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Gerda Henkel Visiting Professor

Professor Johanna Gehmacher is the Gerda Henkel Visiting Professor for 2018/2019. She will spend a year researching and teaching at the German Historical Institute London and at the London School of Economics.

Johanna Gehmacher’s research focuses on women’s and gender history of the 19th and 20th century in Europe. Among other issues, she is interested in processes of democratisation and dedemocratisation in industrialized societies of the early 20th century in Europe, in concepts of community and individuality in high modernity, as well as in the history of biographical thinking as a site of recurring de- and reconstruction of gendered and nationalised identities.

Together with Elisa Heinrich and Corinna Oesch she has recently published a comprehensive biography on radical feminist and later German nationalist activist Käthe Schirmacher (1865-1930), who has lived as a journalist in Paris for many years and participated in various transnational feminist networks. ( During her stay in London, Professor Gehmacher will, among other things, look into Schirmacher’s networks in Great Britain where she has tought French and German as a young woman and later became a translator and communicator of British radical activism to the European continent.

An Austrian native, Professor Gehmacher received her graduate and post-graduate training at the University of Vienna. She has taught at the universities of Salzburg and Vienna, since 1998 she works at the Department for Contemporary History at the University of Vienna, since her habilitation in 2001 as a Professor. She is a speaker of the research network on women’s and gender history at the Faculty of Historical and Cultural Studies and an active member of a Vienna-based transdisciplinary network on biographical research. (

Email: j.gehmacher(ghi)


Cultural History of the Long 20th Century; History and Practice of Biographical Thinking; Women’s and Gender History; Social Movements; National Socialism in European History: Movement, Regime, Posthistory

Recent Publications

Käthe Schirmacher: Agitation und autobiografische Praxis zwischen radikaler Frauenbewegung und völkischer Politik. (Together with Elisa Heinrich and Corinna Oesch) Wien, Köln, Weimar 2018

Narratives of Race, Constructions of Community and the Demand for Female Participation in German-nationalist Movements in Austria and the German Reich. In: Lara Day Benjamin/ Oliver Haag, Hg.: The Persistence of Race from the Wilhelmine Empire to National Socialism. Re-Examining Constructions and Perceptions of Cultural Narratives of Race in German History, 1871-1945. Oxford and New York 2017

„Österreichs Söhne“ und die „Töchter der Zeit“: Prolegomena zu einer Erfahrungsgeschichte nationaler Identitätspolitik. In : Bios. Zeitschrift für Biographieforschung, Oral History und Lebensverlaufsanalysen. 27 (2014), 1+2, 44-60 (published 2016)

A Case for Female Individuality: Käthe Schirmacher – Self-Invention and Biography, in: Joy Damousi/ Birgit Lang, Katie Sutton, Hg.: Case Studies and the Dissemination of Knowledge. New York 2015, 66-79

Research Project

Records and Notes from Trans/National Networks: Politics and Women’s Movement around 1900 in the Personal Papers of Käthe Schirmacher (1865-1930)

Around 1900, women’s movements represented a dynamic and intensely debated faction of the general public in many European and transatlantic countries. Considerable strands of debate in and between these movements, however, took place in private correspondences and internal discussions. Personal papers are therefore an important source in understanding the ongoing transformations of gender concepts and the gender regime that formed an important part of the larger cultural and political transformations at the beginning of the twentieth century. Working with the papers of Danzig-born activist Käthe Schirmacher, Professor Gehmacher is preparing a study on the documentation and reflection of transnational feminist communication, its processes and acts, as revealed in diaries and personal letters.

Inaugural Lecture

Translating Feminism in National and Transnational Spaces. A Biographical Perspective on Women's Movements around 1900

27 November (6.30pm) at the London School of Economics (CLM.4.02, Clement House, Aldwych, London WC2A 3LJ)

Political movements such as women’s movements around 1900 operated mostly in national arenas. The ideas and demands they propagated were, however, circulated (and transformed) transnationally. The talk takes the example of Käthe Schirmacher (1865-1930), a Danzig-born political activist who travelled widely through Europe before the Great War to discuss how women’s movements could share their different political concepts.

The Gerda Henkel Visiting Professorship is a co-operation of the Department of International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the German Historical Institute London (GHIL), and the Gerda Henkel Professor’s home university. Its purpose is to promote awareness in Britain of German research on the history of the German Federal Republic and the German Democratic Republic, and to stimulate comparative work on German history in a European context. The first professorship was awarded in 2009.

Previous Visiting Professors:

  • 2017/2018 — Prof Dr Arnd Bauerkämper (Berlin): Security and Humanity in the First World War. The Treatment of Civilian “Enemy Aliens” in the Belligerent States
  • 2016/2017 — Prof Dr Dominik Geppert (Bonn): A History of Divided Germany, 1945-1990
  • 2015/2016 — Prof Dr Lutz Raphael (Trier): Transformations of industrial labour in Western Europe between 1970 and 2000
  • 2014/2015 — Prof Dr Kiran Klaus Patel (Maastricht): Welfare in the Warfare State: Nazi Social Policy on the International Stage
  • 2013/2014 — Prof Dr Dorothee Wierling (Hamburg): Coffee Worlds. Trade in Green Coffee and its Agents: The Hamburg Coffee Merchants in the 20th century
  • 2012/2013 — Prof Dr Andreas Rödder (Mainz): The History of the Present
  • 2011/2012 — Prof Dr Ute Daniel (Braunschweig): Media and politics - an entangled history (c. 1900-1980)
  • 2010/2011 — Prof Dr Christoph Cornelißen (Frankfurt am Main): The British and German welfare states after "the great boom": public debates on social inequality and social justice since the 1970s
  • 2009/2010 — Prof Dr Johannes Paulmann (Mainz): International aid and solidarity: Humanitarian commitment and the media in Germany, c. 1950-1985


Gerda Henkel Foundation:
Dr Sybille Wüstemann
Tel.: +49 (0)211/936524 0
E-Mail: wuestemann(ghi)

German Historical Institute London:
Dr Tobias Becker
Tel.: +44 (0)20/7309 2016
E-Mail: becker(ghi)