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Stöcker, Helene (1869-1943)

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Stöcker, Helene (1869-1943)


Stöcker, Helene
German Bund fur Mutterschutz


Helene Stoecker was a German feminist and social reformer. She was responsible for the philosophy known as the New Ethic, which promoted equality of illegitimate children, legalization of abortion, and sexual education.


Collens, Jackie (created stub)
De Bel, Heather (added biography)


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Berlin, Germany
New York, NY

Person Item Type Metadata

Birth Date



Elberfeld, Germany

Death Date



Social reformer

Biographical Text

Dr. Helene Stöcker (1869-1943) was one of the first woman students to enter a German University. Stöcker helped found Germany's first woman suffrage organization, and later the Bund für Mutterschutz (Protection of Motherhood.) The main focus of this group was to “fight for a new ethic of women’s right to sexuality and unwed motherhood.” The group also “maintained its preeminent position of intellectual (and moral) leadership within the sex reform movement.” Stöcker was active in the German and international peace movement from the World War I period onward. She the early congresses of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and belonged to several other peace organizations including the Deutsche Friedensgesellschaft (German Peace Society), and the International Peace Bureau. Stöcker connected her work in pacifism with the work in sexual reform when Muttershutz added a pacifist plank to their platform calling for their supporters to work for "existing and flourishing life," and against brute force in war and the state.

Stöcker was quoted as saying, “They say that we want to encourage free relationships. That’s not so. Rather, these free relationships obviously already exist, and we want to purify them and, by social recognition, raise them to a higher level.” She also published articles written by Sigmund Freud, Alfred Moll, Havelock Ellis, and Magnus Hirschfeld about topics ranging from the sexual customs of antiquity, to the legal status of homosexuals. All of this while she was editor of the periodical Mutterschutz and Die neue Generation.

Stöcker sided with the beliefs of the Romantics and “found spiritual and intellectual ancestors” within them. “The Romantics unitary world view rejected the man as an ideal against which women must necessarily fall short. Valuing the sexes equally, the Romantics fashioned new ideals of humanity, such as the “androgyne,” which united masculine and feminine on a higher plane.” Romantics also knew that marriage transcended the legal institution, and demanded correction in case of a mistaken love object.

Stöcker believed that sexuality involved both men and women, so she tried to get men involved in her reform efforts. She also viewed herself as part of the scientific movement to study sex.

Stöcker quoted, “In the “meantime,” until the abolition of capitalism and the creation of a new socialist society is completed, in the meantime in which we are living, birth control is surely able to alleviate much misery and make of women--overburdened, helpless beasts of burden--strong, free and healthy personalities, capable of taking their own necessary and active part in the struggle for a better world.” Stöcker saw the birth control clinics run by MS in the United States as “practical socialism.”

Dr. Stöcker was driven out of Germany by the Nazis in 1933 and lived for periods in Switzerland, England, and Sweden. She emigrated to the United States in 1941, under the sponsorship of friends and colleagues in the peace movement, especially those in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Stöcker died in 1943 in New York City.


Ann Taylor Allen. “Mothers of the New Generation: Adele Schreiber, Helene Stöcker, and the Evolution of a German Idea of Motherhood, 1900-1914.” Signs 10, no. 3 (1985): 418-438.

Helene Stocker Papers, Swarthmore College Peace Collection

Atina Grossman. Reforming Sex: The German Movement for Birth Control & Abortion Reform 1920-1950 (New York:Oxford University Press, 1995)

Amy Hackett. “Helene Stöcker: Left-Wing Intellectual and Sex Reformer.” When Biology Became Destiny (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1984).