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A Practical Illustration of Woman's Right to Labor by Marie E. Zakrzewska

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[Transcriber's Note: Footnotes have been renumbered and moved to the end.]

A Practical Illustration of "Woman's Right to Labor;"


A Letter from Marie E. Zakrzewska, M.D.
Late of Berlin, Prussia

Edited By

Caroline H. Dall,

Author of "Woman's Right To Labor,"
"Historical Pictures Retouched," &c. &c.

"Whoso cures the plague,
Though twice a woman, shall be called a leech."

"And witness: she who did this thing was born
To do it; claims her license in her work."

Aurora Leigh.


To the Hon. Samuel E. Sewall, Faithful Always To "Women And Work," and One
of the Best Friends of The New-England Female Medical College, The Editor
Gratefully Dedicates This Volume.

"The men (who are prating, too, on their side) cry,
'A woman's function plainly is ... to talk.'"

He doubts is, whether we can _do_ the thing
With decent grace we've not yet done at all.
Now do it."

"Bring your statue:
You have room."

"None of us is mad enough to say
We'll have a grove of oaks upon that slope,
And sink the need of acorns."


It is due to myself to say, that the manner in which the Autobiography is
subordinated to the general subject in the present volume, and also the
manner in which it is _veiled_ by the title, are concessions to the
modesty of her who had the best right to decide in what fashion I should
profit by her goodness, and are very far from being my own choice.

Caroline H. Dall.

49. Bradford Street, Boston,
Oct. 30, 1860.

Practical Illustration of "Woman's Right to Labor"

It never happens that a true and forcible word is spoken for women, that,
however faithless and unbelieving women themselves may be, some noble men
do not with heart and hand attempt to give it efficiency.

If women themselves are hard upon their own sex, men are never so in
earnest. They realize more profoundly than women the depth of affection
and self-denial in the womanly soul; and they feel also, with crushing
certainty, the real significance of the obstacles they have themselves
placed in woman's way.

Reflecting men are at this moment ready to help women to enter wider
fields of labor, because, on the one side, the destitution and vice they
have helped to create appalls their consciousness; and, on the other, a
profane inanity stands a perpetual blasphemy in the face of the Most High.

I do not exaggerate. Every helpless woman is such a blasphemy. So, indeed,
is every helpless man, where helplessness is not born of idiocy or
calamity; but society neither expects, provides for, nor defends, helpless

So it happened, that, after the publication of "Woman's Right to Labor,"
generous men came forward to help me carry out my plans. The best printer
in Boston said, "I am willing to take women into my office at once, if you
can find women who will submit to an apprenticeship like men." On the same
conditions, a distinguished chemist offered to take a class of women, and
train them to be first-class apothecaries or scientific observers, as they
might choose. To these offers there were no satisfactory responses. "Yes,"
said the would-be printers, "we will go into an office for six months;
but, by that time, our oldest sisters will be married, and our mothers
will want us at home."

"An apprenticeship of six years!" exclaimed the young lady of a chemical
turn. "I should like to learn very much, so that I could be a chemist, _if
I ever had to_; but poison myself for six years over those 'fumes,' not
I." It is easy to rail against society and men in general: but it is very
painful for a woman to confess her heaviest obstacle to success; namely,
the _weakness of women_. The slave who dances, unconscious of degradation
on the auction-block, is at once the greatest stimulus and the bitterest
discouragement of the antislavery reformer: so women, contented in
ignominious dependence, restless even to insanity from the need of healthy
employment and the perversion of their instincts, and confessedly looking
to marriage for salvation, are at once a stimulus to exertion, and an
obstacle in our way. But no kind, wise heart will heed this obstacle.
Having spoken plain to society, having won the sympathy of men, let us see
if we cannot compel the attention of these well-disposed but thoughtless

"Six years out of the very bloom of our lives to be spent in the
printing-office or the laboratory!" exclaim the dismayed band; and they
flutter out of reach along the sidewalks of Beacon Street, or through the
mazes of the "Lancers."

But what happens ten years afterward, when, from twenty-six to thirty,
they find themselves pushed off the _pave_, or left to blossom on the
wall? Desolate, because father and brother have died; disappointed,
because well-founded hopes of a home or a "career" have failed;
impoverished, because they depended on strength or means that are
broken,--what have they now to say to the printing-office or the
apothecary's shop? They enter both gladly; with quick woman's wit,
learning as much in six months as men would in a year; but grumbling and
discontented, that, in competing with men who have spent their whole lives
in preparation, they can only be paid at half-wages. What does common
sense demand, if not that women should make thorough preparation for
trades or professions; and, having taken up a resolution, should abide by
all its consequences like men?

Before cases like these my lips are often sealed, and my hands drop
paralyzed. Not that they alter God's truth, or make the duty of protest
against existing wrong any less incumbent: but they obscure the truth;
they needlessly complicate the duty.

Perplexed and anxious, I have often felt that what I needed most was an
example to set before young girls,--an example not removed by superiority
of station, advantage of education, or unwonted endowment, beyond their
grasp and imitation.

There was Florence Nightingale. But her father had a title: it was fair
to presume that her opportunities were titled also. All the girls I knew
wished they could have gone to the Crimea; while I was morally certain,
that the first amputation would have turned them all faint. There was
Dorothea Dix: she had money and time. It was not strange that she had
great success; for she started, a monomaniac in philanthropy, from the
summit of personal independence. Mrs. John Stuart Mill: had she ever
wanted bread? George Sand: the woman wasn't respectable. In short,
whomsoever I named, who had pursued with undeviating perseverance a worthy
career, my young friends had their objections ready. No one had ever been
so poor, so ill educated, so utterly without power to help herself, as
they; and, provoking as these objections were, I felt that they had force.
My young friends were not great geniuses: they were ordinary women, who
should enter the ordinary walks of life with the ordinary steadfastness
and devotion of men in the same paths; nothing more. What I wanted was an
example,--not too stilted to be useful,--a life flowing out of
circumstances not dissimilar to their own, but marked by a steady will, an
unswerving purpose. As I looked back over my own life, and wished I could
read them its lessons,--and I looked back a good way; for I was very
young, when the miserable destitution of a drunkard's wife, whom I
assisted, showed me how comfortable a thing it was to rest at the mercy of
the English common law,--as I looked back over my long interest in the
position of woman, I felt that my greatest drawback had been the want of
such an example. Every practical experiment that the world recorded had
been made under such peculiar circumstances, or from such a fortuitous
height, that it was at once rejected as a lesson.

One thing I felt profoundly: as men sow they must reap; and so must women.
The practical misery of the world--its terrible impurity will never be
abated till women prepare themselves from their earliest years to enter
the arena of which they are ambitious, and stand there at last mature and
calm, but, above all, _thoroughly trained_; trained also at _the side of
the men_, with whom they must ultimately work; and not likely, therefore
to lose balance or fitness by being thrown, at the last moment, into
unaccustomed relations. A great deal of nonsense has been talked lately
about the unwillingness of women to enter the reading-room of the Cooper
Institute, where men also resort.

"A woman's library," in any city, is one of the partial measures that I
deprecate: so I only partially rejoice over the late establishment of such
a library in New York. I look upon it as one of those half-measures which
must be endured in the progress of any desired reform; and, while I wish
the Cooper Institute and its reading-room God-speed with every fibre of my
consciousness, I have no words with which to express my shame at the
mingled hypocrisy and indelicacy of those who object to use it. What woman
stays at home from a ball because she will meet men there? What woman
refuses to walk Broadway in the presence of the stronger sex? What woman
refuses to buy every article of her apparel from the hands of a man, or to
let the woman's tailor or shoemaker take the measure of her waist or foot;
try on and approve her coiffure or bernouse?

What are we to think, then, of the delicacy which shrinks from the
reading-room frequented by men; which discovers so suddenly that magazines
are more embarrassing than mazourkas; that to read in a cloak and hat
before a man is more indelicate than to waltz in his presence half denuded
by fashion?

Of course, we are to have no patience with it, and to refuse utterly to
entertain a remonstrance so beneath propriety.

The object of my whole life has been to inspire in women a desire for
_thorough training_ to some special end, and a willingness to share the
training of men both for specific and moral reasons. Only by sharing such
training can women be sure that they will be well trained; only by
God-ordained, natural communion of all men and women can the highest moral
results be reached.

"Free labor and free society:" I have said often to myself, in these two
phrases lies hidden the future purification of society. When men and women
go everywhere together, the sights they dare not see together will no
longer exist.

Fair and serene will rise before them all heights of possible attainment;
and, looking off over the valleys of human endeavor together, they will
clear the forest, drain the morass, and improve the interval stirred by a
common impulse.

When neither has any thing to hide from the other, no social duty will
seem too difficult to be undertaken; and, when the interest of each sex is
to secure the purity of the other, neither religion nor humanity need
despair of the result.

It was while fully absorbed in thoughts and purposes like these, that, in
the autumn of 1856, I first saw Marie Zakrzewska.[1] During a short visit
to Boston (for she was then resident in New York), a friend brought her
before a physiological institute, and she addressed its members.

She spoke to them of her experience in the hospital at Berlin, and showed
that the most sinning, suffering woman never passed beyond the reach of a
woman's sympathy and help. She had not, at that time, thoroughly mastered
the English language; though it was quite evident that she was fluent,
even to eloquence, in German. Now and then, a word failed her; and, with a
sort of indignant contempt at the emergency, she forced unaccustomed words
to do her service, with an adroitness and determination that I never saw
equalled. I got from it a new revelation of the power of the English
language. She illustrated her noble and nervous thoughts with incidents
from her own experience one of which was told in a manner which impressed
it for ever on my consciousness.

"Soon after I entered the hospital," said Marie, "the nurse called me to a
ward where sixteen of the most forlorn objects had begun to fight with
each other. The inspector and the young physicians had been called to
them, but dared not enter the _melee_. When I arrived, pillows, chairs,
foot-stools and vessels had deserted their usual places; and one stout
little woman, with rolling eyes and tangled hair, lifted a vessel of
slops, which she threatened to throw all over me, as she exclaimed, 'Don't
dare to come here, you green young thing!'

"I went quietly towards her, saying gently, 'Be ashamed, my dear woman, of
your fury.'

"Her hands dropped. Seizing me by the shoulder she exclaimed, 'You don't
mean that you look on me as a woman?'

"'How else?' I answered; while she retreated to her bed, all the rest
standing in the attitudes into which passion had thrown them.

"'Arrange your beds,' I said; 'and in fifteen minutes let me return, and
find every thing right.' When I returned, all was as I had desired; every
woman standing at her bedside. The short woman was missing; but, bending
on each a friendly glance, I passed through the ward, which never gave me
any more trouble.

"When, late at night, I entered my room, it was fragrant with violets. A
green wreath surrounded an old Bible, and a little bouquet rested upon
it. I did not pause to speculate over this sentimentality, but threw
myself weary upon the bed; when a light tap at the door startled me. The
short woman entered; and humbling herself on the floor, since she would
not sit in my presence entreated to be heard.

"'You called me a woman,' she said, 'and you pity us. Others call us by
the name the world gives us. You would help us, if help were possible. All
the girls love you, and are ashamed before you; and therefore _I_ hate
you--no: I will not hate you any longer. There was a time when I might
have been saved,--I and Joanna and Margaret and Louise. We were not bad.
Listen to me. If _you_ say there is any hope, I will yet be an honest

"She had had respectable parents; and, when twenty years old, was deserted
by her lover, who left her three months pregnant. Otherwise kind, her
family perpetually reproached her with her disgrace, and threatened to
send her away. At last, she fled to Berlin; keeping herself from utter
starvation, by needlework. In the hospital to which she went for
confinement, she took the small-pox. When she came out, with her baby in
her arms, her face was covered with red blotches. Not even the lowest
refuge was open to her, her appearance was so frightful. With her baby
dragging at her empty breast, she wandered through the streets. An old hag
took pity on both; and, carefully nursed till health returned, her good
humor and native wit made those about her forget her ugly face. She was in
a brothel, where she soon took the lead. Her child died, and she once more
attempted to earn her living as a seamstress. She was saved from
starvation only by her employer, who received her as his mistress. Now her
luck changed: she suffered all a woman could; handled poison and the
firebrand. 'I thought of stealing,' she said, 'only as an amusement: it
was not exciting enough for a trade.'. She found herself in prison; and
was amused to be punished for a trifle, when nobody suspected her crime.
It was horrible to listen to these details; more horrible to witness her
first repentance.

