Women’s History: Women in the History of Animal and Conservation

March is all about women worldwide: with International Women’s Day on the 8th of the month and “Women’s History Month”, which is dedicated to the history of women in the USA, Great Britain and Australia.
Reason enough for a rudimentary search for clues in the history of animal and nature conservation associations in Germany: A few women were actually there, even in management positions. First and foremost Lina Haehnle (1851-1941), who in 1899 took over the presidency of the newly founded Association for the Protection of Birds, which was later to be merged into NaBu. Married to the liberal entrepreneur and politician Hans Haehnle (1838 -1909), who supported her commitment, the resolute mother of five sons shaped the work of the bird protection association for over 38 years. The NaBu has announced a new version of her biography for 2023, which should clarify her relationship to nationalism.
It cannot be ruled out that the Berlin geologist Margot Büttner (1900-1987) was involved in the Nazi era. Corresponding documents from the Volksbund für Naturschutz eV, which Büttner co-founded in 1922, disappeared after her death. Büttner was involved in his own public relations work. She wrote articles for the journal “Berliner Naturschutzblätter” and was the organizer of excursions and conferences. In order to anchor nature conservation in the middle of the population, she played a key role in establishing the “Märkische Naturschutztage” in 1924. From 1933 their activities can only be partially reconstructed. After 1945 she continued to work as secretary of the Volksbund für Naturschutz eV.
In 1933, the National Socialist co-ordination of animal and nature conservation organizations resulted in the exclusion of Jewish members. At the same time, the international Friends of Nature movement was banned. Supporters, including women, from this circle, which was close to the left-wing labor movement and social democracy, felt committed to the Nazi resistance: For example, Charlotte Eisenblätter (1903-1944), who was arrested in 1942 and executed in 1944 for “high treason”.
After the Second World War, Hannelore “Loki” Schmidt (1919-2010) made a name for herself in Germany as a nature and plant protector. In 1976, the wife of former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt founded the Board of Trustees for the Protection of Endangered Plants, which functioned as a foundation from 1979 and culminated in the Loki Schmidt Foundation in the mid-1980s. Today, the Loki Schmidt Foundation is also committed to protecting rare animals and annually chooses the “Flower of the Year” to preserve biodiversity.
The pacifist and cultural politician Erna Kretschmann (1912-2001) was committed to anchoring nature conservation in the GDR that everyone could experience and do at first hand. In 1960, together with her husband Ernst Kretschmann, she founded the Haus der Naturpflege in Bad Freienwalde in Brandenburg, which is still in existence today. She was also involved in the development of the conservation owl symbol.
In modern animal, nature and environmental protection, women are no longer the exception. Diversity is the key word for society as a whole. What has remained the same, however, is the broad social and political spectrum that unites animal, nature and environmental activists of different backgrounds, educational backgrounds and political persuasions for a common goal. This is also the case with the European Animal and Nature Conservation Association (ETN), whose office in Much in the Rhein-Sieg district is staffed exclusively by women.
Contact for queries:
European Animal and Nature Conservation Association
dead man 8
53804 Much
02245 6190-0

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