Angela Steidele

Stories of Love - Adele Schopenhauer and Sibylle Mertens

Angela Steidele
Foto: Angela Steidele

Angela Steidele, born in 1968, Dr. phil., researches the history of lesbianism before 1869, when the term homosexuality was first characterized by Karl Maria Kertbeny.

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Angela Steidele is a German author who in her writings focuses on female love and female homosexuality respectively at the time immediately before its seizure by discourse, i.e. its ‘invention’ and subsequent ‘pathologization’, in the late 19th century.

Along the relationship between Arthur Schopenhauer’s sister Adele and Sibylle Mertens that oscillated between intimate and sisterly love-story, while always remaining a life-long friendship, Steidele’s profoundly researched book highlights the life of a small community of European and American female intellectuals, writers and artists who on the one hand belonged to the core of intellectual life in 19th century central Europe and who on the other had to pay an existential price for their independent life style.

Apart from Adele Schopenhauer and Sibylle Mertens – intellectual, art patron and collector, and expert for archaeology –, and other famous female figures such as Ottilie von Goethe, Anna Jameson, and Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Steidele vividly depicts various mid-century female lifestyles of single or married wives and mothers, of widows, sisters, friends, and (at times secret) love affairs of intellectual women, who, in an early emancipatory way, desired to live a life beyond patriarchal control. In her book, Steidele depicts those communication strategies, and the social and private places where this life could unfold. What lies at the center of her narrative is the strong group solidarity and mutual support that took place amongst the aforementioned women and expressed itself along pre-feminist strategies such as the refusal of marriage or domesticity, (self)education as well as concrete mutual moral and financial support, such as publication aids, legal advise, co-operations with an early woman’s magazine and/or secret births.

An insightful study of strategies of female self-assertion that preceeded the women’s rights movements of the late 19th and the feminist movements of the 20th century.


»The story of these two women is a great love story whose narrative format – at times melo-dramatic, at times operatic, at times with sing-song humour, full of evil children and brothers, envious heirs and generous revolutionaries, with backdrops in Weimar, Rome and Cologne, with coups, bankruptcy and Italian climaxes – is surely an offspring of the 19th century.« Jens Bisky, Süddeutsche Zeitung

»Academic literature is seldom as fascinating and entertaining to read as this double biogra-phy by Angela Steidele.« escape

»Angela Steidele has erected a literary memorial in her tale of love: astonishing in its disclo-sure, captivating in its narration.« Spiegel

»Angela Steidele has written an exciting, compassionate double biography using countless letters and witnesses to this unconventional couple, who were not only emotionally but also financially independent of men.« Basler Zeitung

»A book that enriches its reader with new perspectives.« Ruth Klüger, Die Welt