Clara Brockmann

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As a single, independent woman, Clara Brockman stands out in comparison to other German women colonial writers.[1] Her birth and death dates are unknown, and it is uncertain if she ever married later in life.  However, she was single when she lived for four years in the German colony Southwest Africa (present day Namibia) beginning in 1907.[2]

Another unique aspect of her story is the fact that she specifically set out to be a writer in the colonies.  To accomplish her goal, she moved to Southwest Africa where she worked as a secretarial civil servant in the capital city, Windhoek.[3] She also wrote for the periodical “Kolonie und Heimat” (Colony and Home) and lectured for the Women’s League.[4] Thus, Brockmann can be classified more as an active colonial “visitor” and not one of the permanent settlers she writes about.[5]

Her two books include many of her experiences in the colonies, and they also act as travel brochures.  She especially directs these brochures to prospective women immigrants.  Both texts are harshly racist especially when she depicts dealings between German settlers and their native subjects and also when she discusses issues of interracial marriage and sex.[6] It is important to note that though many of her examples deal with Southwest Africa specifically, she calls for immigration to the colonies in general.

Interestingly, Brockmann moves to Southwest Africa in 1907 just after the brutal Herero Wars, 1904-1907.  After the wars, Germany’s confidence in its colonial aspirations needed to be rebuilt.  In response, Brockman’s books call for the construction of a “new Germany” on African soil.[7]

She specifically states this aspiration for a “new Germany” in the introduction of her first work, Die deutsche Frau in Südwestafrika (The German woman in Southwest Africa), published in 1910.[8] The pamphlet deals with the “Frauenfragen” (women questions) of why the colonies need white women and what their roles should be when they arrive.[9] She includes descriptions of job opportunities available to women and gives warnings and suggestions about colonial life in general.  Interestingly, she speaks of both married and single women promoting German culture in the colonies, but some of her more radical statements glorify the life of a single woman—an aspect that makes her unique among writers of her day.[10]

Her second work Briefe eines deutschens Mädchens aus Südwest (Letters of a German Girl from Southwest Africa) was published two years later in 1912 by the same company.  Brockmann herself describes it as “a detailed account of land and people.”[11] Thus, she chooses to write her second work as detailed narrative of her experience rather than the systematic overview presented in her first book.  Her political push for immigration to the colonies is still present.  “She dedicates her text to the domestic sphere where national identity is reproduced.”[12]

[1] Wildenthal, Lora. “‘She is the Victor’: Bourgeois Women, Nationalist Identities, and the Ideal of the Independent Woman Farmer in German Southwest Africa..” Society, Culture, and the State in Germany, 1870-1930. Ed. Geoff Eley. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996. 371.

[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Wildenthal, Lora. German Women for Empire, 1884-1945. London: Duke University Press, 2001. 154.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Wildenthal, Lora. “‘She is the Victor,’” 372.
[8] Brockmann, Clara. Die deutsche Frau in Südwestafrika: Ein Beitrag zur Frauenfrage in unseren Kolonien. Berlin: Ernst Siegfried Mittler und Sohn, 1910. iv.
[9] Wildenthal, Lora. “‘She is the Victor,’” 373.
[10] Ibid, 371.
[11] Brockmann, 1-2.
[12] Klotz, Marcia. “Memoirs from a German Colony: What Do White Women Want?” Eroticism and Containment: Notes from the Flood Plain. Ed. Carol Siegel and Ann Kibbey. New York: New York University Press, 1994. 174.
August 9, 1885
Birth Location: 
Lübeck, Germany
Death Date: 
May 8, 1959
Death Location: 
Lübeck, Germany

Works by Clara Brockmann