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Rosa Mayreder (1858–1938)

Author of Zur Kritik der Weiblichkeit: Essays (German Edition)

Includes the names: Rosa Obermayer Mayreder

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Rosa Mayreder, née Obermayer, was born in Vienna, Austria. She was one of 12 children of Franz Obermayer, the owner of a prosperous tavern, and his wife Marie. She received a typical education for middle-class girls of her era: she was taught to play the piano, sing, speak French, and draw and paint. However, she wanted the same education as her brothers, and would later criticize the lack of educational opportunities for girls and women. As she grew up, she refused to wear a corset, a scandalous act in those days. She wrote about her struggles in her diaries and later in her autobiography, Das Haus in der Landskrongasse (The House in the Landskrongasse), published posthumously in 1948. She became acquainted with a number of artists, writers, and philosophers, including Wagner, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. In 1881, she married Karl Mayreder, an architect and professor, and presided over a salon of intellectuals and artists in their apartment. She published her first novella in 1897 and her first novel, Idole (Idol) in 1899. She became a pioneering women's rights activist and a radical critic of the double standard and patriarchal structures of society. These views motivated her influential nonfiction works, including a collection of essays called Zur Kritik der Weiblichkeit (1905), later published in English as A Survey of the Woman Problem, 1912); and Geschlecht und Kultur (Sex and Culture, 1923). She became a friend of Hugo Wolf and developed one of her stories as the libretto for his 1896 opera Der Corregidor. In addition to her writing, Rosa Mayreder became a watercolor painter and exhibitions of her work were held in Vienna and Chicago. During World War I, she was active in the peace movement together with Bertha von Suttner, and in 1919 became the chairman of the Internationalen Frauenliga für Frieden und Freiheit (International Women's League for Peace and Freedom).
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