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For women, by women – Alice Schwarzer and the feminist magazine EMMA

Do you know EMMA? For decades it has been the feminist magazine in Germany. Founded by journalist Alice Schwarzer, who is still its publisher and editor-in-chief, EMMA first appeared on shelves in January 1977. Since then, it has been an advocate for full equality of women and men.

Alice Schwarzer summarises the history of EMMA on its website under the headline ‘More than just a magazine!’. And, in fact, EMMA is more of an institution in Germany. Whether they read the magazine or not, EMMA and Schwarzer have become household names for most Germans. This is not only because EMMA has been breaking taboos and delving into sensitive and uncomfortable social issues since its inception. It is also because its writers – first and foremost Alice Schwarzer, who is omnipresent in the German media – go above and beyond writing to stand up for their convictions and raise public awareness through campaigns.

EMMA: facts and figures

The only political magazine in Europe produced exclusively by women, EMMA came out every two months from January 1977 to the end of 2010. From 2010 to 2012 it appeared only quarterly, but in 2013, at the request of many of its readers, publication reverted to every two months. With a circulation of just over 50,000, an average of 30,000 magazines were sold in 2016, nearly three quarters of which were subscriptions for regular EMMA readers. The politically and financially independent magazine is supported through sales and thus does not rely on advertising.

As the name EMMA – which is derived from the word ‘emancipation’ – suggests, the magazine covers a myriad of women’s and gender issues. Recurring themes include marriage, the women’s movement, sexism, violence against women, domestic violence, abuse, prostitution, abortion, pornography, obsession with beauty and youthfulness, eating disorders, women in the military, Islam and the head scarf, childcare, full-day school and gay marriage.

Alice Schwarzer: in the face of resistance

Alice Schwarzer and her colleagues are proud to have forced society to engage with many of these topics – often in the face of considerable opposition and hostility - and to have served as pioneers in the feminist fight in Germany. ‘The lives of many women (and men) would be very different if it weren’t for EMMA,’ says Alice Schwarzer, referring to its timeline of success. The success stories include the adoption of the law on equal treatment of men and women in the workplace in August 1980 and the German women’s football team winning the 2003 World Cup in Los Angeles.

40 years of EMMA

In January 2017 the feminist magazine EMMA turned 40; on this occasion a chronicle with “Highlights from 40 years” was published on the website.

Founder Alice Schwarzer will be celebrating her 75th birthday at the beginning of December 2017. Her followers continue to emphasise the significance and impact of both the magazine and its founder in advancing the women’s movement in Germany. Just as often, however, others accuse them of being polemic and inflexible because they still hold on to bygone ideas. According to historian Miriam Gebhardt and her book published in September 2012 ‘Alice im Niemandsland’ (Alice in no-man’s land), Schwarzer’s monopolisation of the women’s movement has actually prevented generations of young, emancipated women from joining the fight for gender equality in Germany. In this way, the German feminist icon has ultimately hurt the cause.

Discusssion about EMMA within the community

If you would like to draw your own conclusions about EMMA, you can find digital versions of all issues in the EMMA archive. Share your views with us in the Alumniportal Community!

Did you hear about EMMA and Alice Schwarzer during your time in Germany? What role do gender equality and feminism play where you grew up? Talk to us about EMMA and Alice Schwarzer in the Alumniportal Community Group ‘Gender/Career and Family’.


Author: Kristina Wydra

Update: January 2017

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Dr.George Zilbergeld
7 April 2017

Dear Alice Schwarzer,

I am a professor in America . I am also a member of a Holocaust family.

Would you help in starting a movement to identify and investigate ALL the members of the German
Nazi movement dring WWII. This includes all the police units , all the armed forces including the regular forces. I would like to see these people send to a holding prison while they are investigated. This also includes the 100,000 women who went east for the " adventure their lives."

I was startled to see those folks mentioned in the recent NYT article about you and I think you are a person who will help .

I do not think that Europe can feel whole and good about itself until this is done.

Please answer me and at least let me continue the conversation.

Perhapss if we can't do this can we at least produce a list of the particpants?

You are my only hope because after reading the article I see you are someone who knows that not all of the enviromental efforts in the world will be able to heal Germany, until we have made more of an effort to identify and punlish those involved with the Holocaust.

Dr. George Zilbergeld

edmond sheshi
9 January 2013

I lIke this articel. I will be promotor of the main aim of this process for life democratisation.
Working together will benefit all.

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