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Dorothea Christiane Erxleben- A Completely Normal, Exceptional Life

Quedlinburg- City of Strong Women

Dr. Dorothea Christiana Erxleben (1715 -1762) was born in a house still intact at Steinweg, Nr. 51 (today, the Erxleben Hotel) and received her doctorate in the year 1754 from the Medical Faculty of the University of Halle. With this degree, she became the first German woman to be awarded a doctorate and, thanks to the degree, she was granted permission to establish a medical practice with no limitations on the medicine practiced there. It was almost another 150 years before the next woman was admitted to the practice of medicine in Germany. On the basis of the well founded theoretical and practical training she was given by her father, the doctor Christian Polycarp Leporin, and the support she received from the rectors of the Quedlinburg gymnasium she was able, through additional autodidactic study, to acquire a comprehensive general education, language competence and a state of the art knowledge of medical research at the time, all of which served her as the foundation for a medical education equivalent to what she would have pursued in university studies. Her wish to acquire the appropriate university degree, despite a special provision made for her in 1741 by Frederick II to allow her to fulfill all requirements for the doctoral degree, could not be realized because of her extensive family obligations.. Through her marriage in 1742, she had assumed parental responsibility for five adoptive children along with the four children of her own which followed as well as to taking on in addition the further extensive obligations expected of the wife of a pastor. Despite these obligations, she continued to help the sick who sought her assistance. A complaint against these activities, which was lodged by three Quedlinburg doctors, prompted her finally to complete her formal work for a doctorate. On the basis of having arrived at this decision, she was able confidently to counter the legal complaint against her with the deposition of her doctoral dissertation. Up to her early death in 1762 in Quedlinburg, she continued to treat patients with success and reinforced through her actual practice of medicine the arguments in support of her academic publication, namely, that equal educational rights for the female sex were not only necessary but also led to success. Through her work and her accomplishments she became an oft-cited example in the history of women’s education and emancipation. Quedlinburg honors this extraordinary woman as well in a permanent exhibition in the Klopstock Museum. Appropriately for the theme year \"Women in the 18th Century”, the exhibition was redesigned, both in terms of content and presentation concept. In the framework of the state initiative \" Saxony-Anhalt and the 18th Century,” Dorothea Erxleben assumes her position with an enhanced presentation in the \"City of the Strong Women”.
The exhibition has been funded by the State of Saxony Anhalt and the Foundation of the Kreissparkasse Quedlinburg.

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