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Margarete Köstlin-Räntsch

Scholar of the Month June 2020

* November, 18 1880 in Berlin                                                † Summer of 1945 in Wargenau (East Prussia)

1901      Passed university entrance exam (maturita)
1901      Began studying human medicine in Freiburg, Munich, and Berlin
1903      Enrolled at a student at JMU
1907      Finished dissertation at the medical school of the University of Würzburg
1908      Began practicing medicine as a doctor

Margarete Köstlin-Räntsch, June's Scholar of the Month, was one of the few German female medical doctors at the beginning of the twentieth century. Described as a very self-confident and 'emancipated' woman, Köstlin-Räntsch was one of the first women to study at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität, earning her doctorate degree in medicine.

A Woman in A Man's World

After attending a Höhere Töchterschule, Köstlin-Räntsch had to pay for secondary education courses taught by Helene Lange in order to be able to study at the university level. That was the only way the future doctor could take the university entrance exams in 1901, when women were generally barred from higher education. She began studying human medicine in Freiburg, Munich, and then Berlin until 1904, when she finally transferred to the Julius-Maximilians-University of Würzburg. Köstlin-Räntsch was initially forced to enroll as a guest student, since, as a woman, she was not permitted to enroll as a standard student. Despite the obstacles, she was able to complete the remaining four semesters. This ensured her status as among the first three women students to graduate from the University of Würzburg, alongside Grete Ehrenberg and Barbara Heffner. In 1906, Köstlin-Räntsch received her license to practice medicine.

Dream Job: Doctor

From 1907 to 1908, Köstlin-Räntsch worked on her dissertation titled "Untersuchungen über die Glätte von Kleiderstoffen" (Studies on the smoothness of clothing fabric) under Prof. Karl Bernhard Lehmann, making her the first woman to write her dissertation at the University of Würzburg's medical school.
In 1908, she moved near Kiel to begin her medical career, and quickly joined Kiel's Heinrich Children's Hospital, where she would practice medicine until 1917.
Though 1917 marked the end of her 'official' medical career, she had married her husband with the explicit condition that she would never completely give up medicine, and so, after moving to the common estate, she oversaw the medical care of her family as well as the employees and their families. In the summer of 1945, Margarete Köstlin-Räntsch and her husband were killed by soldiers of the Red Army, which their children would only learn about much later.

Family life apart the normal standards

Margarete Köstlin-Räntsch didn´t match with the normal role model of a woman in the early 20th century. She educated her children Ulrich, Elisabeth and Beate equal and not as usual with the rigid roles of the sexes. Her daughters had the same liberties as her son. Their school education was minted from the visit of progressive teaching schools. She early enlightened her children and sexuality wasn´t a taboo issue in her family. That coined especially her daughter Beate.

Mother of a Strong Woman - Beate Uhse

Margerete's children enjoyed a liberal upbringing and a strong maternal role model. One of these children, Beate, would grow up to become an 'emancipated' woman similar to her mother. Before she broke conventions with her remarkably successful business, Beate Uhse she pursued a passion that was rather unusual for women of the time, made all the more remarkable for Beate's young age. She was introduced to flying at a young age, when her mother Margerete Köstlin-Räntsch would permit sightseeing flights over the family's estate, flights in which Beate would be included. By the time Beate was eight years old, the doctor's youngest daughter not only dreamed of being a pilot, but successfully started working towards making her dream a reality. Before Beate devoted herself to her entrepreunerial career through which she quickly achieved fame, she was a trained aerobatic and sports pilot who served in the Nazi German Luftwaffe as captain. Until the end of World War II, Beate would transfer aircraft to the front line. The end of the war and the Allies' subsequent flight ban necessitated a career change, of which Beate Uhse handled well, becoming one of the most influential businesswomen in Germany.