"When I thanked her for her violets, she kissed my hands, and promised to
be good.

"While she remained in the hospital, I took her as my servant, and trusted
every thing to her; and, when finally discharged, she went out to service.
She wished to come with me to America. I could not bring her; but she
followed, and, when I was in Cleveland, inquired for me in New York."

It will be impossible, for those who have not heard such stories from the
lips and in the dens of the sufferers, to feel as I felt when this dropped
from the pure lips of the lecturer. For the first time I saw a woman who
knew what I knew, felt what I felt, and was strong in purpose and power to
accomplish our common aim,--the uplifting of the fallen, the employment of
the idle, and the purification of society.

I needed no farther introduction to Marie Zakrzewska. I knew nothing of
her previous history or condition; but when I looked upon her clear, broad
forehead, I saw "Faithful unto death" bound across it like a phylactery. I
did not know how many years she had studied; but I saw thoroughness
ingrained into her very muscle. I asked no questions of the clear, strong
gaze that pierced the assembly; but I felt very sure that it could be as
tender as it was keen. For the first time I saw a woman in a public
position, about whom I felt thoroughly at ease; competent to all she had
undertaken, and who had undertaken nothing whose full relations to her sex
and society she did not understand.

I thanked God for the sight, and very little thought that I should see
her again. She came once more, and we helped her to establish the Women's
Infirmary in New York; again, and we installed her as Resident Physician
in the New-England Female Medical College.

I had never felt any special interest in this college. I was willing it
should exist as one of the half-way measures of which I have spoken,--like
the reading-room in New York; but I was bent on opening the colleges which
already existed to women, and I left it to others to nurse the young life
of this. The first medical men, I felt assured, would never, in the
present state of public opinion, take an interest in a _female_ college;
and I desired, above all things, to protect women from second-rate

But, when Marie Zakrzewska took up her residence in Springfield Street, it
was impossible to feel indifferent. Here was a woman born to inspire
faith; meeting all men as her equals till they proved themselves superior;
capable of spreading a contagious fondness for the study of medicine, as
Dr. Black once kindled a chemical enthusiasm in Edinburgh.

Often did I ponder her past life, which had left significant lines on
face and form. We met seldom,--always with perfect trust. Whatever I might
have to say, I should have felt sure of being understood, if I had not
seen her for six months; nor could she have failed to find a welcome in my
heart for any words of hers.

Then I heard the course of lectures which she delivered to ladies in the
spring of 1860. For the first time, I heard a woman speak of scientific
subjects in a way that satisfied me; nor should I have blushed to find
scientific men among her audience. I had felt, from the first, that her
life might do what my words never could: namely, inspire women with faith
to try their own experiments; give them a dignity, which should refuse to
look forward to marriage as an end, while it would lead them to accept it
gladly as a providential help. I did not fear that she would be untrue to
her vocation, or easily forsake it for a more domestic sphere. She had not
entered it, I could see, without measuring her own purpose and its use.

It was with such feelings, and such knowledge of Marie, that in a private
conversation, last summer with Miss Mary L. Booth of New York, I heard
with undisguised pleasure that she had in her possession an autobiography
of her friend, in the form of a letter. I really longed to get possession
of that letter so intensely, that I dared not ask to see it: but I urged
Miss Booth to get consent to its publication; "for," I said, "no single
thing will help my work, I am convinced, so much."

"I look forward to its publication," she replied, "with great delight: it
will be the sole labor of love, of my literary life. But neither you nor I
believe in reputations which death and posterity have not confirmed. What
reasons could I urge to Marie for its present publication?"

"The good of her own sex," I replied, "and a better knowledge of the
intimate relations existing between free labor and a pure society. I know
nothing of our friend's early circumstances; but I cannot be mistaken in
the imprint they have left. This is one of those rare cases, in which a
life may belong to the public before it has closed."

I returned to Boston. Later in the season, Miss Booth visited Dr.
Zakrzewska. Imagine my surprise when she came to me one day, and laid
before me the coveted manuscript. "It is yours," she said, "to publish if
you choose. I have got Marie's consent. She gave it very reluctantly; but
her convictions accord with yours, and she does not think she has any
right to refuse. As for me," Miss Booth continued, "I resign without
regret my dearest literary privilege, because I feel that the position you
have earned in reference to 'woman's labor' entitles you to edit it."

In an interview which I afterwards held with Marie Zakrzewska, she gave me
to understand, that, had she been of American birth, she would never have
consented to the publication of her letter in her lifetime. "But," she
said, "I am a foreigner. You who meet me and sustain me are entitled to
know something of my previous history. Those whom I most loved are dead;
not a word of the record can pain them; not a word but may help some life
just now beginning. It will make a good sequel to 'Woman's Right to

"Only too good," I thought. "May God bless the lesson!"

It was agreed between Miss Booth and myself, that the autobiography should
keep its original, simple form, to indicate how and why it was written: so
I invite my friends to read it at once with me. Here is something as
entertaining as a novel, and as useful as a treatise. Here is a story
which must enchant the conservative, while it inspires the reformer. The
somewhat hazy forms of Drs. Schmidt and Mueller, the king's order to the
rebellious electors, the historic prestige of a Prussian locality,--all
these will lend a magic charm to the plain lesson which New York and
Boston need.

* * * * *

New York, September, 1857.

Dear Mary,

It is especially for your benefit that I write these facts of my life. I
am not a great personage, either through inherited qualifications or the
work that I have to show to the world; yet you may find, in reading this
little sketch, that with few talents, and very moderate means for
developing them, I have accomplished more than many women of genius and
education would have done in my place, for the reason that confidence and
faith in their own powers were wanting. And, for this reason, I know that
this story might be of use to others, by encouraging those who timidly
shrink from the field of action, though endowed with all that is necessary
to enable them to come forth and do their part in life. The fact that a
woman of no extraordinary powers can make her way by the simple
determination, that whatever she can do she will do, must inspire those
who are fitted to do much, yet who do nothing because they are not
accustomed to determine and decide for themselves.

I do not intend to weary you with details of my childhood, as I think that
children are generally very uninteresting subjects of conversation to any
except their parents, who naturally discover what is beautiful and
attractive in them, and appreciate what is said in correspondence with
their own feelings. I shall, therefore, only tell you a few facts of this
period of my life, which I think absolutely necessary to illustrate my
character and nature.

I was born in Berlin, Prussia, on the 6th of September, 1829; and am the
eldest of a family of five sisters and one brother. My early childhood
passed happily, though heavy clouds of sorrow and care at times
overshadowed our family circle. I was of a cheerful disposition; and was
always in good humor, even when sick. I was quiet and gentle in all my
amusements: my chief delight consisting in telling stories to my sister,
one year younger than myself, who was always glad to listen to these
products of my imagination, which were wholly original; for no stories
were told me, nor had I any children's books. My heroes and heroines were
generally distinguished for some mental peculiarity,--being kind or
cruel, active or indolent,--which led them into all sorts of adventures
till it suited my caprice to terminate their career. In all our little
affairs, I took the lead, planning and directing every thing; while my
playmates seemed to take it for granted, that it was their duty to carry
out my commands.

My memory is remarkable in respect to events that occurred at this time,
while it always fails to recall dates and names. When twenty years of age,
I asked my father what sort of a festival he took me to once, in company
with a friend of his with only one arm, when we walked through meadows
where daisies were blossoming in millions, and where we rode in carriages
that went round continually until they were wound up. My father answered,
with much surprise, that it was a public festival of the cabinet-makers,
which was celebrated in a neighboring village; and that I was, at that
time, only nineteen months old.

He was so much interested in my story, that I related another of my
memories. One dark morning, my mother wakened me, and hastened my
dressing. After this was accomplished, she handed me a cup of something
which I had never tasted before, and which was as disagreeable as
assafoetida in later years. This was some coffee, which I had to take
instead of my usual milk. Then I went with my father to the large park
called Thiergarten, where we saw the sun rise. I began to spring about;
looking at the big oaks which seemed to reach into the heavens, or
stooping down to pluck a flower. Birds of all kinds were singing in
chorus, while the flower-beds surrounding the statue of Flora scented the
pure morning air with the sweetest of perfumes. The sun ascended,
meanwhile, from the edge of a little pond covered with water-lilies. I was
intoxicated with joy. The feeling of that morning is as fresh to-day as
when I related this to my father. I know I walked till I got fairly tired,
and we reached a solitary house beyond the park. Probably fatigue took
entire possession of me; for I remember nothing more till we were on our
way home, and the sun was setting. Then I begged for some large yellow
plums which I saw in the stores. My father bought some, but gave me only a
few; while I had a desire for all, and stole them secretly from his
pockets; so that, when we reached home, I had eaten them all. I was sick
after I went to bed, and remember taking some horrible stuff the next
morning (probably rhubarb); thus ending the day, which had opened so
poetically, in rather a prosaic manner. When I repeated this, my parents
laughed, and said that I was only twenty-six months old, when my father's
pride in his oldest child induced him to take me on this visit; when I
walked the whole way, which was about _nine miles_. These anecdotes are
worth preserving, only because they indicate an impressionable nature, and
great persistence of muscular endurance. It is peculiar, that between
these two events, and a third which occurred a year after, every thing
should be a blank.

A little brother was then born to me, and lay undressed upon a cushion,
while my father cried with sobs. I had just completed my third year, and
could not understand why, the next day, this little thing was carried off
in a black box.

From that time, I remember almost every day's life.

I very soon began to manifest the course of my natural tendencies. Like
most little girls, I was well provided with dolls; and, on the day after a
new one came into my possession, I generally discovered that the dear
little thing was ill, and needed to be nursed and doctored. Porridges and
teas were accordingly cooked on my little toy stove, and administered to
the poor doll, until the _papier-mache_ was thoroughly saturated and
broken; when she was considered dead, and preparations were made for her
burial,--this ceremony being repeated over and over again. White dresses
were put on for the funeral; a cricket was turned upside-down to serve as
the coffin; my mother's flower-pots furnished the green leaves for
decoration; and I delivered the funeral oration in praise of the little
sufferer, while placing her in the tomb improvised of chairs. I hardly
ever joined the other children in their plays, except upon occasions like
these, when I appeared in the characters of doctor, priest, and
undertaker; generally improving the opportunity to moralize; informing my
audience, that Ann (the doll) had died in consequence of disobeying her
mother by going out before she had recovered from the measles, &c. Once I
remember moving my audience to tears by telling them that little Ann had
been killed by her brother, who, in amusing himself with picking off the
dry skin after she had had the scarlatina, had carelessly torn off the
real skin over the heart, as they could see; thus leaving it to beat in
the air, and causing the little one to die. This happened after we had all
had the scarlatina.

When five years old, I was sent to a primary school. Here I became the
favorite of the teacher of arithmetic; for which study I had quite a
fancy. The rest of the teachers disliked me. They called me unruly because
I would not obey arbitrary demands without receiving some reason, and
obstinate because I insisted on following my own will when I knew that I
was in the right. I was told that I was not worthy to be with my
playmates; and when I reached the highest class in the school, in which
alone the boys and girls were taught separately, I was separated from the
latter, and was placed with the boys by way of punishment, receiving
instructions with them from men, while the girls in the other class were
taught by women. Here I found many friends. I joined the boys in all their
sports; sliding and snow-balling with them in winter, and running and
playing ball in summer. With them I was merry, frank, and self-possessed;
while with the girls I was quiet, shy, and awkward. I never made friends
with the girls, or felt like approaching them.

