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Wed 12 April
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    16.30 - 18.30

Thu 13 April
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Fri 14 April
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    11.00 - 13.00
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    16.30 - 18.30

Sat 15 April
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Friday 14 April 2023 16.30 - 18.30
T-12 WOM15 Risks (and Opportunities?) in Women's Biographies and Biographical Research
Volvosalen
Network: Women and Gender Chair: Elisabeth Lobenwein
Organizer: Katharina Scharf Discussants: -
Martina Gugglberger : The Risk of Failure: a Biographical Approach to Female Mountaineers
Expanding the limits is a crucial and normative principle of mountaineering. In the 1950s, these limits were symbolized by the 14 Himalayan summits defined as 8000 meter peaks. Especially in these high altitudes, mountaineers are confronted with various life-threatening risks.
In the period between 1950 and 1964, often designated as ... (Show more)
Expanding the limits is a crucial and normative principle of mountaineering. In the 1950s, these limits were symbolized by the 14 Himalayan summits defined as 8000 meter peaks. Especially in these high altitudes, mountaineers are confronted with various life-threatening risks.
In the period between 1950 and 1964, often designated as the ‘golden age’ of Himalayan mountaineering, teams from different countries realized first-ascents. However, the desire for new adventures and explorations in high-altitude mountains outside of Europe was more or less a male arena and can be identified as a ‘hyper-masculine’ activity. Since the 19th century, mountaineering was linked with male values such as risk, strength, courage, endurance, (military) comradeship, and highly related with male-dominated alpine clubs. The female elite of European mountaineers hardly had access to these expeditions. Until at least the late 20th century women remained a minority in high-altitude mountaineering and had to continuously prove their alpinist capacities against gender stereotypes and prejudices. Hence, especially women with ambitions to plan new and more risky expeditions were confronted with public interest and therefore an incriminatory pressure to succeed. The risk of failure for female high-altitude mountaineers was twofold. Not only was the sporting goal of reaching the summit at stake, but also standing up to social conventions that linked extreme mountaineering with masculinity.
Based on three biographies of female mountaineers from Scotland, France, and Poland, strategies are compared as to how women met these challenges from the 1950s to the 1970s. Monica Jackson (born 1920), Claude Kogan (born 1919), and Wanda Rutkiewicz (born 1943) were pioneers who expanded the limits of gendered spaces in mountaineering. A close-reading of (auto) biographical texts analyzes how these three protagonists coped with the danger of failure but also with social expectations and public interest. The paper further compares the entanglement of these biographies with social and transnational networks and will conclude by discussing the opportunities that mountain expeditions opened up for women climbers. (Show less)

Verena Lorber : Resistance under National Socialism – a Risk for the Entire Family?
Refusal of military service was usually punished by death by the Nazi regime. This was a risk that Franz Jägerstätter, a family man and farmer from St. Radegund in Austria, was willing to take. For his refusal of military service, he was executed on August 9, 1943 in Brandenburg an ... (Show more)
Refusal of military service was usually punished by death by the Nazi regime. This was a risk that Franz Jägerstätter, a family man and farmer from St. Radegund in Austria, was willing to take. For his refusal of military service, he was executed on August 9, 1943 in Brandenburg an der Havel. Today, he is an important figure in the Christian-motivated resistance against National Socialism. For his actions, Franz Jägerstätter was recognized as a martyr by the Catholic Church in 2007 and was beatified.
It is due to Franziska Jägerstätter, his wife, that his story is known to a broad public today. In 2007, she was awarded the Golden Cross of Merit of the Republic of Austria as a late recognition of her services to the preservation of her husband's memory. In previous research on contemporary history, little attention has been drawn to wives and the family environment of conscientious objectors, despite the fact that the decision also had consequences for the entire family. In many cases a conviction meant that family members were no longer able to claim financial support, they became social outcasts and, as in the case of Franziska Jägerstätter, single parents and family breadwinners.
For this reason, this paper addresses the following central questions: Who was the wife of the conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter? What risks was she exposed to as a result of her husband's act? What strategies did she develop to deal with the risks and life crises? What role did the Catholic faith play, on the one hand, as a risk under National Socialism and, on the other hand, as a help in overcoming the crisis?
Based on the biography of Franziska Jägerstätter and the couple’s correspondence, not only her individual biography – as an example of relatives of conscientious objectors – will be described. It can also be shown how gender roles and gender identities are formed in high-risk situations and what role cultural, political, societal and social framework conditions, such as the milieu in which one grows up or the gender policy of the state, play in this process. Therefore gender-sensitive biographical research in particular can provide important impulses for approaching Franziska Jägerstätter's life story and making visible gender orders, marginalizations and inequalities as well as strategies for overcoming risks and crises.
This paper aims to contribute to closing the research gap and to raise the question of how gender-sensitive biographical research can be reconsidered. (Show less)

