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Johanna Kinkel (1810–1858)

Author of Acht Briefe an eine Freundin über Clavier-Unterricht

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Johanna Kinkel was born in Bonn, Germany. She was a talented pianist as a child and took lessons from Franz Anton Ries, Beethoven’s childhood violin instructor. With his support, she began a career as a piano teacher and accompanist while still in her teens. In 1832, she left a brief, unhappy first marriage to Johann Paul Mathieux, a Cologne bookseller, and obtained a divorce, a highly unusual act for a woman in her era. She went to Berlin, where she studied further and established herself as a composer. Returning to Bonn, she became a conductor and worked with various chamber music and vocal ensembles. She founded a literary salon called the Maikäferbund (Ladybug Society). In 1843, she married as her second husband Gottfried Kinkel, a poet and Protestant theologian, with whom she had four children. She wrote articles on musical subjects, including regular reviews of musical events for the Bonner Zeitung, a pro-democracy newspaper she and her husband also edited with Carl Schurz. Johanna and her husband participated in revolutionary activities during the 1848 uprising in Baden. Her husband was arrested, imprisoned, and condemned to death, but she helped arrange his escape in 1850. They fled to London, where she supported the family by giving music lessons and published two books on music education while her husband went on a tour of the USA in search of donations for the revolution. In 1858, at age 48, she died as the result of a fall from a window of her home that may have been suicide or an accident. Her autobiographical novel, Hans Ibeles in London, was published posthumously in 1860.
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