Bonn · The House of Women’s History in Wolfstraße in the Old Town in Bonn celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. It is the only institution of its kind in Germany. The board is still plagued by financial worries.
The photo went around the world and triggered a debate that should have been superfluous long ago: the heads of the most influential business enterprises were sitting comfortably together over lunch on the fringes of the Munich Security Conference in February. However, there was not a single woman among the 30 top managers. An isolated case? Of course not. Women are still not equally represented in politics or in business. Although, according to the Federal Statistical Office, there are more women (42.2 million) than men (41.1 million) in this country.
A snapshot that also confirms Alma Hannig, the new chairwoman of the association “House of Women’s History” in the old town, in her work. “Equality can only be achieved with a legal quota,” she is convinced. At the beginning of the year, she took over the management of this very special exhibition venue together with Caroline Smout and Kira Lizza. “We are the only institution of this kind nationwide. The House of Women’s History is a centre for the dissemination of women’s and gender history knowledge and exchange,” she explains. Because: “Women’s history is not the history of a minority. But it is still not adequately represented in public,” says Hannig. This became clear, for example, when it was commemorated in 2018 that women had only been given the right to vote 100 years earlier. “We were the only museum in the whole of Germany to hold a central event to mark the occasion,” she recalls. And recent history has also shown that equality is still not a given, she adds. “In the pandemic, it was once again women who took a back seat professionally. They stayed at home and tried to balance work, career, childcare and teaching,” says Hannig.
Since its founding in 2012 by the first female professor of women’s history, Anette Kuhn, who taught at Bonn University, the association has been committed to a gender-equitable society. In doing so, it always focuses on the historical merits of women and their significance for the present. However, the team is currently plagued by financial worries, as they regularly have to apply for funding. “In order to secure our work in the long run, we need stronger and, above all, permanent funding,” explains Caroline Smout. So far, the work is mainly done by volunteers and the museum educator Katrin Winter. In the long run, however, the quality can only be achieved with three full-time employees. “Stable structures can only be created with permanent staff,” Hannig says. “All of us here have a lot of imagination and lots of ideas. But there are limits to the commitment of voluntary work.” It would also be a great relief to her if at least the rent for the rooms could be secured.
Together with Jonas Steidle, the team has just conceived and realised a new exhibition in the rooms on Wolfstraße due to the current political situation in Ukraine. The role of women in war is thematised in seven different cycles. “We are currently experiencing a prime example of how quickly the situation can change and our lives come apart at the seams. There are many parallels to the fate of women in World War 1 to that of Ukrainian women who are now on the run with their children,” Hannig said. “The tragedy is repeating itself.” To mark International Women’s Day, the association will also present a work of art in its shop window. What will be shown? “We won’t tell you yet,” the new chairwoman says mysteriously. She can only reveal this much: “The installation combines the themes of women's history and war. We hope that many people will stop by and take a look at the artwork.”
And what does the new chairperson wish for the future on the occasion of International Women’s Day? “That we are no longer needed. We will only have reached our goal when our work is superfluous,” she says, knowing that this will still be a long way off.
The House of Women's History, Wolfstraße 41, is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 5 p.m. and on request outside these hours. Admission costs two euros, free for schoolchildren. More information at www.hdfg.de. In addition to presentations and lectures, museum educator Winter offers various film workshops. In addition, there will soon be guided tours of the city in which participants will follow in the footsteps of important women from Bonn.
Original text: Gabriele Immenkeppel
Translation: Mareike Graepel