From the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung (1902)
|Born||Amalie von Kretschmann|
2 July 1865
Kingdom of Prussia
|Died||8 August 1916 (aged 51)|
|Occupation||German feminist writer|
She was born in Halberstadt, in the Prussian province of Saxony, the daughter of Hans von Kretschmann, General of the Infantry in the Prussian Army, and his wife Jenny, née von Gustedt (1843–1903). Her maternal grandmother, the writer Jenny von Gustedt (1811–1890), had been an illegitimate daughter of Jérôme Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother who was King of Westphalia, and his mistress Diana Rabe von Pappenheim. Lily Braun's great-niece, Marianne von Kretschmann married Richard von Weizsäcker, President of Germany from 1984 to 1994.
Raised according to the Prussian virtues of order and discipline at changing places throughout her father's military career, she nevertheless developed a direct and open personality, encouraged in particular by her grandmother Jenny von Gustedt. She was considered to be highly ambitious and her family provided her with a broad education by numerous private teachers. From an early age on, she began to question her parents' bourgeois values as influenced by Lutheranism and Calvinism as well the position of women in Prussian society. When her father retired in 1890, she had to establish a sustainable livelihood herself.
From 1893 Lily Braun was briefly married to Georg von Gizycki, a professor of philosophy at the Frederick William University in Berlin, who was associated with the Social Democratic Party without however being a member. Together with him she was involved in the ethical movement, which sought to establish a system of morality in place of the traditional religions. Also, she became concerned with the ideas of socialism and the feminist movement, working as a journalist for the feminist newspaper Die Frauenbewegung (The Women's Movement) issued by Minna Cauer.
After her first husband's death, she married in 1896 Heinrich Braun, who was a Social Democratic politician and a publicist. The couple had one son, Otto Braun, a highly talented poet who was killed at the Western Front in the last months of World War I.
Lily Braun joined the SPD at an early age and became one of the leaders of the German feminist movement. Within the party, she belonged to the revisionist opposition within the SPD who did not believe in the theories of historical materialism but in the gradual adaptation of society, rather than a socialist revolution. Her attempts to mediate between proletarian and bourgeois feminist circles were heavily criticised; likewise, her proposals on reconciliation of family and working life were rejected. Her answers to the woman question were especially slammed by socialist authors like Clara Zetkin, while middle-class circles considered her ideas too radical.
Like her fellow political activist Helene Stöcker, Lily Braun was strongly influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche; she and her husband wanted the SPD to focus on the development of personality and individuality instead of levelling everybody. Women should have their own personality and should not have to be only regarded as (future) mothers and wives. She wanted economic freedom for women and advocated new types of personal relations up to the abolition of legal marriage.
Deeply concerned about the fate of her son, Lily Braun died in Zehlendorf (today part of Berlin) from the consequences of a stroke at the age of 51, in the midst of World War I. After her death, her second husband Heinrich Braun married Julie Braun-Vogelstein, who was also the editor of Lily Braun's Collected Works.