Feminism, Science, and Politics of Infanticide in Wilhelmine Germany

S.E. Jackson


This essay examines how public figures in the German women’s movements and modern sciences in the early twentieth century cultivated political authority through discourses and legal practices related to infanticide. Over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, views had shifted from considering the Kindsmörderin a monstrous criminal to situating infanticide as a complex legal, sociological, and scientific concern. Around 1900 public discourse on the crime expanded to encompass evolving socio-cultural expectations for modern women, connecting it to the so-called Frauenfrage, and feminists took active interest in the subject. This article argues that, in combination, the culturalhistorical importance of the figure, the ambivalent moral status of the Kindsmörderin and the affective impact of the crime itself, and the crime’s Privilegierung in the criminal code, made infanticide a potential point of access for emerging political agents to influence public opinion and policy in the newly formed German nation. (SEJ)

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