Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Gustav Landauer and Margarethe Faas-Hardegger

The IISH recently received a magnificent collection of letters and postcards from the German writer, anarchist and editor of Der Sozialist Gustav Landauer (1870-1919) to the Swiss socialist and peace activist Margarethe Faas-Hardegger (1882-1963) from the years 1908-1910. The letters reflect the ideas of Margarethe Faas, who met Landauer in 1908 when she was the first secretary for women workers of the Schweizerischer Gewerkschaftsbund and as such published two women's journals: Die Vorkämpferin (1906-1909) and L'Exploitée (1907-1908).

Only 26 at the time, Margarethe already had a very full and turbulent life dedicated primarily to women's emancipation. As the only daughter of a Swiss postal services official and a midwife, she long dreamed of studying medicine. Upon enrolling in law school, however, at the urging of her future husband - the legal scholar August Faas - she became increasingly fascinated with social issues. After her husband left the family to become an opera singer, she raised their two daughters on her own. Her encounter with Landauer, who at her invitation delivered lectures in Switzerland about subjects such as the Sozialistische Bund (SB), changed both their lives. Between the first postcard to "Herrn Mark Harda" (Margarethe Hardegger's pseudonym) dated 15 August 1908 and the first letter to "Geliebte Margarete" dated 25 August 1908, a passionate love affair bloomed alongside their professional relationship.

Both had high hopes for their joint political endeavours. Landauer hoped that this spirited and clever woman would be the ideal partner for the new edition of Der Sozialist; his ideas also strengthened Hardegger's desire to withdraw from the trade union movement to live and work more freely. At first this endeavour appeared promising, thanks to the prospect offered by the SB. Hardegger wrote, edited, and organized the distribution of Der Sozialist in Switzerland and opened a chapter of the Sozialistische Bund. She worked on projects involving residential and living communes such as the Ascona Commune. Ultimately, however, everyday problems as well as World War I led the group to disband. By 1914 Hardegger and Landauer were no longer close, although Hardegger continued to subscribe to his ideas.

Text was taken from On the Waterfront - newsletter of the Friends of the IISH Issue 8 (pdf, 739 Kb).