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Louise Ebert (b. 23 December 1873 in Melchiorshausen; d. 18 January 1955 in Heidelberg)

Union-Organized Climber
From Melchiorshausen to the Reich President’s Palace

As the wife of Friedrich Ebert, the first democratically elected head of state on German soil, Louise Ebert was the direct successor to Empress Auguste Viktoria. Having come from a poor family, she commanded great respect in the role of “First Lady” – contrary to the ill will of her political opponents.

The twenty-year-old Louise was a crate gluer in a Bremen tobacco factory and active in the labour union movement when she met the Social Democratic agitator Friedrich Ebert in 1893 at a union gathering for women textile workers. The two pursued the same political goals throughout their lives.

After World War I, Friedrich Ebert was elected first president of the German Reich. As the country’s first lady, Louise Ebert now had to develop a style of representation appropriate for a republic. Under the sharp-sighted watch of upper-class circles accustomed to imperial pomp – and undaunted by the attacks of the republic’s opponents – she set her own standards.

Louise Ebert was a co-founder of the “Arbeiterwohlfahrt” (AWO; Workers’ Welfare Association) and sponsored the “Deutsche Kinderhilfe” (German children’s aid). By protecting social institutions, she established a tradition still followed by the wives of German federal presidents today. Following Friedrich Ebert’s death, Louise Ebert remained dedicated to social causes and used her prominence as presidential widow to draw attention to social issues.

Beate Borkowski