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Helene von Druskowitz

Helene von Druskowitz

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Helene von Druskowitz was an Austrian philosopher, writer and music critic. She was the second woman to obtain a Doctorate in Philosophy, which she obtained in Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

. She usually published under a male alias because of predominant sexism
Sexism, also known as gender discrimination or sex discrimination, is the application of the belief or attitude that there are characteristics implicit to one's gender that indirectly affect one's abilities in unrelated areas...



von Druskowitz was born at Hietzing
Hietzing is the 13th municipal District of Vienna . It is located west of the central districts, west of Meidling...

, in Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

In 1874 she moved to Zürich and completed her abitur
Abitur is a designation used in Germany, Finland and Estonia for final exams that pupils take at the end of their secondary education, usually after 12 or 13 years of schooling, see also for Germany Abitur after twelve years.The Zeugnis der Allgemeinen Hochschulreife, often referred to as...

 in 1878. After studying philosophy, archeology, German literature, Orientalism
Orientalism is a term used for the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists, as well as having other meanings...

 and modern languages, she became the first Austrian woman and the second after Stefania Wolicka
Stefania Wolicka
Stefania Wolicka is said to have been the first woman awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy in the modern European college system.She is said to have been followed by Helene von Druskowitz, with whom her name is often linked....

 to obtain a doctorate in philosophy, with a dissertation on Byron's Don Juan
Don Juan (Byron)
Don Juan is a satiric poem by Lord Byron, based on the legend of Don Juan, which Byron reverses, portraying Juan not as a womanizer but as someone easily seduced by women. It is a variation on the epic form. Byron himself called it an "Epic Satire"...

. She then worked as a literary history teacher in different universities (Vienna, Zurich, Munich, Basel). She also traveled to North Africa, France, Italy and Spain before returning to Vienna. In 1881 she met Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach
Baroness Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach was an Austrian writer. Noted for her excellent psychological novels, she is regarded—together with Ferdinand von Saar—as one of the most important German-language writers of the latter portion of the 19th century.She was born at the castle of Dubský...

 who introduced her to her literary circle. Three years later, she became acquainted with] Lou Andreas Salomé and Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

, whom she was introduced to by the circle of Malwida von Meysenbug
Malwida von Meysenbug
Malwida von Meysenbug was a German writer, who was a friend of Friedrich Nietzsche and Richard Wagner. She also met the French writer Romain Rolland in Rome in 1890, and is the author of Memories of an Idealist. She published the first volume anonymously in 1869.Von Meysenbug was born at Kassel,...

. Helene Druskowitz was one of the happy few who received a copy of the fourth book of Thus Spake Zarathustra, published at the author's expense. However, the relationship with Nietzsche did not last long.

In 1885 she published a book on Three English Writers, Joanna Baillie
Joanna Baillie
Joanna Baillie was a Scottish poet and dramatist. Baillie was very well known during her lifetime and, though a woman, intended her plays not for the closet but for the stage. Admired both for her literary powers and her sweetness of disposition, she hosted a brilliant literary society in her...

, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning and George Eliot
George Eliot
Mary Anne Evans , better known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, journalist and translator, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era...


Helene Druskowitz's brother died in 1886, and her mother in 1888. In 1887, she began a live-in relationship in Dresden with the opera singer, Teresa Malten. She started to drink excessively and also had some drug problems. After a romantic separation in 1891, she finally slipped into alcoholism, and was sent in 1891 to a psychiatric hospital
Psychiatric hospital
Psychiatric hospitals, also known as mental hospitals, are hospitals specializing in the treatment of serious mental disorders. Psychiatric hospitals vary widely in their size and grading. Some hospitals may specialise only in short-term or outpatient therapy for low-risk patients...

 in Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

. However, Helene continued to write and publish until 1905. She helped found the feminist reviews Der heilige Kampf (The Holy Struggle) and Der Federuf (The Call to Feud). Druskowitz criticized both religion, sexism and, after her break with Nietzsche, his philosophy.

She died at the end of May 1918 in in Mauer-Öhling, in the Ruhr, having spent the last 27 years of her life in a psychiatric institution.


  • Sultan und Prinz (1882)
  • Der Präsident vom Zitherclub (1883–84)
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley (1884)
  • Drei englische Dichterinnen (Three English Writers, 1885)
  • Moderne Versuche eines Religionsersatzes (1886)
  • Wie ist Verantwortung und Zurechnung ohne Annahme der Willensfreiheit möglich? (1887)
  • Zur neuen Lehre. Betrachtungen (1888)
  • Zur Begründung einer neuen Weltanschauung (Zur neuen Lehre) (1889)
  • Eugen Dühring. Eine Studie zu seiner Würdigung (1889)
  • Aspasia (1889)
  • Die Pädagogin (1890)
  • Philosophischer Rundfragebogen (1903)
  • Pessimistische Kardinalsätze (1988, with the title Der Mann als logische und sittliche Unmöglichkeit und als Fluch der Welt)

See also

  • Feminism
    Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights...

  • Nietzsche