Katharina Scharf : Fighting Environmental Threats – Biographies of Women Activists
Immediate and urgent risks such as nuclear reactor accidents, radioactive radiation, natural disasters caused by climate change or poisoning by pesticides, as well as perceived or feared risks such as the degradation of “beautiful” nature, are only a few examples of the complex relationship of dependency between humans and the ... (Show more)
Immediate and urgent risks such as nuclear reactor accidents, radioactive radiation, natural disasters caused by climate change or poisoning by pesticides, as well as perceived or feared risks such as the degradation of “beautiful” nature, are only a few examples of the complex relationship of dependency between humans and the non-human environment. It is highly relevant to look at the gendered aspects of this relationship or, for example, gendered impacts (e.g., environmental justice, vulnerability) and responses in crisis situations. So, for example, what were women’s responses to environmental risks in their daily lives and gender-sensitive management of crisis situations?
Our understanding of nonhuman nature and of the relationship between humankind and the environment has been shaped in large part by gender throughout history. And yet, environmental history shows a striking “gender blindness” (Virginia Scharff). It mainly concentrates on male, heteronormative master narratives that prefer to deal with natural disasters, "great" pioneers, and institutions, considering the actions of women too banal to be significant.
In the proposed paper, I want to address this deficit, because a great deal of basic research on women's history and women's biographies is still needed. It deals specifically with women in nature and environmental protection movements from the late 19th to the late 20th century in Germany and Austria – considering transnational and international networks and transfers. The paper deals with people who have purposefully worked for a nature or environmental protection cause. One of the main motives was the fear of or for something.
The paper is based on biographically oriented case studies, through which individual and collective experiences, as well as societal structures, power structures, and discourses can be examined. These biographical insights reveal certain constitutive elements of women in the environmental movements and in politics, for example, when they are accused of emotionality and other symbolically charged gender images.
And here, above all, the approach of “add women and stir” is critically reflected and discussed, to what extent women's biographies of environmentalists provide an important contribution to a modern history of women and gender. (Show less)

Sabine Veits-Falk : Struggling for the Access to Profession. A Collective Biography of the First Women Doctors
Until the late 19th century, better qualifying professional training was – with a few exceptions – a male privilege in Europe, from which women were excluded because of their gender. From the 1860s onwards, however, some women fought discrimination based on their sex, and eventually gained admission to the universities. ... (Show more)
Until the late 19th century, better qualifying professional training was – with a few exceptions – a male privilege in Europe, from which women were excluded because of their gender. From the 1860s onwards, however, some women fought discrimination based on their sex, and eventually gained admission to the universities. This was also true of academic medicine. But after having finished their studies, the first female graduates had to struggle again for the access to medical practice and they succeeded in this challenge, sometimes more, sometimes less. They worked in different areas of medicine, they were highly mobile and the first to shape the professional profile of a female doctor. In order to achieve their goal, they not only had to overcome formal and legal, but especially gender related obstacles.
What actions and what kind of “risks” did the protagonists have to take to do this? What opportunities did they seize? These processes and strategies that were closely related to the breaking up of hegemonic gender concepts are discussed in this paper, which is based on a study on the first generation of female doctors.
This study deals with the biographies of 29 women from different parts of the Habsburg monarchy who studied medicine in Switzerland before 1900. It was only this year that women were allowed to study medicine in Austria, so they left their homeland and went to Zurich or Bern, where women had been admitted to the universities already. After having obtained their degree, the women doctors practiced as a physician in Austria-Hungary and, after 1918, in the successor states of the monarchy, in Switzerland and in the USA and worked in various medical fields.
The method of collective biography was chosen to deal with the topic. The reconstruction of the protagonists’ life stories according to certain, largely uniform parameters should enable a comparison of their careers and fields of action. It proved to be an effective approach to achieve findings, despite the heterogeneity of their lives, which show both what is typical and what is special about the individual professional careers of the women in the study group in the respective legal, social, cultural and economic contexts.
The paper aims to critically reflect on whether the danger, the “risk”, of reproducing gender attributions and stereotypes can be counteracted with the method of collective biography. (Show less)



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