Once only, when I was eleven years old, a girl in the young ladies'
seminary in which I had been placed when eight years of age won my
affection. This was Elizabeth Hohenhorst, a child of twelve, remarkably
quiet, and disposed to melancholy. She was a devout Catholic; and, knowing
that she was fated to become a nun, was fitting herself for that dreary
destiny, which rendered her very sentimental She was full of fanciful
visions, but extremely sweet and gentle in her manners. My love for her
was unbounded. I went to church in her company, was present at all the
religious festivals, and accompanied her to receive religious instruction:
in short, I made up my mind to become a Catholic, and, if possible, a nun
like herself. My parents, who were Rationalists, belonging to no church,
gave me full scope to follow out my own inclinations; leaving it to my
nature to choose for me a fitting path. This lasted until Elizabeth went
for the first time to the confessional; and, when the poor innocent child
could find no other sin of which to speak than the friendship which she
cherished for a Protestant, the priest forbade her to continue this, until
I, too, had become a Catholic; reminding her of the holiness of her future
career. The poor girl conscientiously promised to obey. When I came the
next morning and spoke to her as usual, she turned away from me, and burst
into tears. Surprised and anxious, I asked what was the matter; when, in a
voice broken with sobs, she told me the whole story, and begged me to
become a Catholic as soon as I was fourteen years old. Never in my whole
life shall I forget that morning. For a moment, I gazed on her with the
deepest emotion, pitying her almost more than myself; then suddenly turned
coldly and calmly away, without answering a single word. My mind had
awakened to the despotism of Roman Catholicism, and the church had lost
its expected convert. I never went near her again, and never exchanged
another word with her. This was the only friend I had during eight and a
half years of uninterrupted attendance at school.

A visit that I paid to my maternal grandfather, when seven or eight years
old, made a strong impression on my mind. My grandfather, on his return
from the war of 1813-15, in which he had served, had received from the
authorities of Prenzlau (the city in which he lived) a grant of a
half-ruined cloister, with about a hundred acres of uncultivated land
attached, by way of acknowledgment for his services. He removed thither
with his family; and shortly after invited the widows of some soldiers,
who lived in the city, to occupy the apartments which he did not need. The
habitable rooms were soon filled to overflowing with widows and orphans,
who went to work with him to cultivate the ground. It was not long before
crippled and invalid soldiers arrived, begging to be allowed to repair the
cloister, and to find a shelter also within its walls. They were set to
work at making brick, the material for which my grandfather had discovered
on his land: and, in about five years, an institution was built, the more
valuable from the fact that none lived there on charity, but all earned
what they needed by cultivating the ground; having first built their own
dwelling, which, at this time, looked like a palace, surrounded by trees,
grass, and flowers. Here, in the evening, the old soldiers sung martial
songs, or told stories of the wars to the orphans gathered about them,
while resting from the labors of the day.

I tell you of this institution so minutely, to prove to you how wrong it
is to provide charitable homes for the poor as we provide them,--homes in
which the charity always humiliates and degrades the individual. Here you
have an instance in which poor crippled invalids and destitute women and
children established and supported themselves, under the guidance of a
clear-headed, benevolent man, who said, "Do what you like, but work for
what you need." He succeeded admirably, though he died a very poor man;
his younger children becoming inmates of the establishment, until they
were adopted by their relatives.

When I visited my grandfather, the "convent," as he insisted on calling
it,--rejecting any name that would have indicated a charitable
institution,--contained about a hundred invalid soldiers, a hundred old
women, and two hundred and fifty orphans. One of the wings of the building
was fitted up as a hospital, and a few of the rooms were occupied by
lunatics. It was my greatest delight to take my grandfather's hand at
noon, as he walked up and down the dining-room, between the long tables,
around which were grouped so many cheerful, hearty faces; and I stood
before him with an admiration that it is impossible to describe, as he
prayed, with his black velvet cap in his hand, before and after dinner;
though I could not comprehend why he should thank another person for what
had been done, when every one there told me that all that they had they
owed to my grandfather.

One afternoon, on returning from the dining-room to his study, I spied on
his desk a neatly written manuscript. I took it up, and began to read. It
was a dissertation on immortality, attempting by scientific arguments to
prove its impossibility. I became greatly interested, and read on without
noticing that my grandfather had left the room, nor that the large bell
had rung to call the family to dinner. My grandfather, a very punctual
man, who would never allow lingering, came back to call and to reprimand
me; when he suddenly started on seeing the paper in my hands, and,
snatching it from me, tore it in pieces, exclaiming, "That man is insane,
and will make this child so too!" A little frightened, I went to the
dinner-table, thinking as much about my grandfather's words as about what
I had read; without daring, however, to ask who this man was. The next
day, curiosity mastered fear. I asked my grandfather who had written that
paper; and was told, in reply, that it was poor crazy Jacob. I then begged
to see him; but this my grandfather decidedly refused, saying that he was
like a wild beast, and lay, without clothes, upon the straw. I knew
nothing of lunatics; and the idea of a wild man stimulated my curiosity to
such an extent, that, from that time, I teased my grandfather incessantly
to let me see Jacob, until he finally yielded, to be rid of my
importunity, and led me to the cell in which he was confined. What a
spectacle presented itself in the house that I had looked on as the abode
of so much comfort! On a bundle of straw, in a corner of a room, with no
furniture save its bare walls, sat a man, clad only in a shirt; with the
left hand chained to the wall, and the right foot to the floor. An
inkstand stood on the floor by his side; and on his knee was some paper,
on which he was writing. His hair and beard were uncombed, and his fine
eyes glared with fury as we approached him. He tried to rise, ground his
teeth, made grimaces, and shook his fist at my grandfather, who tried in
vain to draw me out of the room. But, escaping from his grasp, I stepped
towards the lunatic, who grew more quiet when he saw me approach; and I
tried to lift the chain, which had attracted my attention. Then, finding
it too heavy for me, I turned to my grandfather and asked, "Does not this
hurt the poor man?" I had hardly spoken the words when his fury returned,
and he shrieked,--

"Have I not always told you that you were cruel to me? Must this child
come to convince you of your barbarity? Yes: you have no heart."

I looked at my grandfather: all my admiration of him was gone; and I said,
almost commandingly,--"Take off these chains! It is bad of you to tie this

The man grew calm at once, and asked imploringly to be set free;
promising to be quiet and tractable if my grandfather would give him a
trial. This was promised him: his chains were removed the same day; and
Jacob was ever after not only harmless and obedient, but also a very
useful man in the house.

I never afterwards accompanied my grandfather. I had discovered a side in
his nature which repelled me. I spent the remainder of my visit in the
workrooms and the sickroom, always secretly fearing that I should meet
with some new cruelty; but no such instance ever came to my view.

On my return from my grandfather's, I found that a cousin had suddenly
become blind. She was soon after sent to the ophthalmic hospital, where
she remained for more than a year; and, during this time, I was her
constant companion after school-hours. I was anxious to be useful to her;
and, being gentler than the nurse, she liked to have me wash out the
issues that were made in her back and arms. The nurse, who was very
willing to be relieved of the duty, allowed me to cleanse the eyes of the
girl next my cousin; and thus these cares were soon made to depend on my
daily visit. Child as I was, I could not help observing the carelessness
of the nurses, and their great neglect of cleanliness. One day, when the
head-nurse had washed the floor, leaving pools of water standing under the
beds, the under-nurse found fault with it, and said, "I shall tell the
doctor, when he comes, why it is that the patients always have colds."
"Do," said the head-nurse. "What do men understand of such matters? If
they knew any thing about them, they would long ago have taken care that
the mattress upon which one patient dies should always be changed before
another comes in." This quarrel impressed itself upon my memory; and the
wish rose in my mind, that some day I might be head-nurse, to prevent such
wrongs, and to show kindness to the poor lunatics.

At the end of the year, my cousin left the hospital At the same time,
trouble and constant sickness fell upon our family. My father, who held
liberal opinions and was of an impetuous temperament manifested some
revolutionary tendencies, which drew upon him the displeasure of the
government and caused his dismissal, with a very small pension, from his
position as military officer. This involved us in great pecuniary
difficulties; for our family was large, and my father's income too small
to supply the most necessary wants; while to obtain other occupation for
the time was out of the question In this emergency, my mother determined
to petition the city government for admission to the school of midwives
established in Berlin, in order in this manner to aid in the support of
the family. Influential friends of my father secured her the election; and
she was admitted to the school in 1839, I being at that time ten years of

The education of midwives for Berlin requires a two years' course of
study, during six months of which they are obliged to reside in the
hospital, to receive instructions from the professors together with the
male students. My mother went there in the summer of 1840. I went to stay
at the house of an aunt, who wished my company; and the rest of the
children were put out to board together.

In a few weeks, my eyes became affected with weakness, so that I could
neither read nor write; and I begged my mother to let me stay with her in
the hospital. She applied for permission to the director, and received a
favorable answer. I was placed under the care of one of the physicians
(Dr. Mueller), who took a great fancy to me, and made me go with him
wherever he went while engaged in the hospital. My eyes being bandaged, he
led me by the hand, calling me his "little blind doctor." In this way I
was constantly with him, hearing all his questions and directions, which
impressed themselves the more strongly on my mind from the fact that I
could not see, but had to gain all my knowledge through hearing alone.

One afternoon, when I had taken the bandage off my eyes for the first
time, Dr. Muller told me that there was a corpse of a young man to be seen
in the dead-house, that had turned completely green in consequence of
poison that he had eaten. I went there after my rounds with him: but
finding the room filled with relatives, who were busily engaged in
adorning the body with flowers, I thought that I would not disturb them,
but would wait until they had gone before I looked at it; and went
meanwhile through the adjoining rooms. These were all freshly painted. The
dissecting-tables, with the necessary apparatus, stood in the centre;
while the bodies, clad in white gowns, were ranged on boards along the
walls. I examined every thing; came back, and looked to my heart's content
at the poisoned young man, without noticing that not only the relatives
had left, but that the prosector had also gone away, after locking up the
whole building I then went a second time to the other rooms, and looked
again at every thing there; and at last, when it became dark and I could
not leave the house, sat down upon the floor, and went to sleep, after
knocking for half an hour at the door, in the hope that some passer might

My mother, who knew that I had gone with Dr. Mueller, did not trouble
herself about me until nine o'clock, when she grew uneasy at my stay; and,
thinking that he might have taken me to his rooms, went there in search of
me, but found that he was out, and that the doors were locked. She then
inquired of the people in the house whether they knew any thing about me,
and was told that they had last seen me going into the dead-house. Alarmed
at this intelligence, my mother hastened to the prosector, who unwillingly
went with her to the park in which the dead-house stood, assuring her all
the way that I could not possibly be there; when, on opening the door, he
saw me sitting close by, on the floor, fast asleep.

In a few days after this adventure, I recovered the use of my eyes. As it
was at this time the summer vacation, in which I had no school-tasks, I
asked Dr. Mueller for some books to read. He inquired what kind of books I
wanted. I told him, "Books about history;" upon which he gave me two huge
volumes,--The "History of Midwifery" and the "History of Surgery." Both
were so interesting that I read them through during the six weeks of
vacation; which occupied me so closely that even my friend Dr. Mueller
could not lay hold of me when he went his morning and evening rounds. From
this time I date my study of medicine; for, though I did not continue to
read upon the subject, I was instructed in the no less important branch of
psychology by a new teacher, whom I found on my return to school at the
close of the summer vacation.

To explain better how my mind was prepared for such teaching, I must go
back to my position in school. In both schools that I attended, I was
praised for my punctuality, industry, and quick perception. Beloved I was
in neither: on the contrary, I was made the target for all the impudent
jokes of my fellow-pupils; ample material for which was furnished in the
carelessness with which my hair and dress were usually arranged; these
being left to the charge of a servant, who troubled herself very little
about how I looked, provided that I was whole and clean. The truth was, I
often presented a ridiculous appearance; and once I could not help
laughing heartily at myself, on seeing my own face by accident in a
glass, with one braid of hair commencing over the right eye, and the other
over the left ear. I quietly hung a map over the glass to hide the
ludicrous picture, and continued my studies; and most likely appeared in
the same style the next day. My face, besides, was neither handsome, nor
even prepossessing; a large nose overshadowing the undeveloped features:
and I was ridiculed for my ugliness, both in school and at home, where an
aunt of mine, who disliked me exceedingly, always said, in describing
plain people, "Almost as ugly as Marie."

Another cause arose to render my position at school still more
intolerable. In consequence of the loss of his position in the army, my
father could no longer afford to pay my school-bills; and was about, in
consequence, to remove me from school; when the principal offered to
retain me without pay, although she disliked me, and did not hesitate to
show it, any more than to tell me, whenever I offended her, that she would
never keep so ugly and naughty a child _without being paid for it_, were
it not for the sake of so noble a father.

