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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Amelia Holst

b. 1758, probably Altona (in Germany) or Copenhagen; d. 1829, probably Hamburg, Germany

The correct spelling of this name is AMALIA HOLST.

“In the name of our entire sex I challenge men to show why they have arrogated to themselves the right to degrade a full half of the human race, to deny them the sources of knowledge.”

—Amalia Holst, Über die Bestimmung des Weibes zur höhern Geistesbildung, cited in Bowers and Tick, Women Making Music, 226

Daughter of the controversial economist Heinrich von Justi, who died in a German prison, Amalia Holst became well known in northern German intellectual circles in 1791 with the publication of Bemerkungen über die Fehler unserer modernen Erziehung von einer praktischen Erzieherinn (Obervations on the Errors of Our Modern Education by a Practical Teacher), a harsh critique of conservative pedagogy. Like her English counterpart Mary Wollstonecraft, Holst was one of many women intellectuals who, in the wake of the French Revolution, took aim at their patriarchal societies. Holst entered the feminist debate as an educationist and, in 1802, published Über die Bestimmung des Weibes zur höhern Geistesbildung (On the Purpose of Woman’s Advanced Intellectual Development). Although in her treatise, Holst upheld the norm of domestic roles for women, she passionately defended the right of women to ungendered education and shrewdly disputed the sexist ideas of the principal Enlightenment writers, including Rousseau.