Toni Sender

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Toni Sender (or Tony Sender) (29 November 1888 Biebrich – 26 June 1964 New York) was a German socialist, feminist, [1] politician and journalist.



Early life

Tori Sender was born into an Orthodox Jewish family with the name Sidonie Zippora Sender. Her father was Moritz Sender, an influential businessman in the local Jewish community. Her mother was Marie, née Dreyfus: both her parents were Orthodox Jews. [2] Her sister, Rachel married the sculptor Fred Kormis. However, Toni surprised her family by insisting that she wished to learn a profession. When she was just thirteen, having successfully completed her time at the girl's school to which her parents had sent her, she left home and headed for nearby Frankfurt where she enrolled at a private "business school for girls" ("Handelsschule für Mädchen"). As she later explained, she wanted to be "in charge of her own life" as soon as possible, not just economically but also spiritually, mentally and in the way she lived her life. Despite coming from a relatively affluent family, by the time she was sixteen she was earning her own money. [3] She joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in 1910, but shortly left to work for the Paris branch of a German metal firm. There she joined the French Section of the Workers' International, being particularly impressed by Jean Jaurès. She returned to Germany shortly after his assassination in July 1914. [2]

During World War I

Sener's return journey to Germany happened during the mass mobilisation of the First World War. Although she travelled back via Switzerland, she was only able to make her way back to Biebrich thanks to help from soldiers on their way to the front. Her family doctor invited her to join the staff at a local hospital and help treat the wounded. However she soon concluded that her principal role was to patch up wounded soldiers so that they could be sent back to the front as soon as possible. [4] So when she was invited to work in Frankfurt for the metal company which had previously employed her before the war, she readily accepted – although this too involved war-work, as did virtually all jobs in war-time Germany. Nevertheless, her work made her aware of many secrets which would have been valuable to the anti-war movement. Sender decided to compartmentalise her life, seeing it as a matter of honour not to disclose secrets discovered at work to her political colleagues. When the SPD voted for war credits, Sender considered leaving the party. She then heard that an anti-war opposition group had formed within the party and that Robert Dissmann was the local organiser. Dissmann was an official with the German Metal Workers' Union. [4]

Sender met Dissmann in the summer of 1916. Dissmann had just been meeting with Rosa Luxemburg shortly before she was imprisoned. Dissmann soon recruited her to join the ant-war faction within the SPD. When Max Quarck, the sitting SPD member of the Reichstag, addressed a meeting in favour of the war credits, Sender spoke against him. However such opportunities for debate became rarer as the majority disregarded the rights of the minority. [4] Dissman decided to set up the anti-war minority through establishing a local section of the National Federation of Proletarian Thinkers as a front organisation. He asked Sender to take on the role of organising it. Their attempts to disguise their political purpose were often ineffective and they were subject to police surveillance. Often, they had meeting venues cancel their bookings. Sender claimed that the military authorities also took an interest in them, resulting in many of their members being called up for the army. [4]

She attended the Third International Socialist Women's Conference held at Berne March 26–28, 1915, where she encountered Lenin's manipulation of the Bolshevik Women's delegation and took a dislike to Karl Radek who was acting as Lenin's aid. [4]

During the German Revolution

Election leaflet for Hesse-Nassau district, 1920 Independet social democratic party, leaflet "Tony Sender list" for the general election 1920 in the district HEssen- Nassau.jpg
Election leaflet for Hesse-Nassau district, 1920

Sender was an active participant in the German Revolution of 1918–19.

Sender was elected to the Reichstag in 1920, sitting as a member of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany ("Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands" / USPD) which had broken away from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) three years earlier following intensifying internal party ructions over support for war funding. Two years later the USPD itself broke apart, with most of its members joining the recently formed Communist Party. Tony Sender was one of the smaller number who in September 1922 returned to the SPD. [3] She continued to serve as a Reichstag deputy till 1933, taking a particular interest in issues involving trade and tariffs.

After leaving Germany in 1933

Sender fled to Czechoslovakia in March 1933 following the Nazis' seizure of power. [5] Her archive at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin is sparse as regards her time in Germany as she was unable to bring any of her papers with her. [6] She then made her way to Belgium before emigrating to the United States in 1935. She settled in the US, being granted US citizenship in 1944. [5] She would never return to Germany. [3] She joined the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions shortly after its foundation in 1949. [7]

Tony Sender Prize

The city of Frankfort created the Toni Sender Prize for women who defend the equal rights of both men and women in the face of discrimination. [8]

Selected writings

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  1. Critchfield, Richard (1992). "Toni Sender: Feminist, socialist, internationalist". History of European Ideas. 15 (4–6): 701–705. doi:10.1016/0191-6599(92)90081-M.
  2. 1 2 "Toni Sender". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  3. 1 2 3 "Tony Sender Preis ... Rede von Statträtin Sarah Sorge" (PDF). Tony Sender Preis 2013: Dokumentation. Frauenreferat Frankfurt am Main. September 2014. pp. 5–9. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Sender, Toni (1940). The Autobiography of a German Rebel. The Labour Book Service.
  5. 1 2 Wächter, Heike. "Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung: Archiv der sozialen Demokratie". (in German). Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  6. Robert F. Wheeler (1972) "The Tony Sender Papers" Newsletter: European Labor and Working Class History No. 1 (May, 1972), pp. 5-7
  7. "Toni Sender, 75, Socialist Leader". The New York Times (27 June 1964). 1964. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  8. "Tony Sender Prize". city of Frankfurt am Main. Retrieved 18 November 2017.