Skip to main content

Langeweile ist Gift. Das Leben der Eugenie Schwarzwald

Holmes, Deborah (2012) Langeweile ist Gift. Das Leben der Eugenie Schwarzwald. Residenz Verlag, St Poelten/Vienna, Austria, 388 pp. ISBN 978-3-7017-3203-6. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:30131)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.
Official URL


‘Boredom is Poison’. The Life of Eugenie Schwarzwald

Eugenie Schwarzwald, the Austrian education reformer, philanthropist, journalist and patron of the arts, was born to a Jewish family in East Galicia in 1872 and died in Swiss exile in 1940. She grew up in Czernowitz, but studied in Zurich, which was the nearest German-language university to accept female students at the time. In the summer of 1900, she became the first woman from the Habsburg Empire to graduate in Germanistik. She then settled in the imperial capital, one of the many internal migrants who fuelled the burst of creativity that was Vienna’s fin de siècle. Barely arrived in town and not yet thirty, Schwarzwald continued the series of ‘firsts’ that make her a fruitful subject for conventional biography: she founded one of the first girls’ schools in Austria-Hungary that prepared its pupils for university entry; the Empire’s first co-ed primary school; its first reformed girls’ grammar school; Vienna’s first cooperative restaurants (Gemeinschaftsküchen) and a series of pioneering children’s welfare initiatives. From her provincial beginnings, she became a corset-burning, cropped-haired, teetotal Über-mama, who terrorised successive Education Ministers.

Schwarzwald championed not only women scholars but also avant-garde iconoclasts, involving a series of highly influential figures in her schools and welfare projects – Adolf Loos was a close friend; she was also instrumental in the careers of Arnold Schönberg and Oskar Kokoschka, gave Robert Musil a helping hand, educated Sigmund Freud’s daughters and daughter-in-law, was satirised by Alfred Polgar and Egon Friedell, photographed by Madame D’Ora and dressed by Klimt’s protégées the Flöge sisters. She ran an open house that defined itself in opposition to the salons of Alma Mahler Werfel and Berta Zuckerkandl, and all in all, was never far from Vienna’s public eye throughout the seminal period 1900-1938. As well as being a full account of her life that includes previously unknown or neglected archive sources, my study takes issue with the pitfalls and rewards of biographical research on this ‘minor’ figure of Viennese Modernism. For example, I consider why Schwarzwald, whom Felix Dörmann famously described as ‘Napoleon in a petitcoat’, was so irresistible to writers of her time. Not only did she help promote modern and Modernist literature, in particular at her schools, but she also found her way into many Modernist works in a series of (semi-)fictionalised figures – as Diotima in Musil’s Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, for example, or as Hofrätin Schwarz-Gelber in Kraus’s Die letzten Tagen der Menschheit. Other writers who chose her as their subject or as the basis for a character included Jakob Wassermann, Egon Friedell, Alfred Polgar, Hugo Bettauer and Josef Weinheber.

Item Type: Book
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PT German literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Fiona Symes
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2012 08:45 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:08 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
  • Depositors only (login required):