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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Truly Radical Feminist

To many Wisconsin residents, Mathilde Anneke, who was born on April 3, 1817, symbolized the Forty-eighters who moved here from Germany in the mid-19th century.

Forced to support her family after the end of an early and unhappy marriage, Anneke learned about poverty and the oppression of women first-hand. Her second marriage, in 1847, was to Fritz Anneke, a young artillery officer with socialist leanings. The couple settled in Cologne, where they joined Karl Marx, Michael Bakunin, and Carl Schurz in the hope of creating a more just and democratic society. When the authorities suppressed their movement in 1848, the Annekes, Schurz, and other insurgents took up arms, and during military engagements Mathilde Anneke was reknowned for her horsemanship. Their revolution was crushed, however, and the revolutionaries were forced to flee abroad, Marx to London and the Annekes and Schurz to Wisconsin.

In March 1852, soon after arriving, she started the first feminist paper published by a woman in America, the Deutsche Frauen-Zeitung, and began a close collaboration with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She was an eloquent speaker at the national level and lobbied in Washington for women's rights. “Reason, which we recognize as our highest and only law-giver," she wrote in 1869, "commands us to be free.”

Her notion of freedom led Anneke to vocally oppose slavery and enthusastically support the Union cause during the Civil War. After the war, hoping to pass her ideals on to the next generation, she founded a school for girls in Milwaukee, which she ran until her death on November 25, 1884. In these articles she is remembered many years later by some of her students. With other notable German Forty-eighters, Mathilde Anneke lies buried in Milwaukee's Forest Home Cemetery. You can see more pictures of her at UW's Wisconsin Electronic Reader.
:: Posted in Odd Lives on April 4, 2005

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