist heroes, Anna was a talented artist, and as a young woman studied art in Dublin and London.
In 1875 Anna’s elder brother, Charles Stewart Parnell, was elected to Parliament at Westminster, where he soon achieved a prominent position in the movement seeking Home Rule for Ireland. Anna, by now living in London, attended the House of Commons regularly, reporting on debates from the ‘ladies’ cage’ to which female visitors were then confined. When agricultural depression and widespread hardship in Ireland in the late 1870s resulted in the agrarian disturbances known as the Land War, she supported the Land League, founded and headed by her brother, and travelled to America where she and Fanny raised thousands of dollars to finance its campaign.
Back in Ireland, the Land League leadership approached Anna to propose the establishment of a women’s organization, the Ladies’ Land League, which would assist the men and carry forward the work should Parnell and his colleagues be imprisoned. The LLL sprang into action, processing applications for relief, distributing funds, travelling around the country and speaking on platforms, attending and reporting on evictions, and supplying practical assistance to those made homeless. Membership grew rapidly – by the end of the year there would be over 400 LLL branches in Ireland, and members included a number of young women who would later be active in nationalist and feminist agitation.
With the arrest of C S Parnell and his colleagues in autumn 1881 violence intensified in the countryside, hugely increasing the problems facing the Ladies. Meanwhile, the LLL faced condemnation not only from its opponents in government, the Church and the press, but from the Land League leadership itself, which regarded it as extravagant and unduly radical in its approach. In April 1882 C S Parnell was released, paving the way for an agreement to end the campaign of resistance. The Land League immediately sought to exert control over the LLL, which angrily resisted direction and within a short time found itself with no option but to disband. At the same time relations between Anna and her brother broke down, leading to an estrangement which lasted until his death ten years later.
Disillusioned, exhausted, and grief-stricken at Fanny’s recent death, Anna retreated to England, where she lived in obscurity, sometimes under an assumed name, for much of the rest of her life. However, she did return to Ireland occasionally and continued to interest herself in Irish politics, forging links with some of the new generation of nationalist activists. Eventually, angered by misapprehensions about the LLL’s part in the Land War, she set out to write her own account of the campaign, in which she damned the Land League’s policy of ‘rent at the point of the bayonet’ as ‘not consistent with sanity’, and condemned the male leadership’s determination to keep the Ladies ‘at the grindstone’ while maintaining control over them. At the same time she looked to the future, hoping that ‘the noble example’ set by the Ladies ‘to all the women of Ireland’ would eventually be recognized. However, her work failed to find a publisher, and the manuscript was subsequently assumed to have been lost.
In 1910 Anna moved to Ilfracombe, a small seaside resort in Devon. She accidentally drowned while swimming in September 1911, and was buried in Holy Trinity churchyard, Ilfracombe a few days later. Only seven people attended her funeral, and over subsequent decades her name and achievements largely disappeared from view. However, the publication in 1986 of her rediscovered manuscript, The tale of a great sham, brought about a much-overdue reassessment of her role and that of the Ladies in the Land War of the 1880s, raising awareness of this early example of women’s ability to organize for a political cause and of the obstacles facing women in Irish nationalist politics.
Text: Rosemary Raughter
With assistance from Joan Jones
Jane Cote, Fanny and Anna Parnell: Ireland’s patriot sisters (1991)
Jane Cote and Dana Hearne, ‘Anna Parnell’, Mary Cullen and Maria Luddy, Women, power and consciousness in 19th-century Ireland (1995), pp 263-293.
Our Wicklow Heritage, Our Wicklow women: celebrating the 100th anniversary of the People’s Representation Act of 1918, pp 24-25, https://heritage.wicklowheritage.org/topics/wicklow_publications/our_wicklow_women-2
Anna Parnell, ed Dana Hearne, Tale of a great sham (1986, reissued 2020).
Rosemary Raughter, ‘Anna Parnell’, https://heritage.wicklowheritage.org/people/our_wicklow_women-2/anna_parnell
Margaret Ward, Unmanageable revolutionaries (1983)
Avoca River Stories, ‘A forgotten woman of history’ (2021) https://heritage.wicklowheritage.org/topics/county_wicklow_heritage_plan-3/heritage-week-2021/avoca-river-stories/a-forgotten-woman-of-history