These conditions and harsh judgments made me a philosopher. I heard myself
called obstinate and wilful, only because I believed myself in the right,
and persisted in it. I felt that I was not maliciously disposed towards
any one, but wished well to all; and I offered my services not only
willingly, but cheerfully, wherever they could be of the least use; and
saw them accepted, and even demanded, by those who could not dispense with
them, though they shunned and ridiculed me the same as before. I felt that
they only sought me when they needed me: this made me shrink still more
from their companionship; and, when my sister did not walk home from
school with me, I invariably went alone.

The idea that I might not wish to attach myself to playmates of this sort
never occurred to any one; but I was constantly reproached with having no
friends among my schoolfellows, and was told that no one could love so
disagreeable and repelling a child. This was a severe blow to my
affectionate nature; but I bore it calmly, consoling myself with the
thought that they were wrong,--that they did not understand me,--and that
the time would come, when they would learn that a great, warm heart was
concealed beneath the so-called repulsive exterior. But, however soothing
all this was for the time, a feeling of bitterness grew up within me. I
began to be provoked at my ugliness, which I believed to be excessive. I
speculated why parents so kind and good as mine should be deprived of
their means of support, merely because my father would not consent to
endure wrong and imposition. I was indignant at being told, that it was
only for my father's sake that I was retained in a school where I tried to
do my best, and where I always won the highest prizes; and I could not see
why, at home, I should be forced to do housework when I wanted to read,
while my brother, who wished to work, was compelled to study. When I
complained of this last grievance, I was told that I was a girl, and never
could learn much, but was only fit to become a housekeeper. All these
things threw me upon my own resources, and taught me to make the most of
every opportunity, custom and habit to the contrary notwithstanding.

It was at this juncture that I found, on my return to school, the
psychologic instructor of whom I have spoken, in a newly engaged teacher
of history, geography, and arithmetic; all of which were my favorite
studies. With this man I formed a most peculiar friendship: he being
twenty years older than myself, and in every respect a highly educated
man; I, a child of twelve, neglected in every thing except in my
common-school education. He began by calling my attention to the
carelessness of my dress and the rudeness of my manners, and was the first
one who ever spoke kindly to me on the subject. I told him all my
thoughts; that I did not mean to be disagreeable, but that every one
thought that I could not be otherwise; that I was convinced that I was
good enough at heart; and that I had at last resigned myself to my
position, as something that could not be helped. My new friend lectured me
on the necessity of attracting others by an agreeable exterior and
courteous manners; and proved to me that I had unconsciously repelled them
by my carelessness, even when trying the most to please. His words made a
deep impression on me. I thanked him for every reproach, and strove to do
my best to gain his approbation. Henceforth my hair was always carefully
combed, my dress nicely arranged, and my collar in its place; and, as I
always won the first prizes in the school, two of the other teachers soon
grew friendly towards me, and began to manifest their preference quite
strongly. In a few months I became a different being. The bitterness that
had been growing up within me gradually disappeared; and I began to have
confidence in myself, and to try to win the companionship of the other
children. But a sudden change took place in my schoolmates, who grew
envious of the preference shown me by the teachers. Since they could no
longer ridicule me for the carelessness of my dress, they now began to
reproach me for my vanity, and to call me a coquette, who only thought of
pleasing through appearances. This blow was altogether too hard for me to
bear. I knew that they were wrong: for, with all the care I bestowed on my
dress, it was not half so fine as theirs; as I had but two calico dresses,
which I wore alternately, a week at a time, through the summer. I was
again repelled from them; and at noon, when the rest of the scholars went
home, I remained with my teacher-friend in the schoolroom, assisting him
in correcting the exercises of the pupils. I took the opportunity to tell
him of the curious envy that had taken possession of the girls; upon which
he began to explain to me human nature and its fallacies, drawing
inferences therefrom for personal application. He found a ready listener
in me. My inclination to abstract thought, combined with the unpleasant
experience I had had in life, made me an attentive pupil, and fitted me to
comprehend his reasoning in the broadest sense. For fifteen months, I thus
spent the noon-hour with him in the schoolroom; receiving lessons in and
reasoning upon concrete and abstract matters, that have since proved of
far more psychologic value to me than ten years of reading on the same
subjects could do. A strong attachment grew up between us: he became a
necessity to me, and I revered him like an oracle. But his health failed;
and he left the school at the end of these fifteen months, in a
consumption. Shortly after, he sent to the school for me one morning to
ask me to visit him on his deathbed. I was not permitted to leave the
class until noon; when, just as I was preparing to go, a messenger came to
inform the principal that he had died at eleven. This blow fell so heavily
upon me, that I wished to leave the school at once. I was forced to stay
three weeks longer, until the end of the quarter; when I left the
schoolroom on the 1st of April, 1843, at the age of thirteen years and
seven months, and never entered it again.

On the same day that I quitted my school, an aunt, with whom I was a
favorite, was attacked with a violent hemorrhage from the lungs, and
wished me to come to stay with her. This suited my taste. I went; and, for
a fortnight, was her sole nurse.

Upon my return home, my father told me, that, having quitted school, I
must now become a thorough housekeeper, of whom he might be proud; as this
was the only thing for which girls were intended by nature. I cheerfully
entered upon my new apprenticeship, and learned how to sweep, to scrub, to
wash, and to cook. This work answered very well as long as the novelty
lasted; but, as soon as this wore off, it became highly burdensome. Many a
forenoon, when I was alone, instead of sweeping and dusting, I passed the
hours in reading books from my father's library, until it grew so late,
that I was afraid that my mother, who had commenced practice, would come
home, and scold me for not attending to my work; when I would hurry to get
through, doing every thing so badly, that I had to hear daily that I was
good for nothing, and a nuisance in the world; and that it was not at all
surprising that I was not liked in school, for nobody could ever like or
be satisfied with me.

Meanwhile, my mother's practice gradually increased; and her generous and
kindly nature won the confidence of hundreds, who, wretchedly poor, found
in her, not only a humane woman, but a most skilful practitioner. The poor
are good judges of professional qualifications. Without the aid that
money can buy, without the comforts that the wealthy hardly heed, and
without friends whose advice is prompted by intelligence, they must depend
entirely upon the skill and humanity of those to whom they apply. Their
life and happiness are placed in the hands of the physician, and they
jealously regard the one to whom they intrust them. None but a good
practitioner can gain fame and praise in this class, which is thought so
easily satisfied. It is often said, "Oh! those people are poor, and will
be glad of any assistance." Far from it. There is no class so entirely
dependent for their subsistence upon their strength and health; these
constitute their sole capital, their stock in trade: and, when sick, they
anxiously seek out the best physicians; for, if unskilfully attended, they
may lose their all, their fortune, and their happiness.

My mother went everywhere, both night and day; and it soon came to pass,
that when she was sent for, and was not at home, I was deputed to go in
search of her. In this way I gradually became a regular appendage to my
mother; going with her in the winter nights from place to place, and
visiting those whom she could not visit during the day. I remember that in
January, 1845, my mother attended thirty-five women in childbed,--the list
of names is still in my possession,--and visited from sixteen to
twenty-five daily, with my assistance. I do not think, that, during the
month, we were in bed for one whole night. Two-thirds of these patients
were unable to pay a cent. During these years, I learned all of life that
it was possible for a human being to learn. I saw nobleness in dens, and
meanness in palaces; virtue among prostitutes, and vice among so-called
respectable women. I learned to judge human nature correctly; to see
goodness where the world found nothing but faults, and also to see faults
where the world could see nothing but virtue. The experience thus gained
cost me the bloom of youth; yet I would not exchange it for a life of
everlasting juvenescence. To keep up appearances is the aim of every one's
life; but to fathom these appearances, and judge correctly of what is
beneath them, ought to be the aim of those who seek to draw true
conclusions from life, or to benefit others by real sympathy.

One fact I learned, both at this time and afterwards; namely, that men
always sympathize with fallen and wretched women, while women themselves
are the first to raise and cast the stone at them. Why is this? Have not
women as much feeling as men? Why, women are said to be made up entirely
of feeling. How does it happen, then, that women condemn where men pity?
Do they do this in the consciousness of their own superior virtue? Ah, no!
for many of the condemning are no better than the condemned. The reason
is, that men know the world; that is, they know the obstacles in the path
of life, and that they draw lines to exclude women from earning an honest
livelihood, while they throw opportunities in their way to earn their
bread by shame. All men are aware of this: therefore the good as well as
the bad give pity to those that claim it. It is my honest and earnest
conviction, that the reason that men are unwilling for women to enter upon
public or business life is, not so much the fear of competition, or the
dread lest women should lose their gentleness, and thus deprive society of
this peculiar charm, as the fact that they are ashamed of the foulness of
life which exists outside of the house and home. The good man knows that
it is difficult to purify it: the bad man does not wish to be disturbed in
his prey upon society. If I could but give to all women the tenth part of
my experience, they would see that this is true; and would see, besides,
that only faith in ourselves and in each other is needed to work a
reformation. Let woman enter fully into business, with its serious
responsibilities and duties; let it be made as honorable and as profitable
to her as to men; let her have an equal opportunity for earning competence
and comfort,--and we shall need no other purification of society. Men are
no more depraved than women; or, rather, the total depravity of mankind is
a lie.

From the time of my leaving school until I was fifteen years old, my life
was passed, as I have described, in doing housework, attending the sick
with my mother, and reading a few books of a scientific and literary
character. At the end of this time, a letter came from an aunt of my
mother's, who was ill, and whose adopted daughter (who was my mother's
sister) was also an invalid, requesting me to visit and nurse them. I went
there in the fall. This was probably the most decisive event of my life.
My great-aunt had a cancer that was to be taken out. The other was
suffering from a nervous affection, which rendered her a confirmed
invalid. She was a most peculiar woman, and was a clairvoyant and
somnambulist of the most decided kind. Though not ill-natured, she was
full of caprices that would have exhausted the patience of the most
enduring of mortals.

This aunt of mine had been sick in bed for seven years with a nervous
derangement, which baffled the most skilful physicians who had visited
her. Her senses were so acute, that one morning she fell into convulsions
from the effect of distant music which she heard. None of us could
perceive it, and we fully believed that her imagination had produced this
result. But she insisted upon it; telling us that the music was like that
of the Bohemian miners, who played nothing but polkas. I was determined to
ascertain the truth; and really found, that, in a public garden one and a
half miles from her house, such a troop had played all the afternoon. No
public music was permitted in the city, because the magistrate had
forbidden it on her account.

She never was a Spiritualist, though she frequently went into what is now
called a trance. She spoke, wrote, sang, and had presentiments of the
finest kind, in this condition,--far better than I have ever seen here in
America in the case of the most celebrated mediums.

She even prescribed for herself with success, yet was not a Spiritualist.
She was a somnambulist; and, though weak enough when awake, threatened
several times to pull the house down, by her violence in this condition.
She had strength like a lion, and no man could manage her. I saw the same
thing in the hospital later. This aunt is now healthy; not cured by her
own prescriptions or the magnetic or infinitesimal doses of Dr. Arthur
Lutze, but by a strong emotion which took possession of her at the time of
my great-aunt's death. She is not sorry that she has lost all these
strange powers, but heartily glad of it. When she afterwards visited us in
Berlin, she could speak calmly and quietly of the perversion to which the
nervous system may become subject, if managed wrongly; and could not tell
how glad she was to be rid of all the emotions and notions she had been
compelled to dream out. Over-care and over-anxiety had brought this about;
and the same causes could again bring on a condition which the ancients
deemed holy, and which the psychologist treats as one bordering on

The old aunt was extremely suspicious and avaricious. Eight weeks after my
arrival, she submitted to an operation. The operating surgeon found me so
good an assistant, that he intrusted me often with the succeeding dressing
of the wound. For six weeks, I was the sole nurse of the two; going from
one room to the other both night and day, and attending to the household
matters beside, with no other assistant than a woman who came every
morning for an hour or two to do the rough work; while an uncle and a
boy-cousin were continually troubling me with their torn buttons, &c.

I learned in this time to be cheerful and light-hearted in all
circumstances; going often into the anteroom to have a healthy, hearty
laugh. My surroundings were certainly any thing but inspiring. I had the
sole responsibility of the two sick women; the one annoying me with her
caprices, the other with her avarice. In one room, I heard fanciful
forebodings; in the other, reproaches for having used a teaspoonful too
much sugar. I always had to carry the key of the storeroom to the old
aunt, in order that she might be sure that I could not go in and eat bread
when I chose. At the end of six weeks, she died; and I put on mourning for
the only time in my life, certainly not through grief.

