10. November 2022

All they wanted was to study: Women's fates in black-and-white All they wanted was to study: Women's fates in black-and-white

The Numerus Clausus and the Young Women / Exhibition at the Women’s Museum (‘Frauenmuseum’) in cooperation with the BCDSS at Bonn University

A new exhibition at the Frauenmuseum Bonn focuses on young Hungarian Jewish women whose lives were fundamentally altered by the introduction of the so-called “Numerus Clausus law” in 1920. Based on family memories, historical documents and photographs, the exhibition brings to life the fates and achievements of women born in the first quarter of the twentieth century. It also shows the influence the law had on the women's movement and Jewish assimilation. The exhibition is a cooperation with the Cluster of Excellence Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies (BCDSS) at the University of Bonn. It runs from 20 November to 22 December 2022. To take part in the opening, please register by 18 November to: events@dependency.uni-bonn.de

Exhibition poster
Exhibition poster © BCDSS/ Uni Bonn
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The young women depicted in the exhibition differed widely in terms of birth place, socio-economic, family and cultural background, denomination, subsequent career, and fate during the Shoah. What they all had in common was their desire to study and the fact that the “Numerus Clausus Law” fundamentally altered their lives, greatly limiting their opportunities and life choices. The exhibition highlights the tremendous obstacles these young women faced but also the contributions they made to modern fields from psychoanalysis to photography, reform pedagogy, modern dance, and the arts - within as well as outside of Hungary.

Launched at the 2b Gallery, Budapest, in August 2021, the exhibition has now been adopted by the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies (BCDSS) for the Women’s Museum, Bonn. It originates from a research project on “Academic antisemitism, women’s emancipation, and Jewish assimilation” by Judith Szapor of McGill University, Montreal, which was funded by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Historical background

In September 1920, Hungary introduced Law XXV of 1920 “On regulating enrolment at universities, technical universities, the faculty of economics, and the schools;” the so-called “Numerus Clausus Law” was the earliest instance of anti-Jewish legislation in interwar Europe. In an era of resurgent ethnic nationalisms in Central and East Central Europe, universities became the battleground between traditional and modern elites, between liberal-democratic and illiberal ideologies, and antisemitic violence engulfed universities from Poland to Austria, Romania, and even Czechoslovakia.

The “Numerus Clausus Law” breached the liberal principle of equal citizenship: it overrode the 1867 emancipation of Jews in Hungary and restricted their numbers in the student body to 6% until the end of the Second World War. The law also barred left-wing students – and for part of the 1920s, all women – from universities. Coupled with the official antisemitism of the interwar period, it also led to the “peregrination” of Hungarian Jewish students to the universities and art schools (including the Bauhaus) of Austria, Germany, Italy, and Czechoslovakia, until the mid-to-late 1930s.

All they wanted was to study - The Numerus Clausus Law and Young Women
Exhibition at the Women's Museum, Bonn
November 20 - December 22, 2022
Opening: November 20, 2022 at 4 pm

Exhibition website

Im Krausfeld 10
53111 Bonn

Cécile Jeblawei
Presse und PR Manager
Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies (BCDSS)
University of Bonn
Email: pr@dependency.uni-bonn.de
Phone: +49 228 73 62477


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