Sophie von La Roche

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In the history of women's writing in Germany, few authors have had more influence than Sophie von La Roche. The publication of her Geschichte des Fräuleins von Sternheim in 1771 proved to be a watershed moment for German-language women's literature: La Roche was immediately rocketed to international fame, she became the first woman in Germany to write a successful novel, the work itself became a pattern for the genre of the epistolary novel in Germany, and the door into the world of literary authorship was pushed open far enough that an increasing number of women authors could, with unceasing effort, force their way into the public eye. Later, in 1783, La Roche also became the first woman in Germany to publish a successful periodical, Pomona für Teutschlands Töchter.

Born in Kaufbeuren on December 6, 1731, Sophie Gutermann received a thorough, strictly Pietist education under the auspices of her father, including topics such as astronomy and history, which were usually excluded for girls. At 15, Sophie became engaged to Gian Lodovico Bianconi, a doctor and scholar from Bologna, Italy, for whom the further education of his fiancee retained first priority. After the death of Sophie's mother, the girl's father forced his 19-year old daughter to break off the engagement, since he and Bianconi could not agree on religious questions. Following a brief engagement to Christian Martin Wieland, then still a student, in 1753 Sophie entered a Vernunftsehe with Georg Michael Frank, adopted La Roche. This relationship brought Sophie von La Roche into contact with the court and refined society, and created an environment in which her intellectual and literary abilities could flourish. Her salon became a gathering place for prominent authors and intellectuals; she also carried on an active correspondence with prominent eighteenth-century authors. Later in life, she traveled widely as one of the first German woman to travel independently. A prolific author, La Roche published a wide variety of works, including travelogues, epistolary novels, moral stories and articles. She died February 18, 1807 in her 76th year, a celebrated author, and yet embittered at the refusal of the younger generation of poets such as Wieland, Schiller and Goethe, to value her literary achievements.

A biography written by Carl Wilhelm Otto August von Schindel may be read HERE.

December 6, 1730
Birth Location: 
Kaufbeuren, Germany
Death Date: 
February 18, 1807
Death Location: 
Offenbach am Main, Germany
Married to: 
Georg von La Roche
Maximiliane b. 31 May 1756 Fritz b. 10 Dec 1757 Luise b. 13 May 1759 Carl b. 11 Jan 1766 Franz Wilhelm b. 16 Apr 1768 3 children who did not live to adulthood

Works by Sophie von La Roche