Marianne Ehrmann (née: Marianne Brentano-Corti, also Marianne Ehrmann-Brentano and Madame Sternheim, born 25 November 1755; † 14 August 1795) was one of the first women novelists, publicists and journalists in the German-speaking countries.
Life and career
Haus zum Goldenen Adler where Marianne Ehrmann-Brentano was born, Marktgasse in Rapperswil
Born in Rapperswil in the canton of St. Gallen in Switzerland, Marianne was the daughter of Sebastiana Antonia Corti (Curti) and the merchant Franz Xaver Brentano. She had nine siblings; her mother died on 22 April 1770. Around 1772/73 Franz Xaver Brentano moved with his children to Wurzach in southern Germany. In 1775 died also her father, and a little later died her only surviving sister. Marianne Brentano moved to her uncle Dominic von Brentano, who was a priest and chaplain at the Imperial Abbey of Kempten. He supported the young woman in the following years, when Marianne Brentano worked as a governess in aristocratic houses.
Around 1777 Marianne Brentano married an officer of unknown name, but she got divorced in 1779, after he gambled away the money and was violent, and she may have had a miscarriage caused by the ill-treatment of her husband. He indebted, stole money and fled to escape the punishment. Marianne was financially, physically and psychologically ruined after two years of marriage, fell into insanity and was guarded for months. With the help of her uncle, she recovered. About three years later, she went to Vienna, where she unsuccessfully worked as a governess, and then joined a troupe of actors. Under the name Madame Sternheim she stayed a number of years on the stage.
Theatergruppe Koberwein in Bern, drawing by Johann Jakob Lutz.
With various theater companies, among them with the group of Simon Friedrich Koberwein in Strasbourg, Marianne Brentano toured Austria, France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and even Hungary and Transylvania.
Her first books "Müssige Stunden eines Frauenzimmers" (literally: Moderate hours of a dame) and "Von einer Beobachterin" (from an observer) in 1784, and later "Philosophie" were published anonymously; the latter caused quite a stir. During a stay of the troupe in Strasbourg, Marianne Ehrmann met the junior postdoctoral lawyer Theophil Friedrich Ehrmann. Due to the resistance of his parents, they had to marry in secret in 1785, though her seven years younger husband lived with his parents and they met only in the evening until 1786, when the reconciliation with Ehrmanns parents occurred. Marianne Ehrmann published under the pseudonym Maria Anna Antonia Sternheim the spectacle "Leichtsinn und gutes Herz oder die Folgen der Erziehung", meaning literally levity and good heart or the effects of education. The Duke Charles of Württemberg and his wife Franziska provided Theophil Friedrich Ehrmann as professor in the Charles School, but they moved to Stuttgart in 1788, when the duke broke his word given. So Marianne Ehrmann became the co-editor on the journal "Der Beobachter" (observer), that was published by her husband.
Journalist, publisher and writer
Letter written by Marianne Ehrmann on 29 September 1789 to J. C. Lavater in Zürich to support her publications.
Marianne Ehrmann became one of the first women novelists and publicists in the German speaking countries. Around 1780, Marianne Ehrmann had published as Madame Sternheim the play "Leichtsinn und gutes Herz oder die Folgen der Erziehung". Beginning in 1787, she wrote for the Frauen-Zeitung newspaper which was also published by her husband, and the epistolary novel "Amalie and Minna". She also worked on the weekly Der Beobachter, published by her husband since August 1788. Her first literary success was in 1784 the novel "Philosophie eines Weibs" (literally: philosophy of a wife), in 1788 followed by the autobiographical epistolary novel "Amalie: Eine wahre Geschichte in Briefen" (literally: Amalie: a true story in letters). From 1790 to 1792 she issued the monthly published women's magazines Amaliens Erholungsstunden (literally: Amalie's holiday hours). Because the self-publishing could not handle the success of the magazine, Marianne and her husband agreed a year before on a takeover by the publisher Johann Friedrich Cotta, but in 1793 occurred irreconcilable conflicts with Cotta; Cotta founded the journal Flora with the subscriber base, and Marianne Ehrmann continued the magazine Einsiedlerinn aus den Alpen (literally: The women hermit in the Alps), whose contributions also mostly were written by herself. Die Einsiedlerinn aus den Alpen, published by Orell Füssli in Zürich, was the first magazine that was edited in Switzerland by a women; her early death stopped the further issues.
Amaliens Erholungsstunden was the first women's magazine, and it was self-published monthly by Marianne Ehrmann under her own name. She sent advance notices to acquaintances, friends and potential patrons to distribute these in the circle, and the first six editions resulted in an increase of subscribers. The debts contracted by the self-publishing were indeed paid off, but in all a financial disaster, that's why in January 1791 Marianne and her husband started a cooperation with the publishing house J. G. Cottaische Verlagsbuchhandlung in Tübingen. Marianne Ehrmann thought to concentrate on the journalistic work. Indeed, the magazine was very successful; the circulation of around 1,000 copies was relatively high for a journal aligned on women issues. It was focussing on readers from the upper middle class to support the social stiutation of women and to force that her readers express their own opinion. During the second year, probably caused by the censorship and by the publisher, a trivialization of the posts occurred, and Marianne and Theophil Ehrmann's contributions were partially replaced by third party contributions. In the third year the magazine became much more commercial and trivial, replacing Marianne Ehrmann's demands, and was adapted by the publisher to the contemporary social values, and the Ehrmann's quit. Cotta published the magazine under the new name Flora.
Einsiedlerinn aus den Alpen
Cover of Einsiedlerin aus den Alpen, first volume, published in Zürich in 1793.
In spring 1792 the publishing house Orell, Gessner, Fiissli & Cie in Zürich enabled Marianne Ehrmann to continue her work as a publicist. Beginning in December 1792 the first issue of Einsiedlerinn aus den Alpen was published. Marianne Ehrmann had to recruit new readers, and the couple informed their previous subscribers about their new magazine. The start of the cooperation with the publishing house improved the business position of Marianne Ehrmann. When there were problems between her husband and the publisher, the publisher wanted to announce the collaboration, but out of respect to Marianne Ehrmann she could continue to draw up the magazine. "Einsiedlerinn aus den Alpen" largely corresponded to the first edition of her first magazine, to publish true stories and serialized novels. Theophil Ehrmann only wrote a few posts, but took over the correction of the articles. Marianne Ehrmann sought their employees from herself, among them David Friedrich Gräter who became a close friend, Friederike Brun and Gottlieb Konrad Pfeffel. The edition of the magazine was solely in the hands of Marianne Ehrmann, but her disease delayed the publication of the journal, so that the first two volumes comprised 70% foreign contributions, and were delayed. In early June 1795 the last issue was completed and Marianne Ehrmann, plagued by her years of disease, thought to stop the contribution of the journal.
Death and aftermath
On 14 August 1795 Marianne Ehrmann Brentano died in Stuttgart at the age of 39 years of pneumonia. Her posthumous writings Amaliens Feierstunden (literally: Amalie's celebration hours) were published in 1796. Marianne Ehrmann's visionary dream of an individual female independence and her hope to establish an outliving progressive female publication were not realized within the next hundred years, but she was regarded by contemporary people as a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment.
1780: Leichtsinn und gutes Herz oder die Folgen der Erziehung. Ein Original-Schauspiel in fünf Aufzügen. (play, written as Madame Sternheim)
1784: Philosophie eines Weibs: Von einer Beobachterin. Im Jahr 1784. (novel)
1787: Amalie and Minna (novel)
1788: Amalie: Eine wahre Geschichte in Briefen (novel)