Shortly after the death of my aunt, the attending physician introduced me
to a disciple of Hahnemann by the name of Arthur Lutze; who was, I think,
a doctor of philosophy,--certainly not of medicine. Besides being an
infinitesimal homeopathist this man was a devotee to mesmerism. He became
very friendly towards me, and supplied me with books; telling me that I
would not only make a good homeopathic physician, but also an excellent
medium for mesmerism, magnetism, &c. At all events, I was glad to get the
books, which I read industriously; while he constantly supplied me with
new ones, so that I had quite a library when he left the place, which he
did before my return. He, too, lived in Berlin, and inquired my residence;
promising to visit me there, and to teach me the art he practised.

I remained with my aunt until late in the spring; when my health failed,
and I returned home. I was very ill for a time with brain-fever; but at
last recovered, and set to work industriously to search for information in
respect to the human body. Dr. Lutze kept his word: he visited me at my
home, gave me more books, and directed my course of reading. But my
father, who had become reconciled to my inclination to assist my mother,
was opposed to homoeopathy, and especially opposed to Dr. Arthur Lutze. He
even threatened to turn him out of the house, if I permitted him to visit
me again; and burned all my books, except one that I snatched from the

From this time, I was resolved to learn all that I could about the human
system. I read all the books on the subject that I could get, and tried
besides to educate myself in other branches. My father was satisfied with
this disposition, and was glad to hear me propose to have a French teacher
in the house, both for my sake and for that of the other children. I
studied in good earnest by myself at the same time, going through the
usual discipline of German girls. I learned plain sewing, dress-making and
the management of the household; but was allowed to use my leisure time as
I pleased. When my sisters went skating, I remained at home to study; when
they went to balls and theatres, I was thought the proper person to stay
to watch the house. Having become so much older, I was now of great
assistance to my mother in her business. No one complained any longer of
my ugliness or my rudeness. I was always busy; and, when at liberty,
always glad to do what I could for others; and, though these years were
full of hardships, I consider them among the happiest of my life. I was as
free as it was possible for any German girl to be.

My household duties, however, continued distasteful to me, much to the
annoyance of my father, who still contended that this was the only sphere
of woman. From being so much with my mother, I had lost all taste for
domestic life: any thing out of doors was preferable to the monotonous
routine of the household. I at length determined to follow my inclinations
by studying, in order to fit myself to become a practitioner of midwifery,
as is usual in Berlin. My father was satisfied, and pleased with this
idea, which opened the way to an independent respectable livelihood; for
he never really wished to have us seek this in marriage. My mother did not
like my resolution at all. She practised, not because she liked the
profession, but because in this way she obtained the means of being
independent and of aiding in the education of the children. I persisted,
however, in my resolution; and immediately took measures to carry it into
effect by going directly to Dr. Joseph Hermann Schmidt, the Professor of
Midwifery in the University and Schools for Midwives, and Director of the
Royal Hospital Charite; while my father, who for several years held the
position of a civil officer, made the application to the city magistrates
for me to be admitted as a pupil to the School for Midwives in which my
mother had been educated. In order to show the importance of this step, it
is necessary to explain more fully the history and organization of the

About 1735, Justina Ditrichin (the wife of Siegemund, a distinguished
civil officer of Prussia) was afflicted with an internal disease which
baffled the skill of the midwives, who had pronounced her pregnant, and
none of whom could define her disorder. After many months of suffering,
she was visited by the wife of a poor soldier, who told her what ailed
her; in consequence of which, she was cured by her physicians. This
circumstance awakened in the mind of the lady an intense desire to study
midwifery; which she did, and afterwards practised it with such success,
that, in consequence of her extensive practice, she was obliged to confine
herself solely to irregular cases. She performed all kinds of operations
with masterly skill, and wrote the first book on the subject ever
published in Germany by a woman. She was sent for from all parts of
Germany, and was appointed body-physician of the Queen, and the ladies of
the court, of Prussia and Mark Brandenburg. Through her influence, schools
were established, in which women were instructed in the science and the
art of obstetrics. She also taught many herself; and a very successful and
respectable practice soon grew up among women. After her death, however,
this was discountenanced by the physicians, who brought it into such
disrepute by their ridicule, that the educated class of women withdrew
from the profession, leaving it in the hands of ignorant pretenders, who
continued to practise it until 1818; when public attention was called to
the subject, and strict laws were enacted, by which women were required to
call in a male practitioner in every irregular case of confinement, under
penalty of from one to twenty years of imprisonment, and the forfeiture of
the right to practise. These laws still continue in force; and a
remarkable case is recorded by Dr. Schmidt of a woman, who, feeling her
own competency to manage a case committed to her care, _did not_ send for
a male physician as the law required. Although it was fully proved that
she had done every thing that could have been done in the case, her
penalty was imprisonment for twenty years. Two other cases are quoted by
Dr. Schmidt, in which male practitioners were summoned before a legal
tribunal, and it was proved that they _had not_ done that which was
necessary; yet their penalty was no heavier than that inflicted on the
woman, who had done exactly what she ought.

At this time (1818), it was also made illegal for any woman to practise
who had not been educated. This brought the profession again into repute
among women of the higher classes. A school for midwives, supported by
the government, was established in Berlin, in which women have since
continued to be educated for practice in this city and in other parts of
Prussia. Two midwives are elected each year, by a committee, from the
applicants, to be educated for practice in Berlin; and, as they have to
study two years, there are always four of these students in the school,
two graduating every year. The remainder of the students are from the
provincial districts. To be admitted to this school is considered a stroke
of good fortune; as there are generally more than a hundred applicants,
many of whom have to wait eight or ten years before they are elected.
There is, besides, a great deal of favoritism; those women being generally
chosen who are the widows or wives of civil officers or physicians; to
whom this chance of earning a livelihood is given, in order that they may
not become a burden on the government. Though educated apart from the male
students while studying the theory of midwifery, they attend the
accouchement-ward together, and receive clinical or practical instruction
in the same class, from the same professor.

The male students of medicine are admitted to the university at the age of
eighteen; having first been required to go through a prescribed course of
collegiate study, and to pass the requisite examination. Here they attend
the lectures of various professors, often of four or five upon the same
subject, in order to learn how it is treated from different points of
view. Then, after having thus studied for a certain length of time, they
present themselves for an examination by the professors of the university,
which confers upon them the title of "M.D.," without the right to
practise. They are then obliged to prepare for what is called the State's
examination, before a Board of the most distinguished men in the
profession appointed to this place by the government: these also
constitute the medical court. Of this number, Dr. Schmidt was one.

Dr. Schmidt approved my resolution, and expressed himself warmly in favor
of it. He also recommended to me a course of reading, to be commenced at
once, as a kind of preliminary education; and, although he had no
influence with the committee of the city government who examined and
elected the pupils, he promised to call upon some of them, and urge my
election. But, despite his recommendation and my father's position as
civil officer, I received a refusal, on the grounds that I was much too
young (being only eighteen), and that I was unmarried. The latter fault I
did not try to remove; the former I corrected daily; and, when I was
nineteen, I repeated my application, and received the same reply. During
this time, Dr. Schmidt became more and more interested in me personally.
He promised that he would do all in his power to have me chosen the next
year; while, during this time, he urged me to read and study as much as
possible, in order to become fully acquainted with the subject. As usual,
I continued to assist my mother in visiting her patients, and thus had a
fine opportunity for explaining to myself many things which the mere study
of books left in darkness. In fact, these years of preliminary practical
study were more valuable to me than all the lectures that I ever listened
to afterwards. Full of zeal and enthusiasm, and stimulated by a friend
whose position and personal acquirements inspired me with reverence and
devotion, I thought of nothing else than how to prepare myself in such a
way that I should not disappoint him nor those to whom he had commended
me. Dr. Schmidt was consumptive, and almost an invalid; often having to
lecture in a reclining position. The author of many valuable medical
works, and director of the largest hospital in Prussia (the Charite of
Berlin), he found a most valuable assistant in his wife,--one of the
noblest women that ever lived. She was always with him, except in the
lecture-room; and almost all of his works are said to have been written by
her from his dictation. This had inspired him with the highest possible
respect for women. He had the utmost faith in their powers when rightly
developed, and always declared their intellectual capacity to be the same
with that of men. This belief inspired him with the desire to give me an
education superior to that of the common midwives; and, at the same time,
to reform the school of midwives by giving to it a professor of its own
sex. To this position he had in his own mind already elected me; but,
before I could take it, I had to procure a legitimate election from the
city to the school as pupil; while, during my attendance he had to
convince the government of the necessity of such a reform, as well as to
bring over the medical profession: which was not so easily done; for many
men were waiting already for Dr. Schmidt's death in order to obtain this
very post, which was considered valuable.

When I was twenty, I received my third refusal. Dr. Schmidt, whose health
was failing rapidly, had exerted himself greatly to secure my admission;
and the medical part of the committee had promised him that they would
give me their vote: but some theological influence was set to work to
elect one of the deaconesses in my stead, that she might be educated for
the post of superintendent of the lying-in ward of the hospital, which was
under Dr. Schmidt's care. She also was rejected, in order not to offend
Dr. Schmidt; but for this he would not thank them. No sooner had I carried
him the letter of refusal than he ordered his carriage, and, proceeding to
the royal palace, obtained an audience of the king; to whom he related the
refusal of the committee to elect me, on the ground that I was too young
and unmarried, and entreated of him a cabinet order which should compel
the city to admit me to the school; adding, that he saw no reason why
Germany, as well as France, should not have and be proud of a La Chapelle.
The king, who held Dr. Schmidt in high esteem, gave him at once the
desired order; and I became legally the student of my friend: though his
praise procured me intense vexation; for my name was dropped entirely, and
I was only spoken of as La Chapelle the Second; which would by no means
have been unpleasant had I earned the title; but to receive it sneeringly
in advance, before having been allowed to make my appearance publicly, was
indeed unbearable.

On the third day after his visit to the king, Dr. Schmidt received me into
the class, and introduced me to it as his future assistant teacher. This
announcement was as surprising to me as to the class; but I took it
quietly, thinking that, if Dr. Schmidt did not consider me fit for the
place, he would not risk being attacked for it by the profession _en
masse_, by whom he was watched closely.

On the same day, a little incident occurred which I must mention. In the
evening, instead of going alone to the class for practical instruction, I
accompanied Dr. Schmidt at his request. We entered the hall where his
assistant, the chief physician, had already commenced his instructions.
Dr. Schmidt introduced me to him as his private pupil, to whom he wished
him to give particular attention; ending by giving my name. The physician
hurriedly came up to me, and grasped my hand, exclaiming, "Why, this is my
little blind doctor!" I looked at him, and recognized the very Dr. Mueller
with whom I used to make the rounds of the hospital when twelve years old,
and who had since risen to the position of chief physician. This
rencontre, and the interest that he manifested afterwards greatly
relieved Dr. Schmidt, who had feared that he would oppose me, instead of
giving me any special aid. During this winter's study, I spent the most of
the time in the hospital, being almost constantly at the side of Dr.
Schmidt. I certainly made the most of every opportunity; and I scarcely
believe it possible for any student to learn more in so short a time than
I did during this winter. I was continually busy; acting even as nurse,
whenever I could learn any thing by it. During the following summer, I was
obliged to reside wholly in the hospital; this being a part of the
prescribed education. Here I became acquainted with all the different
wards, and had a fine opportunity to watch the cases by myself. In the
mean time, Dr. Schmidt's illness increased so rapidly, that he feared to
die before his plans in respect to me had been carried out; especially as
the state of his health had compelled him to give up his position as Chief
Director of the Hospital Charite. His design was to make me chief
accoucheuse in the hospital, and to surrender into my hands his position
as professor in the School for Midwives, so that I might have the entire
charge of the midwives education. The opposition to this plan was
twofold: firstly, the theological influence that sought to place the
deaconess (Sister Catherine) in the position of house-midwife; and,
secondly, the younger part of the profession, many of whom were anxious
for the post of professor in the School for Midwives, which never would
have been suffered to fall into the hands of Sister Catherine. Dr.
Schmidt, however, was determined to yield to neither. Personal pride
demanded that he should succeed in his plan; and several of the older and
more influential members of the profession took his part, among whom were
Johannes Mueller, Busch, Mueller, Kilian, &c. During the second winter, his
lecturing in the class was only nominal; often nothing more than naming
the heads of the subjects, while I had to give the real instruction. His
idea was to make me feel the full responsibility of such a position, and,
at the same time, to give me a chance to do the work that he had declared
me pre-eminently capable of doing. This was an intrigue; but he could not
have it otherwise. He did not intend that I should perform his duty for
his benefit, but for my own. He wished to show to the government the fact
that I had done the work of a man like himself, and done it well; and
that, if he had not told them of his withdrawal, no one would have
recognized his absence from the result.

