Visions of women in the life and works of Sigmund von Birken

Linda Ogden-Wolgemuth, University of Pennsylvania


Through both his writings and his position as president of the Nuremberg literary society, the Pegnesischer Blumenorden, Sigmund von Birken (1626-1681) played a significant role in the development of women's writing. His literary works can be seen as an exemplary embodiment of the curious mix of positive and negative portrayals of women which characterizes German Baroque literature. Throughout his career, he produced texts which spanned a wide range--from the early broadsides which generally criticized women who disobeyed the status quo to the later prose texts which demanded better education and fairer treatment of women. Birken's works echo the multifaceted discussion among his contemporaries about the controversial matter of women and their position in society. Even more crucial for the support of women's writing, however, was Birken's remarkable decision to mentor writing women, specifically the thirteen women admitted to the ranks of the mostly-male Pegnesischer Blumenorden. For the parties involved, the admission was reciprocally rewarding, often bringing prestige to both sides. For the women members, the admission to such a prominent literary society validated their literary production and provided them a space in which to write, to exchange ideas, and to receive tutelage. For Birken, the admission of already prominent women writers, such as Elisabeth von Senitz (1625-1679) and Gertrud Moller (1637-1705), contributed to the prestige of the Blumenorden, as well as provided Birken the opportunity to influence directly the issues of women's education and their participation in the literary sphere. These women provided a level of intellectual companionship not typically available within the domestic sphere, which also may have attracted Birken to them. As with many women writers of the time, these women typically limited themselves to traditionally feminine subjects--themes that touched their lives, such as the death of a child, the marriage of a friend, or the Blumenorden itself. With Birken serving as literary agent and mentor, these women could publish their works under the protection of society names, which in turn helped to further the cause of women's writing. ^

Subject Area

Biography|Literature, Germanic|Women's Studies

Recommended Citation

Ogden-Wolgemuth, Linda, "Visions of women in the life and works of Sigmund von Birken" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9829965.