“The Constitution is only a Meaningless Piece of Paper.” Citizenship, Constitution and the Limits of Equality for Women in Weimar Germany and East- and Central Europe (1918-1933)

In my talk I show the discrepancies between the legal preexistence of fundamental rights in the Weimar Constitution and the historical meanings and experiences of women’s citizenship (or their absence) in the time of the Weimar years. Against the background of the granting women’s right to vote and the establishment of equal rights in the constitution, these rights only slowly gained material strength in application. It will also show that the “fundamental” weakness of the Weimar Constitution did not lead to a “failure” in gender equality to the extent that has often been assumed so far in women’s history but that the “Weimar moment” opened a space for negotiation of gender roles. While the talk will focus on Weimar Germany, it will also refer to similar events in some of the new states of East- and Central Europe which were established after World War I, where new constitutions were passed as well and women also fought for the translation of their constitutional rights into reality.