At the close of this term, I was obliged to pass my examination at the
same time with the fifty-six students who composed the class. Dr. Schmidt
invited some of the most prominent medical men to be present, besides
those appointed as the examining committee. He informed me of this on the
day before the examination, saying, "I want to convince them that you can
do better than half of the young men at _their_ examination."

The excitement of this day I can hardly describe. I had not only to appear
before a body of strangers, of whose manner of questioning I had no idea,
but also before half a dozen authorities in the profession, assembled
especially for criticism. Picture to yourself my position: standing before
the table at which were seated the three physicians composing the
examining committee, questioning me all the while in the most perplexing
manner, with four more of the highest standing on each side,--making
eleven in all; Dr. Schmidt a little way off, anxious that I should prove
true all that he had said in praise of me; and the rest of the class in
the background, filling up the large hall. It was terrible. The trifling
honor of being considered capable was rather dearly purchased. I went
through the whole hour bravely, without missing a single question; until
finally the clock struck twelve, when every thing suddenly grew black
before my eyes, and the last question sounded like a humming noise in my
ear. I answered it--how I know not,--and was permitted to sit down and
rest for fifteen minutes before I was called to the practical examination
on the manikin. I gave satisfaction to all, and received the diploma of
the first degree. This by no means ended the excitement. The students of
the year were next examined. This examination continued for a week; after
which the diplomas were announced, when it was found that never before had
there been so many of the first degree, and so few of the third. Dr.
Schmidt then made it known that this was the result of my exertions, and I
was pronounced _a very capable woman_.

This acknowledgment having been made by the medical men present at the
examination, Dr. Schmidt thought it would be an easy matter to get me
installed into the position for which I had proved myself capable. But
such could not be the case in a government ruled by hypocrisy and
intrigue. To acknowledge the capability of a woman did not by any means
say that she was at liberty to hold a position in which she could exercise
this capability. German men are educated to be slaves to the government:
positive freedom is comprehended only by a few. They generally struggle
for a kind of negative freedom; namely, for themselves: for each man,
however much he may be inclined to show his subserviency to those superior
in rank, thinks himself the lord of creation; and, of course, regards
woman only as his appendage. How can this lord of creation, being a slave
himself, look upon the _free development_ and _demand of recognition_ of
his appendage otherwise than as a nonsense, or usurpation of his exclusive
rights? And among these lords of creation I heartily dislike that class
which not only yield to the influence brought upon them by government, but
who also possess an infinite amount of narrowness and vanity, united to as
infinite servility to money and position. There is not ink and paper
enough in all the world to write down the contempt I feel for men in whose
power it is to be free in thought and noble in action, and who act to the
contrary to feed their ambition or their purses. I have learned, perhaps,
too much of their spirit for my own good.

You can hardly believe what I experienced, in respect to intrigue, within
the few months following my examination. All the members of the medical
profession were unwilling that a woman should take her place on a level
with them. All the diplomatists became fearful that Dr. Schmidt intended
to advocate the question of "woman's rights;" one of them exclaiming one
evening, in the heat of discussion, "For Heaven's sake! the Berlin women
are already wiser than all the men of Prussia: what will become of us if
we allow them to manifest it?" I was almost forgotten in the five months
during which the question was debated: it became more than a matter of
personal intrigue. The real question at stake was, "How shall women be
educated, and what is their true sphere?" and this was discussed with more
energy and spirit than ever has been done here in America.

Scores of letters were written by Dr. Schmidt to convince the government
that a woman could really be competent to hold the position in question,
and that I had been pronounced so by the whole Faculty. The next objection
raised was that my father was known as holding revolutionary principles;
and to conquer this, cost a long discussion, with many interviews of the
officials with my father and Dr. Schmidt. The next thing urged was that I
was much _too young_; that it would be necessary, in the course of my
duties, to instruct the young men also; and that there was danger in our
thus being thrown together. In fact, this reason, read to me by Dr.
Schmidt from one of the letters written at this time (all of which are
still carefully preserved), runs thus: "To give this position to Miss M.
E. Zakrzewska is dangerous. She is a prepossessing young lady; and, from
coming in contact with so many gentlemen, must necessarily fall in love
with some one of them, and thus end her career." To this I have only to
reply, that I am sorry that I could not have found _one_ among them that
could have made me follow the suggestion. This objection however, seemed
for a while the most difficult to be met: for it was well known, that,
when a student myself, I had stood on the most friendly terms with my
fellow-students, and that they had often taken my part in little
disturbances that naturally came up in an establishment where no one was
permitted to enter or to leave without giving a reason, and where even my
private patients were sent away at the door because I did not know of
their coming, and could not announce to the doorkeeper the name and
residence of those who might possibly call.

That this difficulty was finally conquered, I have to thank the students
themselves. My relation with these young men was of the pleasantest kind.
They never seemed to think that I was not of their sex, but always treated
me like one of themselves. I knew of their studies and their amusements;
yes, even, of the mischievous pranks that they were planning both for
college and for social life. They often made me their confidante in their
private affairs, and were more anxious for my approval or forgiveness than
for that of their relatives. I learned, during this time, how great is the
friendly influence of a woman even upon fast-living and licentious young
men; and this has done more to convince me of the necessity that the two
sexes should live together from infancy, than all the theories and
arguments that are brought to convince the mass of this fact. As soon as
it became known among the students that my youth was the new objection,
they treated it in such a manner that the whole thing was transformed into
a ridiculous bugbear, growing out of the imagination of the _virtuous_

Nothing now seemed left in the way of my attaining to the position; when
suddenly it dawned upon the mind of some that I was irreligious; that
neither my father nor my mother attended church; and that, under such
circumstances, I could not, of course, be a church-goer. Fortunately, I
had complied with the requirements of the law, and could therefore bring
my certificate of confirmation from one of the Protestant churches. By the
advice of Dr. Schmidt, I commenced to attend church regularly, and
continued until a little incident happened which I must relate here. One
Sunday, just after the sermon was over, I remembered that I had forgotten
to give instructions to the nurse in respect to a patient, and left the
church without waiting for the end of the service. The next morning, I was
summoned to answer to the charge of leaving the church at an improper
time. The inquisitor (who was one of those who had accused me of
irreligion), being vexed that I contradicted him by going to church
regularly, was anxious to make me confess that I did not care for the
service: but I saw through his policy as well as his hypocrisy, and simply
told him the truth; namely, that I had forgotten important business, and
therefore thought it excusable to leave as soon as the sermon was over.
Whether he sought to lure me on to further avowals, I know not: but,
whatever was his motive, he asked me, in reply, whether I believed that
he cared for the humdrum custom of church-going and whether I thought him
imbecile enough to consider this as any thing more than the means by which
to keep the masses in check; adding, that it was the duty of the
intelligent to make the affair respectable by setting the example of going
themselves; and that he only wished me to act on this principle, when all
accusations of irreligion would fall to the ground. I had always known
that this man was not my friend: but, when I heard this, I felt
disenchanted with the whole world; for I had never thought him more than a
hypocrite, whereas I found him the meanest of Jesuits, both in theory and
practice. I was thoroughly indignant; the more so, since I felt guilty
myself in going to church simply to please Dr. Schmidt. I do not remember
what answer I gave; but I know that my manners and words made it evident
that I considered him a villain. He never forgave me this, as all his
future acts proved to me: for, in his position of chief director of the
hospital, he had it in his power, more than any one else, to annoy me; and
that he did so, you will presently see.

The constant opposition and attendant excitement together with the
annoyances which my father, as civil officer, had to endure, made him
resolve to present a declaration to the government, that I should never,
with his consent, enter the position. He had become so tired of my efforts
to become a public character in my profession, that he suddenly conceived
the wish to have me married Now, take for a moment into consideration the
facts that I was but twenty-two years of age, full of sanguine enthusiasm
for my vocation, and strong in the friendship of Dr. Schmidt. He had
inspired me with the idea of a career different from the common routine of
domestic life. My mother, overcoming her repugnance to my entering my
profession, had been my best friend, encouraging me steadily; while my
father, yielding to the troubles that it involved, had become disgusted
with it, and wished me to abandon my career. He was stern, and would not
take back his word. I could do nothing without his consent; while Dr.
Schmidt had finally overcome all difficulties, and had the prospect of
victory if my father would but yield. A few weeks of this life were
sufficient to drive one mad, and I am sure that I was near becoming so. I
was resolved to run away from home or to kill myself while my father was
equally resolved to marry me to a man of whom I did not know the sight.
Matters finally came to a crisis through the illness of Dr. Schmidt,
whose health failed so rapidly, that it was thought dangerous to let him
be longer excited by the fear of not realizing his favorite scheme. Some
of his medical advisers influenced the government to appeal to my father
to withdraw his declaration; which, satisfied with the honor thus done
him, he did on the 1st of May, 1852. On the 15th of May, I received my
legal instalment to the position for which Dr. Schmidt had designed me.
The joy that I felt was great beyond expression. A youthful enthusiast of
twenty-two, I stood at the height of my wishes and expectations. I had
obtained what others only could obtain after the protracted labor of half
a lifetime; and already I saw myself in imagination occupying the place of
Dr. Schmidt's aspirations,--that of a German La Chapelle. No one, that has
not passed at the same age through the same excitement, can ever
comprehend the fulness of my rejoicing, which was not wholly selfish; for
I knew that nothing in the world would please Dr. Schmidt so much as this
victory. The wildest joy of an accepted suitor is a farce compared to my
feelings on the morning of that 15th of May. I was reconciled to my
bitterest opponents: I could even have thanked them for their opposition,
since it had made the success so much the sweeter. Not the slightest
feeling of triumph was in my heart; all was happiness and rejoicing: and
it was in this condition of mind and heart that I put on my bonnet and
shawl to carry the good news to Dr. Schmidt. Without waiting to be
announced, I hastened to his parlor, where I found him sitting with his
wife upon the sofa. I did not walk, but flew, towards them, and threw the
letter upon the table, exclaiming "There is the victory!" Like a
conflagration my joy spread to Dr. Schmidt as well as to his wife, who
thought that she saw in these tidings a cup of new life for her husband. I
only staid long enough to accept their congratulations. Dr. Schmidt told
me to be sure to come the next morning to enter legally upon my duties at
his side. Meanwhile, he gave me a vacation for the afternoon to see my
friends and carry them the news. He saw that I needed the open air, and
felt that he, too, must have it to counteract his joy. I went to tell my
father and several friends, and spent the day in blissful ignorance of the
dreadful event that was transpiring.

The next morning, at seven o'clock, I left home to go to my residence in
the hospital. I had not slept during the night: the youthful fire of
enthusiasm burnt too violently to allow me any rest. The old doorkeeper
opened the door for me, and gazed at me with an air of surprise. "What is
the matter?" I asked. "I am astonished to see you so cheerful," said he.
"Why?" I asked with astonishment. "Don't you know that Dr. Schmidt is
dead?" was the answer. Dr. Schmidt dead! I trembled; I staggered; I fell
upon a chair. The beautiful entrance-hall, serving also as a greenhouse
during the winter, filled in every place with flowers and tropical fruit,
faded from my eyes; and in its stead I saw nothing but laughing faces,
distorted with scorn and mockery. A flood of tears cooled the heat of my
brain, and a calmness like that of death soon took possession of me. I had
fallen from the topmost height of joy and happiness to the profoundest
depth of disappointment and despair. If there were nothing else to prove
the strength of my mind, the endurance of this sudden change would be

I went at once to Dr. Schmidt's residence in the Hospital Park, where I
met him again, not as I had expected an hour before, ready to go with me
to the hospital-department which I was henceforth to superintend, but a
corpse. After I had left the day before, he had expressed a wish to go
into the open air, he being not much less excited than myself. Mrs.
Schmidt ordered the carriage, and they drove to the large park. He talked
constantly and excitedly about the satisfaction that he felt in this
success, until they arrived; when he wished to get out of the carriage,
and walk with his wife. Mrs. Schmidt consented; but they had scarcely
taken a few steps when he sank to the ground, and a gush of blood from his
mouth terminated his existence.

