Action Council for the Liberation of Women (Aktionsrat zur Befreiung der Frauen), 1967
“Women are seeking their identity. They cannot achieve this by participating in campaigns which do not touch upon their immediate conflicts.” – Helke Sanders
In 1967-68, West German feminist filmmaker Helke Sander founded with other socialist-feminists the Aktionsrat zur Befreiung der Frauen(Action Council for the Liberation of Women) in Westberlin. The Action Council for the Liberation of Women played an important part in helping start the second wave of the women’s movement in West Germany. In 1968, the Action Council released its first pamphlet outlining its aims. The organization was committed to helping women, especially mothers, participate in the political arena and transforming childcare by creating children’s schools.
One of the Action Council’s first initiative was to establish Kinderläden,known as storefront childcare facilities, throughout Westberlin and soon also West Germany. Their main aim in establishing these autonomous all-day childcare facilities organized by the parents, was for mothers to be able to participate in political activities, the workforce and their studies without worrying about their children. In addition, storefront childcare facilities aimed to give children an “anti-authoritarian education” that strengthened their individual personality, curiosity, creativity and educated them to democratic citizens that actively engage in civil society. Storefront childcare facilities were seen as a form of protest because it went against both, the traditional gender order and the conventional public childcare system that usually only offered childcare half-days and was controlled by the Catholic and Protestant Churches.
As a member of the German Socialist Student Organization (Sozialistischer Studentenbund Deutschland,SDS), Sander gave a speech at the 23rd Delegates’ Conference of the SDS in Frankfurt on September 13, 1968, which changed the course of the women’s movement and became a pivotal point in the Action Council’s action. In this speech, Sander addressed to the SDS delegates that there should not be a separation between women’s private and public lives because it prevents them from participating in the workforce, society and politics. In doing so, she mentioned how taking care of children is not a private matter. As a result, she was in favor of creating more storefront childcare facilitiesbecause it allowed children to be educated while their mothers became active the economy, society and politics. Sander’s speech was important because she asked the delegates to support women’s rights and their participation in politics. However, the SDS delegates ignored her demands which prompted Sigrid Rüger, a female SDS member, to throw a tomato at the SDS leaders on the podium. This action is remembered as one of the first radical acts on the new women’s movement in West Germany.
Even though the Action Council for the Liberation of Women did not continue to thrive after 1968, the organization is still relevant today. The Action Council’s aims that women be able to participate in political activities have come to fruition. In today’s society, many women actively participate in political activities and continue to fight for their rights. However, even with more women participating in politics, women are still underrepresented in office.
Cinthia Salinas-Pavon, Global Studies, Class of 2019
Literature and Websites
- “Helke Sander.” FemBio, at: http://www.fembio.org/english/biography.php/woman/biography/helke-sander/ (Accessed 11 April 2018).
- Hoshino Altbach, Edith, Jeanette Clausen, Dagmar Schultz, and Noami Stephan, eds. German Feminism: Readings in Politics and Literature. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984.
- “The Emergence of Children’s Shops.” Helke Sander, at: http://www.helke-sander.de/2008/01/die-entstehung-der-kinderlaeden/ (Accessed April 13 2018).
- “To the Permanently and to Death Emancipating Women in the SDS.” umanistische Union, at: http://www.humanistische-union.de/nc/publikationen/vorgaenge/online_artikel/online_artikel_detail/browse/18/back/nach-autoren/article/an-die-sich-permanent-und-zu-tode-emanzipierenden-frauen-im-sds/?tx_ttnews[sViewPointer]=1&cHash=d2e050ff25 (Accessed 11 April 2018).