Froebel's marriage and Verbot of the Kindergarten

from Life of Baroness von Marenholtz Buelow, 1901, by her niece, Baroness von Buelow

abridged by Johannes Froebel-Parker

Life in Berlin

Next winter my aunt stayed in Berlin-in the circle of her friends were Bettina von Arnim, Varnhagen von Ense, with his niece, Ludmilla Assing, Corina Liszt, the two Humboldts, Grimm, Diesterweg and others and they discussed Froebel's doctrine.

One of my aunt's most charming recollections were the evenings in Bettina von Arnim's Goethe Hall. The moon shone full upon the statue modelled by Bettina von Arnim herself of Goethe, and Joachim played Beethoven's music for them on his violin. (Bettina, as is well known, was the "child" who figured in Goethe's life-see BRIEFWECHSEL mit einem Kinde.)

Till late in to the autumn of the next year (1850) my aunt remained at Liebenstein. This autumn she made the acquaintance of Middendorf's son-in-law, Dr. Wichard Lange, from Hamburg, later the editor of Froebel's writings.

Very early the next year, 1851, my aunt hurried to Liebenstein within the Marienthal circle-Froebel's marriage with LUISE LEVIN. The old man of 68 years had decided on this second marriage in order to give his home and his young pupils the support of a lady. My aunt wrote a letter on this marriage to Dr. Gustav Kuehne, which I quote from "Gustav Kuehne, sein Lebensbild and Briesfwechsel mit Zeitgenossen.":

" Bad Liebenstein-June 1851. All those closely connected with Froebel have quite reconciled themselves to the step which seemd strange at first. Only common work for A GREAT IDEA, together with many other considerations for the welfare for the Institute-lent a holy sanctification to this union for the "cause."..and that no wordly and egoistic considerations were the leading motives for the marriage. I acted as his "best man" and everyone was moved agreeably by this hopeful courage which so seldom accompanies a young man at his betrothal now-a-days. My hopes rise higher and higher that with the spread and praxis of Froebel's idea WOMEN WILL BE TRAINED TO BECOME THE EDUCATORS OF THE HUMAN RACE and the preservers of the sacredness of all family ties. But men of intelligence must help, must come down from their height, bring the treasures of science and make them applicable for life itself. It is hoped that the projected meeting of the kindergarten friends at the end of September will assist us in this. Everything touching on politics and religion will be excluded from the debate which is to occupy itself wholly with the "cause."

Beyond the wedding festivities, my aunt took hearty part in all that concerned the little circles round Froebel. She shared joy and sorrow with her friends and was also this year the center of the society of the Baths, interesting all in "the Cause." She wrote endless articles, in papers and periodicals. Her first pamphlet was called,"The First Education of the Mother, According to Froebel's Method (but at that time they appeared always without her name) and she continued to learn from the lips of the master. The golden words of his doctrine she absorbed c ompletely into her whole soul and passed them on in her own intellectual manner.

In her book , Reminiscences, she states," On the 9th or 10th of August, we had just risen from dinner, at the castle Altenstein to which I had been invited, when the Duke with the "Vossische Zeitung" in his hand, cmae up to me and said, " The Froebel kindergartens are forbidden in Prussia!" I laughed and answered: "You are joking, Higness, how could that be possible?" But it was so, by a Prussian prescript of the 7th of August 1851. (Von Marneholtz-Buelow's note: it was an error caused by confounding the kindergarten with the high school (Oberschule) of Froebel's nephew-Karl Froebel)

But although Froebel explained this mistake in a letter to the Minister von Raumer, and although the Minister admitted the mistake, the kindergarten remained forbidden (verboten).

Later my aunt said," Later in Berlin, when at an audience with Queen Elizabeth, I delivered Froebel's petition to the King, I had very little hope of its success. The feeling that prevailed at court at that time was too much in opposition to the hope expressed by Froebel for the renewal of human society by a correct education corresponding to the actual stage of culture, to lead to the desired result. In my advocacy of Froebel's method I had run the risk of being myself taken for a "red," I was nevertheless most astonished by the views which I came to learn in my conversations with the minister. I saw that party fanaticism stuck the ind with perfect blindness, so that the only means of salvation offered against the evil of time were rejected as "deadly poison."

The newspapers with their "Kladderradatsch" about the danger to be feared in the kindergartens with their "three-year old demogogues," priase for them where they had been founded, sympathizing expressions from pedadogical authorities....nothing then could take the odium from the "cause."

In 1860 came the abolition of the prescript, though Froebel never lived to see this act of reparation. To me personally (i.e. Baroness von Marenholtz-Buelow) came an even greater satisfaction in thinking that my efforts, especially with the ministers of the "new era," had helped to achieve this result.


A proposal formulated by Carl Froebel, a nephew of the kindergarten founder, and Carl's wife Johanna provided the philosophical basis of the most radical experiment in women's education of the revolutionary period, the Hochschule founded in 1849. Carl and Johanna Froebel envisaged kindergarten training as a part of an ambitious program that aimed both to provide professional opportunities for women and to promote social transformation through the use of women's maternal gifts in the public sphere. The school's curriculum combined academic subjects with practical training in a kindergarten headed by Friedrich Froebel himself. Thus the kindergarten movement became associated with radical feminist movements. For this reason, the conservative regime that crushed the revolutionary movement in Prussia issued an order prohibiting all Froebel kindergartens in 1851. The decree, promulgated by Prussian minister of culture and education Karl von Raumer, condemned the kindergarten as a center of atheistic and socialist subversion. Many other German states followed the Prussian example.

After the ban, kindergarten founder Bertha von Marenholtz- Bulow (1811-1893) embarked on an ambitious campaign to spread the kindergarten to other European countries. She helped to found kindergartens in England, France, Belgium and Italy before returning to Berlin after the recision of the kindergarten ban to set up charity kindergartens and a training school in Berlin (the school was later moved to Dresden). German liberal activists who went into exile after the failure of the Revolution introduced the kindergarten to other countries. Bertha Ronge, who with her husband, radical clergyman Johannes Ronge, went into exile in England, founded the first kindergartens there. Her sister Margarethe, who emigrated to the United States with her husband Carl Schurz, founded the first American kindergarten in Wisconsin in 1853. Thus, the kindergarten movement became an international network, encouraging contact and cooperation among female reformers in many different countries. Meanwhile, the 1860s and 1870s were a period of renewed activism for German kindergarten founders, some of whom, like Henriette Goldschmidt (1825-1920) became leaders within the national feminist organization, the General Association of German Women. Froebelian views of women's social mission thus had a considerable influence on the later development of German feminism.

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