I left Dr. Schmidt's house, and entered alone into the wards, where I felt
that I was without friendly encouragement and support. During the three
days that intervened before the burial of Dr. Schmidt, I was hardly
conscious of any thing, but moved about mechanically like an automaton.
The next few days were days of confusion; for the death of Dr. Schmidt had
left so many places vacant that some fifty persons were struggling to
obtain some one of his offices. The eagerness, servility, and meanness
which these educated men displayed in striving to conquer their rivals was
more than disgusting. The serpents that lie in wait for their prey are
endurable; for we know that it is their nature to be cunning and
relentless: but to see men of intellect and education sly and snaky,
ferocious, yet servile to the utmost, makes one almost believe in total
depravity. The most of these men got what they deserved; namely, nothing:
the places were filled temporarily with others, and every thing went on
apparently as before. My position soon became very disagreeable. I had
received my instalment, not because I was wanted by the directors of the
hospital, but because they had been commanded by the government to accept
me in the hope of thus prolonging the life of Dr. Schmidt. Young and
inexperienced in petty intrigue, I had now to work without friendly
encouragement and appreciation, with no one about me in whom I had a
special interest; while every one was regretting that the instalment had
been given me before Dr. Schmidt's death, which might have happened just
as well from some other excitement, in an establishment where three
thousand people were constantly at war about each other's affairs. I
surveyed the whole arena, and saw very well, that, unless I practised
meanness and dishonesty as well as the rest, I could not remain there for
any length of time; for scores were ready to calumniate me whenever there
was the least thing to be gained by it.

I was about to commence a new period of life. I had a solid structure as
a foundation; but the superstructure had been built up in so short a time,
that a change of wind would suffice to cast it down. I resolved,
therefore, to tear it down myself, and to begin to build another upon the
carefully laid basis; and only waited for an opportunity to manifest my
intention. This opportunity soon presented itself. Sister Catherine, the
deaconess of whom I have spoken, who had been allowed to attend the School
of Midwives after my election, through the influence of her theological
friends upon Dr. Schmidt (the city magistrates having refused her because
I was already the third accepted pupil), had as yet no position: and these
friends now sought to make her the second _accoucheuse_; I having the
first position, with the additional title of Chief. This she would not
accept. She, the experienced deaconess, who had been a Florence
Nightingale in the typhus epidemic of Silesia, was unwilling to be under
the supervision of a woman who had nothing to show but a thorough
education, and who was, besides, eight years younger than herself. Her
refusal made my enemies still more hostile. Why they were so anxious for
her services, I can only explain by supposing that the directors of the
hospital wished to annoy Pastor Fliedner, the originator of the
Kaiserswerth Sisterhood; for, in placing Sister Catherine in this
position, they robbed him of one of the very best nurses that he ever had
in his institution.

My desire to reconcile the government of the hospital, in order that I
might have peace in my position to pursue my development and education so
as to realize and manifest to the people the truth of what Dr. Schmidt had
affirmed of me, induced me to go to one of the directors, and propose that
Sister Catherine should be installed on equal terms with me; offering to
drop the title of Chief, and to consent that the department should be
divided into two. My proposition was accepted nominally, and Sister
Catherine was installed, but with a third less salary than I received;
while I had to give the daily reports, &c., and to take the chief
responsibility of the whole. Catherine was quite friendly to me; and I was
happy in the thought that there was now one at least who would stand by
me, should any difficulties occur. How much I was mistaken in the human
heart! This pious, sedate woman, towards whom my heart yearned with
friendship, was my greatest enemy; though I did not know it until after my
arrival in America.

A few weeks afterwards, the city petitioned to have a number of women
instructed in the practice of midwifery. These women were all experienced
nurses, who had taken the liberty to practise this art to a greater or
less extent from what they had learned of it while nursing; and, to put an
end to this unlawful practice, they had been summoned before an examining
committee, and the youngest and best educated chosen to be instructed as
the law required. Dr. Mueller, the pathologist, was appointed to
superintend the theoretical, and Dr. Ebert the practical, instruction. Dr.
Mueller, who never had given this kind of instruction before, and who was a
special friend of mine, immediately surrendered the whole into my hands;
while Dr. Ebert, whose time was almost wholly absorbed in the department
of the diseases of children, appointed me as his assistant. Both gentlemen
gave me certificates of this when I determined to emigrate to America.

The marked preference for my wards that had always been shown by the male
students was shared by these women when they came. Sister Catherine was
neither ambitious nor envious; yet she felt that she was the second in
place. Drs. Mueller and Ebert never addressed themselves to her; neither
did they impress the nurses and the servants with the idea that she was
any thing more than the head-nurse. All these things together made her a
spy; and, though nothing happened for which I could be reproved, all that
I said and did was watched and secretly reported. Under a despotic
government, the spy is as necessary as the corporal. The annoyance of this
reporting is, that the secrecy exists only for the one whom it concerns;
while the subaltern officers and servants receive hints that such a person
is kept under constant surveillance. When it was found that no occasion
offered to find fault with me, our administrative inspector was removed,
and a surly old corporal put in his place, with the hint that the
government of the hospital thought that the former inspector did not
perform his duty rightly, since he never reported disturbance in a ward
that had been notorious as being the most disorderly in former times. The
truth was, that, in my innocence of heart, I had been striving to gain the
respect and friendship of my enemies by doing my work better than any
before me had done. To go to bed at night regularly was a thing unknown to
me. Once I was not undressed for twenty-one days and nights;
superintending and giving instructions on six or eight confinement cases
in every twenty-four hours; lecturing three hours every afternoon to the
class of midwives; giving clinical lectures to them twice a week, for an
hour in the morning; superintending the care of some twenty infants, who
were epidemically attacked with purulent ophthalmia; and having, besides,
the general supervision of the whole department. But all this could not
overcome the hostility of my enemies, the chief cause of which lay in the
mortification at having been vanquished by my appointment. On the other
hand, I was happy in the thought that Mrs. Schmidt continued to take the
same interest in me as before, and was glad to hear of my partial success.
The students, both male and female, were devoted to me, and manifested
their gratitude openly and frankly. This was the greatest compensation
that I received for my work. The women wished to show their appreciation
by paying me for the extra labor that I performed in their instruction;
not knowing the fact, that I did it simply in order that they might pass
an examination which should again convince the committee that I was in the
right place. I forbade them all payment, as I had refused it to the male
students when they wished to pay me for their extra instruction on the
manikin: but in a true, womanly way, they managed to learn the date of
my birthday; when two or three, instead of attending the lecture, took
possession of my room, which they decorated with flowers; while en the
table they displayed presents to the amount of some hundred and twenty
dollars, which the fifty-six women of the class had collected among
themselves. This was, of course, a great surprise to me, and really made
me feel sad; for I did not wish for things of this sort. I wished to prove
that unselfishness was the real motive of my work; and thought that I
should finally earn the crown of appreciation from my enemies, for which I
was striving. This gift crossed all my plans. I must accept it, if I would
not wound the kindest of hearts; yet I felt that I lost my game by so
doing. I quietly packed every thing into a basket, and put it out of sight
under the bed, in order that I might not be reminded of my loss. Of
course, all these things were at once reported. I saw in the faces of many
that something was in agitation, and waited a fortnight in constant
expectation of its coming. But these people wished to crush me entirely.
They knew well that a blow comes hardest when least expected, and
therefore kept quiet week after week, until I really began to ask their
pardon in my heart for having done them the wrong to expect them to act
meanly about a thing that was natural and allowable. In a word, I became
quiet and happy again in the performance of my duties; until suddenly six
weeks after my birthday, I was summoned to the presence of Director Horn
(the same who had reprimanded me for leaving the church), who received me
with a face as hard and stern as an avenging judge, and asked me whether I
knew that it was against the law to receive any other payment than that
given me by the hospital. Upon my avowing that I did, he went on to ask
how it was, then, that I had accepted gifts on my birthday. This question
fell upon me like a thunderbolt; for I never had thought of looking upon
these as a payment. Had these women paid me for the instruction that I
gave them beyond that which was prescribed, they ought each one to have
given me the value of the presents. I told him this in reply, and also how
disagreeable the acceptance had been to me, and how ready I was to return
the whole at his command; since it had been my desire to prove, not only
my capability, but my unselfishness in the work. The man was ashamed; I
saw it in his face as he turned it away from me: yet he saw in me a proof
that he had been vanquished in intrigue, and was resolved that the
occasion should end in my overthrow. Much more was said about the
presents and their significance; and I soon ceased to be the humble woman,
and spoke boldly what I thought, in defiance of his authority, as I had
done at the time of the religious conversation (by the way, I never
attended church again after that interview.) The end was, that I declared
my readiness to leave the hospital. He wished to inflict direct punishment
on me; and forbade me to be present at the examination of the class, which
was to take place the next day. This was really a hard penalty, to which
he was forced for his own sake; for, if I had been present, I should have
told the whole affair to men of a nobler stamp, who would have opposed, as
they afterwards did, my leaving a place which I filled to their entire

I made my preparations to leave the hospital on the 15th of November. What
was I to do? I was not made to practise quietly, as is commonly done: my
education and aspirations demanded more than this. For the time, I could
do nothing more than inform my patients that I intended to practise
independently. My father again wished that I should marry; and I began to
ask myself, whether marriage is an institution to relieve parents from
embarrassment. When troubled about the future of a son, parents are ready
to give him to the army; when in fears of the destiny of a daughter, they
induce her to become the slave of the marriage bond. I never doubted that
it was more unendurable and unworthy to be a wife without love, than a
soldier without a special calling for that profession; and I never could
think of marriage as the means to procure a shelter and bread.

I had so many schemes in my head, that I would not listen to his words.
Among these was especially the wish to emigrate to America. The
Pennsylvania Female Medical College had sent its first Report to Dr.
Schmidt, who had informed me of it as well as his colleagues, and had
advocated the justice of such a reform. This fact occurred to my memory;
and, for the next two months, I did nothing but speculate how to carry out
my design of emigration. I had lived rather expensively and lavishly,
without thinking of laying up any money; and my whole fortune, when I left
the Charite, consisted of sixty dollars.

One thing happened in connection with my leaving the hospital, which I
must relate here. Director Horn was required to justify his conduct to
the minister to whom the change had to be reported; and a committee was
appointed to hear the accusation and pass judgment upon the affair. As
this was done in secrecy and not before a jury, and as the accuser was a
man of high rank, I knew nothing of it until Christmas Eve, when I
received a document stating that, _as a gratification for my services for
the benefit of the city of Berlin_ in instructing the class of midwives, a
compensation was decreed me of fifty dollars. This was a large sum for
Berlin, such as was only given on rare occasions. I was also informed that
Director Horn was instructed to give me, should I ever demand it, a
first-class certificate of what my position had been in the hospital with
the title of Chief attached. Whatever I had suffered from the injustice of
my enemies, I was now fully recompensed. I inquired who had taken my part
so earnestly against Director Horn as to gain this action, and found that
it was Dr. Mueller the pathologist, backed by several other physicians.
Director Horn, it was said, was greatly humiliated by the decision of
Minister von Raumer, who could not see the least justice in his conduct in
this matter; and, had I not left the hospital so readily, I should never
have stood so firmly as after this secret trial.

It was done, however; and I confidently told my mother of my design to
emigrate. Between my mother and myself there existed, not merely the
strongest relation of maternal and filial love, but also a professional
sympathy and peculiar friendship, which was the result of two similar
minds and hearts, and which made me stand even nearer to her than as a
child I could possibly have done. She consented with heart and soul,
encouraged me in all my plans and expectations, and asked me at once at
what time I would leave. I next told my father and the rest of the family
of my plan. My third sister (Anna), a beautiful, joyous young girl,
exclaimed, "And I will go with you!" My father, who would not listen to my
going alone, at once consented to our going together. But I thought
differently In going alone, I risked only my own happiness: in going with
her, I risked hers too; while I should be constantly restricted in my
adventurous undertaking from having her with me, who knew nothing of the
world save the happiness of a tranquil family life. The next day, I told
them that I had changed my mind, and should not go away, but should
establish myself in Berlin. Of course, I received a torrent of gibes on my
fickleness; for they did not understand my feelings in respect to the
responsibility that I feared to take for my younger sister.

