"Gentlemen and ladies," Marie Juchacz began her speech before the Weimar National Assembly on 19 February 1919. The parliamentary records note that this unusual welcome was met with "hilarity". But there was a serious and trailblazing background to her choice of words.
The social democrat Marie Juchacz was the first woman to have the opportunity to address a German parliament from the lectern. It was a historic day for Germany and an important milestone on the way to greater gender equality.
Suffrage for women
Until shortly before her historic address, women had had little say in German politics or society. Active and passive suffrage for women was only introduced in the ordinance for the elections to the constituent National Assembly dated 30 November 1918.
This was the birth of women’s suffrage. Women in Germany were able to exercise their new rights for the first time at national level in the election to the National Assembly on 19 January 1919.
A proponent of women’s rights speaks
One month later, the member for Potsdam Marie Juchacz, was able to speak in parliament:
"It is the first time in Germany that a woman has been able to speak freely on an equal basis in parliament to the people. I would like to note here, and I believe that I speak for many, that we German women are not bound to thank this government in the traditional sense. What this government has done is only natural. It has given women what they had hitherto wrongfully been denied."
Founder of the Arbeiterwohlfahrt (workers’ welfare association)
Her own major social achievement was the founding of the Arbeiterwohlfahrt (workers’ welfare association) in December 1919. Thousands of disabled veterans, widows and orphans were left without any sort of social assistance at the end of the First World War.
On the initiative of Marie Juchacz, a sustainable organisation developed swiftly, offering training facilities for social workers, nurseries and recuperation homes. Several towns in Germany named streets after her: "Marie-Juchacz-Straße" or "Marie-Juchacz-Weg".
The social politician and women’s rights activist Marie Juchacz was born on 15 March 1879 in Landsberg an der Warthe (today Gorzów Wielkopolski). She died on 28 January 1956 in Düsseldorf. She was a member of the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD) and founder of the Arbeiterwohlfahrt (workers’ welfare association). Her active role in Germany’s women’s movement and in women’s fight for equal rights remains unforgotten to this day.