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In Weimar Germany (1918-1933), the democratization of society provided women with the opportunity to fill roles that were traditionally held by men. Along with the increase of women in the production-based job market, women also began to occupy positions as white-collar workers. In this project, the way that women began to occupy positions in medicine and science is of particular interest. While these career paths were permissible by law, the actual representation of women doctors and scientists during the Weimar Republic is largely unknown; research on this topic has only recently become a burgeoning field. To understand how women in medicine and science were represented and perceived in Weimar Germany, along with the personal and professional challenges they faced, I compare two texts that provide insight into the lives of two women: one a fictional scientist, one a real practicing doctor. By juxtaposing Vicki Baum’s 1929 novel stud. chem. Helene Willfüer with Else Kienle’s 1932 book Frauen: Aus dem Tagebuch einer Ärztin, I gain glimpses into the perceived commonalities and hardships that women faced in pursuing careers in what was a “man’s world.” Through my analysis, it is most evident that women in medicine built social relationships with their patients, and took on supportive roles as trustworthy, maternalistic figures. Furthermore, women physicians were often perceived by the public and perceived themselves as political figures. Similarities between the two very different texts I examine also leads me to believe that women working in these male-dominated spheres were under daily pressure to maintain an unthreatening appearance by exaggerating their femininity.
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