I began to establish myself in practice. Mrs. Schmidt, who was anxious to
assist me in my new career, suggested to those physicians who were my
friends the establishment of a private hospital, which should be under my
care. She found them strongly in favor of the plan; and, had I not been
constantly speculating about leaving for America, this scheme would have
been realized. But I had resolved to emigrate, and took my measures
accordingly. I went secretly to Drs. Mueller and Ebert, and procured
certificates from them attesting my position in respect to them in the
hospital. I then obtained the certificate from Director Horn, and carried
them all to the American Charge d'Affaires (Theodore S. Fay) to have them
legalized in English, so that they could be of service to me in

When I told Drs. Ebert and Mueller and Mrs. Schmidt of my intention to
emigrate, they pronounced me insane. They thought that I had the best
field of activity open in Berlin, and could not comprehend why I should
seek greater freedom of person and of action. Little really is known in
Berlin about America, and to go there is considered as great an
undertaking as to seek the river Styx in order to go to Hades. The remark
that I heard from almost every quarter was, "What! you wish to go to the
land of barbarism, where they have negro slavery, and where they do not
know how to appreciate talent and genius?" But this could not prevent me
from realizing my plans. I had idealized the freedom of America, and
especially the reform of the position of women, to such an extent, that I
would not listen to their arguments. After having been several years in
America, very probably I would think twice before undertaking again to
emigrate; for even the idealized freedom has lost a great deal of its
charm, when I consider how much better it could be.

Having put every thing in order, I told my father of my conclusion to
leave. He was surprised to hear of it the second time: but I showed him my
papers in readiness for the journey, and declared that I should go as soon
as the ship was ready to sail; having a hundred dollars,--just money
enough to pay my passage. He would not give his consent, unless my sister
Anna accompanied me; thinking her, I suppose, a counterpoise to any rash
undertakings in which I might engage in a foreign land. If I wished to go,
I was, therefore, forced to have her company; of which I should have been
very glad, had I not feared the moral care and responsibility. We decided
to go in a fortnight. My father paid her passage, and gave her a hundred
dollars in cash,--just enough to enable us to spend a short time in New
York: after which he expected either to send us more money, or that we
would return; and, in case we did this, an agreement was made with the
shipping-merchant that payment should be made on our arrival in Hamburg.

On the 13th of March, 1853, we left the paternal roof, to which we should
never return. My mother bade us adieu with tears in her eyes; saying, "_Au
revoir_ in America!" She was determined to follow us.

Dear Mary, here ends my Berlin and European life; and I can assure you
that this was the hardest moment I ever knew. Upon my memory is for ever
imprinted the street, the house, the window behind which my mother stood
waving her handkerchief. Not a tear did I suffer to mount to my eyes, in
order to make her believe that the departure was an easy one; but a heart
beating convulsively within punished me for the restraint.

My father and brothers accompanied us to the _depot_, where the cars
received us for Hamburg. On our arrival there, we found that the ice had
not left the Elbe, and that the ships could not sail until the river was
entirely free. We were forced to remain three weeks in Hamburg. We had
taken staterooms in the clipper ship "Deutschland." Besides ourselves,
there were sixteen passengers in the first cabin; people good enough in
their way, but not sufficiently attractive to induce us to make their
acquaintance. We observed a dead silence as to who we were, where we were
going, or what was the motive of our emigrating to America. The only
person that we ever spoke to was a Mr. R. from Hamburg, a youth of
nineteen, who, like ourselves, had left a happy home in order to try his
strength in a strange land. The voyage was of forty-seven days' duration;
excessively stormy, but otherwise very dull, like all voyages of this
kind; and, had it not been for the expectations that filled our hearts, we
should have died of _ennui_. As it was, the days passed slowly, made worse
by the inevitable sea-sickness of our fellow-passengers; and we longed for
the hour that should bring us in sight of the shores of the New World. And
now commences _my life in America_.

"Dear Marie, best Marie! make haste to come upon deck to see America! Oh,
how pleasant it is to see the green trees again! How brightly the sun is
gilding the land you are seeking,--the land of freedom!" With such
childlike exclamations of delight, my sister Anna burst into my cabin to
hasten my appearance on deck on the morning of the 22d of May, 1853. The
beautiful child of nineteen summers was only conscious of a heart
overflowing with pleasure at the sight of the charming landscape that
opened before her eyes after a tedious voyage of forty-seven days upon the
ocean. We had reached the quarantine at Staten Island. The captain, the
old pilot, every one, gazed at her as she danced joyously about the deck,
with a mingled feeling of sadness and curiosity; for our reserve while on
shipboard had surrounded us with a sort of mystery which none knew how to

As soon as I had dressed for going on shore, and had packed up the things
that we had used on our voyage, in order that they might not be stolen
during this time of excitement, I obeyed the last call of my impatient
sister to come at least to see the last rays of sunrise; and went on deck,
where I was at once riveted by the beautiful scene that was spread before
my eyes. The green, sloping lawns, with which the white cottages formed
such a cheerful contrast; the trees, clad in their first foliage, and
suggesting hope by their smiling blossoms; the placid cows, feeding
quietly in the fields; the domestic chickens, just visible in the
distance; and the friendly barking of a dog,--all seemed to greet me with
a first welcome to the shores of this strange country: while the sun,
shining brightly from a slightly clouded sky, mellowed the whole
landscape, and so deeply impressed my soul, that tears sprang to my eyes,
and a feeling rose in my heart that I can call nothing else than
devotional; for it bowed my knees beneath me, and forced sounds from my
lips that I could not translate into words, for they were mysterious to
myself. A stranger in a strange, wide land, not knowing its habits and
customs, not understanding its people, not yet understanding its workings
and aims, my mind was not clouded with loneliness. I was happy. Had it not
been my own wish that had made me leave the home of a kind father, and of
a mother beloved beyond all earthly beings? I had succeeded in safely
reaching the shores of America. Life was again open before me. With these
thoughts, I turned from the beautiful landscape; and finding the captain,
a noble-hearted sailor, inquired of him how long it would take us to reach
the port of New York. "That is New York," said he, pointing to a dark mass
of buildings, with here and there a spire towering in the air. "We shall
reach there about eight o'clock; but it is Sunday, and you will have to
stay on board till to-morrow." With this he turned away, calling his men
to weigh anchor; as the physician, whose duty it was to inspect the cargo
of men, like cattle, had just left in his boat. On we went, my sister
still dancing and singing for joy; and Mr. R. and myself sitting somewhat
apart,--he looking dedespondently into the water, I with my head firmly
raised in the air, happy in heart, but thoughtful in mind, and trusting in
my inward strength for the future.

I took my breakfast on deck. No one seemed to have any appetite; and I
felt somewhat reproved when I heard some one near me say, "She seems to
have neither head nor heart: see how tranquilly she can eat at such a time
as this!" These words were spoken by one of the cabin-passengers,--a young
man, who was exceedingly curious to know why I was going to America, and
had several times tried to make the rest of the passengers believe that it
must be in consequence of an unhappy love. The poor simpleton! he thought
that women could only enter into life through the tragedy of a broken

A bell sounded. We were opposite Trinity Church, which had just struck
eight. On my right lay an enormous collection of bricks (houses I could
not call them; for, seen from the ship, they resembled only a pile of
ruins); on my left, the romantic shore of New Jersey. But the admiration
with which I had gazed upon Staten Island was gone as I stood before this
beautiful scene; the appreciation of Nature was mastered by another
feeling,--a feeling of activity that had become my ideal. I had come here
for a purpose,--to carry out the plan which a despotic government and its
servile agents had prevented me from doing in my native city. I had to
show to those men who had opposed me so strongly because I was a woman,
that in this land of liberty, equality, and fraternity, I could maintain
that position which they would not permit to me at home. My talents were
in an unusual direction. I was a physician; and, as such, had for years
moved in the most select circles of Berlin. Even my enemies had been
forced to give me the highest testimonials: and these were the only
treasure that I brought to this country; for I had given my last dollar to
the sailor who brought me the first news that land was in sight.

I looked again upon New York, but with a feeling that a great mystery was
lying before my eyes,--a feeling that was confirmed by the men, who came
off to the ship in small boats, speaking a language that seemed like a
chaos of sounds. As I turned, I saw my sister coming slowly up from the
cabin with a changed air; and I asked her with surprise what was the
matter. "O Marie!" said she, "most of the passengers are called for. Mr.
R.'s brother has just come to take him on shore. He was so glad to see
him (for he thought he was in New Orleans), that I think he will forget to
say good-by. I am afraid that we shall have to stay here all alone,
and"--"Are the Misses Zakrzewska on board?" called a voice from a little
boat by the side of the ship. We looked down in surprise, but did not
recognize the man, who spoke as if he were an acquaintance. The captain
answered "Yes." Upon which the same voice said, "Mr. G. requests them to
wait: he will be here in a moment."

This announcement surprised us the more that it came from a totally
unexpected quarter. An acquaintance of ours, who had emigrated to New York
a few years before, and had shortly after married a Mr. G., had heard from
her brother in Berlin of our departure for America in the ship
"Deutschland;" and these good people, thinking that they could be of use
to us in a new country, had been watching for its arrival. No one on board
dared ask a question as to who our friends were, so reserved had we been
in regard to our plans: only the young man who had accused me of having
neither head nor heart said, half aside, "Ah, ha! now we know the reason
why Miss Marie ate her breakfast so calmly, while her sister danced for
joy. They had beaux who were expecting them." "Simpleton!" thought I:
"must women always have beaux in order to be calm about the future?"

Mr. G. came on board in a few minutes, bringing us from his wife an
invitation of welcome to her house. I cannot express in words the emotion
awakened in my heart by the really unselfish kindness that had impelled
these people to greet us in this manner; and this was increased when we
reached their very modest dwelling, consisting of a large shop in which
Mr. G. carried on his business of manufacturing fringes and tassels, one
sitting-room, a bedroom, and a small kitchen. My strength left me, and my
composure dissolved in a flood of tears. The good people did all that they
could to make us feel at home, and insisted that we should occupy the
sitting-room until we had decided what further to do. Of course, I
determined that this should be for as short a time as possible, and that
we would immediately look out for other lodgings.

One-half of this first day was spent in talking about home; the other, in
making an excursion to Hoboken. This visit we would gladly have dispensed
with, so exhausted were we by the excitement that we had passed through
since sunrise; but our friends were bent on entertaining us with stories
and sights of the New World, and we followed them rather reluctantly. I
have since been glad that I did so; for my mind was in a state that
rendered it far more impressible than usual, and therefore better fitted
to observe much that would have been lost to me in a less-excited
condition. Here I first saw the type of common German life on Sunday in
America; and I saw enough of it on that one Sunday afternoon to last a
whole lifetime. My friends called on several of their acquaintances.
Everywhere that we went, I noticed two peculiarities,--comparative poverty
in the surroundings, and apparent extravagance in the manner of living:
for in every house we found an abundance of wine, beer, cake, meat, salad,
&c., although it was between the hours of meals; and every one was eating,
although no one seemed hungry. At nine o'clock in the evening, the visit
was concluded by going to a hotel, where a rich supper was served up to
us; and at eleven at night we returned home. My work in America had
already commenced. Was it not necessary for a stranger in a new country to
observe life in all its phases, before entering upon it? It seemed so to
me; and I had already planned, while on ship-board, to spend the first
month in observations of this kind. I had made a fair beginning; and, when
I saw many repetitions of this kind of life among my countrymen, I feared
that this was their main purpose in this country, and their consolation
for the loss of the entertainments and recreations which their fatherland
offered to them. But, as soon as I got opportunity to make my observations
among the educated classes I found my fear ungrounded; and I also found
that the Americans had noticed the impulse for progress and higher
development which animated these Germans. The German mind, so much honored
in Europe for its scientific capacity, for its consistency regarding

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