joan y. psmith

my other existence

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Nine Austrian LesBians You Should Know
First published on eurOut.

Ever since I started writing for eurOut I wanted to do a list of Austrian lesBians. I've put it off for a long time because whenever I started to think about which openly lesBian Austrian women I would put on said list I didn't get very far. I don't know if there really are so few out lesBians in my home country or if I'm just that out of the loop. (Even though it'd be embarrassing I kind of hope it's the latter. Don't hesitate to shout at me in the comments how I dare to forget to list the legendary [insert name here]!)

Let's do this in reverse chronological order. Ready?

Clara Luzia

photo by Sarah Haas

We've written about this fab Austrian singer-songwriter before. (See here and here.)

Clara Luzia's debut album was Railroad Tracks, much appreciated by critics. Concerts and two other albums followed. In 2008 Clara Luzia won the Amadeus Austrian Music Award in the category "FM4 Alternative Act of the Year".

Clara Luzia performing 'Fine' in a courtyard in Vienna's 7th district. (by playgrrround)

Lisa Lücker

photo by

Since 2008 Graz has an openly lesbian vice-mayor. Lisa Rücker (Green Party) is the mother of two children and had decided to divorce their father when she fell in love with a woman. In 2006 she come out as a lesbian to prevent her political adversaries from using her sexual orientation against her during campaigning and to make a political statement.

Ulrike Lunacek

photo by Helge Fahrnberger

Like Lisa Rücker Ulrike Lunacek is a member of the Austrian Green Party. She has been the first and only out lesbian member of the National Council of Austria. Since 2009 she is a Member of the European Parliament. She's also the Austrian Green Party's spokesperson for European Politics and for LGBT equality.

You can read more about her in the potrait eurOut featured last year.

Elfie Mikesch

Elfie Mikesch. Self portrait.

Elfie Mikesch is an cinematographer, director and writer. Most notably she worked with Rosa von Praunheim and Werner Schroeter. In 2006 she won the Deutscher Kamerapreis, an award for outstanding cinematography.

(I should add that I don't have any confirmation if she self-identifies as a lesbian. I included her in this list because she's featured in Out! 600 Lesben, Schwule & Bisexuelle).

I'm afraid that's it for our contemporaries. Let us delve into history starting with a recently deceased feminist icon.

Johanna Dohnal (1939-2010)

Johanna Dohnal and Annemarie Aufreiter. (photo by Carina Ott for

Johanna Dohnal was an Austrian feminist, many would say a feminist icon. 1978 she initiated the founding of the first women's shelter in Vienna. After many years of fighting for women's rights she was appointed Secretary of State for Women in 1979. She was the first person ever to hold this position. In 1990 she became the first Austrian Women's Minister, which she remained until 1995, when she retired from politics.
I think it's time to remember: The feminist vision isn't a "female future". It's a human future. Without being forced into roles, without struggles for power and control, without male supremacy and femininity craze.
Johanna Dohnal. (Translation by me)
As soon as it became possible earlier this year she registered a partnership with Annemarie Aufreiter, her partner of many years. Johanna Dohnal died in February. In August the Austrian council of ministers rejected Annemarie Aufreiter's request to be granted a widow's pension.

Elisabeth Bergner (1897-1986)

Elisabeth Bergner in "Donna Juana". (

Elisabeth Bergner was born in Drohobycz, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Drogobych, Ukraine). She acted on stage since the age of fifteen and made her film debut in 1923. She was nominated for an Academy Award in 1935 for her role in Escape Me Never. Allegedly Bergner was the inspiration for the character of Margo Channing in All About Eve.

She had affairs with various women, most notably Viola Bosshardt with whom she bought a villa in Berlin and later with the author Bryher. In the end Bergner married Paul Czinner in 1933. To escape Nazi Germany they first fled to Vienna and then to London.

Anna Freud (1895-1982)

Anna Freud. (Jewish Women's Archive, "Freud, Anna 2 - still image [media]." Photo: Tim Gidal.)

Anna Freud followed the footsteps of her famous father Sigmund, she's considered to be the founder of psychoanalytic child psychology.

Anna Freud's most important relationships were with her father and close female friends, Lou Andreas-Salome and Dorothy Burlingham. Anna met Dorothy Burlingham when the American moved to Vienna and sought psychological help for her children. Burlingham was Freud's life partner, though historians aren't clear if this relationship was of a sexual nature.

Leontine Sagan (1889-1974)

Leontine Sagan. Photo: National Library of Australia.

Leontine Sagan is the woman who brought us the legendary lesbian movie Mädchen in Uniform (1931). She trained to be an actor and director with Max Reinhardt in Vienna.

Later she fled Nazi Germany and moved to South Africa, where she founded the National Theatre of Johannesburg.

Auguste Fickert (1855-1910)

Auguste Fickert

Auguste Fickert was a pioneering feminist. In 1889 she publicly announced her protest against the repeal of women's suffrage in municipal elections. She co-founded the Allgemeiner Österreichischer Frauenverein (General Austrian Women's Association) in 1893.

She lived 12 years with Ida Baumann, with whom she remained very close all of her life.


As I've said before, please do not hesitate to point out any important contemporary Austrian lesBian I might have forgotten to mention!

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