Alice Salomon

Alice Salomon was one of the 20th century's most prominent figures in the German and international women's movement. She was also active in the development of a critical and scientific approach to social welfare. Critical interest in her work has not diminished with time. Rather, interest in the work of Alice Salomon significantly increased at the end of the 20th century. Born 1872 in Berlin to an emancipated and assimilated Jewish middle-class family, Alice Salomon converted to Protestantism in 1914, although her family background left an impression on her. However, elements of the Protestant social ethic became the basis of her work. Her decision to study and pursue a career was beyond the expectations of a daughter from a middle-class family. Nevertheless, Alice Salomon was determined and became part of a pioneering generation of women claiming the right to attend universities.  

From 1893, Alice Salomon was active in a social-reform initiative known as the "Girls and Women's Groups for Social Service Work", which was associated with the German women's movement and the liberal middle-class. She worked in an institution for girls and in a home for working women, and became the organization’s Chair in 1899. At the age of 27, Alice Salomon was renowned for combining social work with conceptual and organizational work, as well as with pedagogical and political activity. 

By 1900 Alice Salomon assumed a position with the Board of the Federation of German Women's Associations, and was active in various commissions for the protection of women workers. In addition, she worked as secretary, and later vice-president, for the International Council of Women. 

Due to limited schooling available to young women at that time, Alice Salomon did not acquire the high school certificate required for formal admittance into a university, so, from 1902 until 1906 Alice Salomon attended the Berlin University as a guest student. However, it was the publication of her two articles on the German women's movement that qualified her for university attendance. Additionally, her achievements in science and social policy helped Alice Salomon receive permission from the Minister of Education to complete a doctorate. In her doctoral work, Alice Salomon analyzed the inequality in remuneration for work between men and women; a subject of some controversy at that time. 

Between 1908 and 1933, Alice Salomon's achievements included: the founding of the Social School for Women in Berlin; the German Academy for Social and Pedagogical Women's Work, which included a Special Division for empirical research; organizer and Chair of the Conference of Social Women's Schools in Germany; and founder and Chair of the International Association of Schools of Social Work. Many of her projects continue to this day. It was only the Academy of Social and Pedagogical Women's Work that Alice Salomon was forced to close to avoid the search of her home by the Gestapo and the Academy's inevitable dismantling. The Academy was never re-established. 

In addition to the field of social practice, Alice Salomon was also a leader in the areas of science and theory. She combined increasing differentiation and specialization of social work with a model of theory and practice using an interdisciplinary approach. Alice Salomon had this to say about her work in her memoirs:  

"There was no "ready-to-buy" science of social work which we could use in teaching. The staff had to develop it themselves. There were no text books – we had to write them. Ours was genuine team-work, a most intimate cooperation, coloring the school with the peculiar character that education for social work needs." Her work at the German Academy for School and Pedagogical Women's Work allowed her to further develop this approach by offering a variety of courses in social work at a university level which combined a practical and interdisciplinary approach, with an explicit focus on women. In addition, the Research Division at the Academy focused on applied and empirical research. 

As the National Socialists came to power in 1933, Alice Salomon was forced out of public offices, and in 1937 she was expelled from Germany by the Gestapo and forced to emigrate to the United States. Anti-Semitism, which increased in Germany since World War I, prevented the nomination of Alice Salomon for Chair of the Federation of German Women's Associations, and prevented her nomination for Chair of the International Council of Women. Alice Salomon died in New York City in 1948. 

Today, the Alice Salomon Archive institute in Berlin contains a collection of files, documents, photos, and writing by Alice Salomon dating back to 1900. The institute is open to the public.

Application deadline 15th of May 2018


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