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History Lessons: Feminism. Queer. Animal Liberation.

There are many stories to be told about history of the animal rights and animal liberation movement and much more to uncover. Women in particular have been given little credit, although they were often amongst the first to fight for nonhuman animals. In this post, we share some of their stories.

We will continually update this blogpost, adding more information as we come across it. A German version of this post is available here.


German Vegetarian Women’s Magazine

Scan of a page of the German vegetarian women's maganzine from 1925
Scan of the 'Vegetarische Frauen-Zeitung' from June 1952. Image credit:

To this day, the history of the German animal rights movement remains largely unexplored. Thereby, the achievements of vegetarian women in particular have received little to no attention thus far.

As early as the 19th century, a large number of vegetarian associations and organizations existed in Germany; many of which published their own magazine or newspaper.

The first known association was the ‘Deutsche Verein für natürliche Lebensweise’ (‘German Association for a Natural Way of Life’), founded in 1867 by Eduard Baltzer, which counted thousands of members. In 1910, Martha Föster founded the first German vegetarian women’s association (‘Verein vegetarischer Frauen’). The association also published a monthly newsletter, the ‘Vegetarische Frauen-Zeitung’ (‘Vegetarian Women’s Magazine’). Martha Förster was one of the women behind the publication, which ran until 1925. The newsletter covered various topics, ranging from reports about animal cruelty in slaughterhouses to vegetarian recipes, health tips, and job and housing offers. The newsletter also published information on vegetarian associations and movements in other countries such as Mexico, Hungary, or the US. It is particularly noteworthy that the Vegetarian Women’s Association also discussed opening a retirement home for vegetarians, something we still lack to this date.

In 1931, the associations introduced the term ‘high-vegetarianism’, a concept which we now know as veganism. The word ‘veganism’ was introduced years later by the UK’s Vegan Society, in 1944.

The success of the vegetarian movement and associations in Germany came to a halt in the years following 1933, as the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers' Party) came to power. The majority of the dozens of vegetarian associations were terminated and those responsible for them disappeared underground. It wasn’t until long after World War II that the first vegan society was founded in Germany, in 1953.


Clara Wichmann

(* 17th August 1885 in Hamburg; † 15th Februar 1922 in Den Haag)

Portrait of Clara WIchmann, a young woman in a white dress. She looks just past the camera.
Portrait of Clara Wichmann. Picture credit:

Clara Gertrud Wichmann got involved in the feminist movement during her time as a law student. She advocated for women’s suffrage, non-violence, and the abolition of punitive justice as a guiding principle of criminal law. She was an anti-militarist and anarchist, who encouraged non-violent resistance against the state.

Clara Wichmann was also a pioneer of the animal rights movement. As early as 1920 she wrote a debate piece about the legal status of nonhuman animals in human society („De Nieuwe Amsterdamer”); where she also pointed out similarities regarding the situation of slaves and women. She demanded to recognize nonhuman animals as beings with rights of their own, decades before animal rights were discussed by Peter Singer or Tom Reagan. This is why she is also considered to be a forerunner of political antispeciesism.

Unfortunately, as of today, Clara Wichmann's groundbreaking ideas are only presented in abbreviated form. For instance, the Clara Wichmann Institute in the Netherlands, which was named after her, focusses exclusively on women's and children's rights.

She died shortly after giving birth to her daughter at the age of 36.

You can find more information here:


Rachel Carson

(*27th May 1907 in Springdale, Pennsylvania; †14th April 1964 in Silver Spring, Maryland)

Portrait picture of Rachel Carson on the coast near her cottage in Southport, Maine, in 1955.
Portrait picture of Rachel Carson on the coast near her cottage in Southport, Maine, in 1955. Photo courtesy of Martha Freeman.

Rachel Louise Carson was an US-American writer, marine biologist and ecologist. She is often considered the "mother of the environmental movement".

Rachel was born on May 27th 1907. She spent her childhood on a farm in Pennsylvania. Upon finishing High School, received a scholarship for studying at the Pennsylvania College for Women (today Chatham University), Pittsburgh, where she began to major in English to become a teacher. Inspired by her biology teacher Mary Scott Skinker, she changed her major to biology, as only one of three women. In 1929 she obtained a scholarship from Johns Hopkins University for an MA in Zoology.

In 1951 her book "The Sea around us" was published. For two years, the book remained on the New York Times bestseller list. The book was translated into 30 languages. In her book, Rachel used a combination of science and prose to offer fascinating insights into the secrets of the oceans.

Around this time, pesticides like DDT were heavily used in the US and elsewhere, especially on large fields of monocrop. As we know now, the use of pesticides has grave consequences for the environment and ecological balance.

In 1962 Rachel Carson's important work "Silent Spring" was published. “Silent Spring” criticizes the effects of pesticides on the environment. The chemical industry accused her of "fanatically defending the cult of the balance of nature" and took legal action against her and her book.

At this point, Rachel Carson had already seriously fallen ill with breast cancer. Despite her illness, she often worked until exhaustion to take legal action against the chemical industry, including Monsanto. Thanks to her work, DDT was banned in most Western countries in the 1970s. To this date, she is considered a courageous thinker and pioneer in the western environmental movement. She asked critical questions about complex, ecological relationships and the role of humans as but one part of nature.

Rachel Carson died at the age of 56.

Three weeks after Rachel’s death, Dorothy Freeman scattered part of her ashes into the sea in Maine, the place where had met and fallen in love 12 years prior. Although, officially, the two could not be a couple (Freeman was married and had a son), they sent each other passionate love letters. Carson wrote to Freeman “I love you beyond expression” to which Freeman, replied: “My love is boundless as the Sea”.

“Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is -- whether its victim is human or animal -- we cannot expect things to be much better in this world. We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing, we set back the progress of humanity.” - Rachel Carson

You can find more information at:


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