Elise RICHTER (born on March 2nd, 1865 in Vienna, died on June 21st, 1943 in Theresienstadt [Terezín/Czech Republic]) was Pd. (ao. Prof.) for Romance Philology at the Philosophical School of the University of Vienna.
Elise Richter was born as daughter of the head physician of the Southern Railway Company (Südbahngesellschaft) Dr. Maximilian Richter and his wife Emilie (nee Lackenbacher) in Vienna. Because girls were not allowed to visit schools regularly, Elise and her older sister Helene Richter (later anglist and theater scientist) received private lessons at home.
From 1891 on Elise Richter was permitted to visit individual lectures at the University of Vienna as a guest student. When women were allowed to graduate from high school in Austria, she was the first woman to receive graduation at the Akademische Gymnasium in Wien 1, Beethovenplatz 1, as external student in 1897. As one of the first women she began to study at the Philosophical School of the University of Vienna as ordinary student in the same year. She took lectures in Romanistic studies, General Linguistics, Classical Philology and German Philology and graduated in 1901with the academic degree 'Dr. phil.'.
Elise Richter was also the first woman, who was promoted to 'Privatdozent' at the University of Vienna and got the venia legendi and an untenured lectureship position for Romance language in 1907. In 1921 she was appointed titular associate professor (tit. ao. Prof.) and received an University teaching position for Romance Linguistics, Literature and Phonetics. In 1928 she became head of the department of phonetics at the University of Vienna. She never received the title of an full professor. From the founding in 1922 on she chaired the Association of Austrian Academic Women (Verband der Akademikerinnen Österreichs).
Richter researched on the field of (Romance) Linguistics with an emphasis on phonetics and phonology. Her scientific works also dealt with the psychological basis of the linguistic process. In the area of Language History she researched the internal connection in the development of Romance languages.
Elise Richter was persecuted in times of Nazism as a Jew lost her position and was thrown out of the university in 1938.
Along with her sister Helene, Elise Richter stayed in Vienna. Her last scientific papers (dated 1940 to 1942) could only be published in the Netherlands and in Italy. On Oktober 10th, 1942, she was deported to Theresienstadt, where she died a few months later.
The University of Cologne took possession of the library of Elise and Helene Richter (around 3000 books) in 1942. Since 2005 provenance researches are taking place to reconstruct and restitute the library.
In 1999 an award for outstanding doctoral dissertations and postdoctoral theses (German Association of Romance Philology), in 2003 an lecture hall at the University of Vienna, in 2006 a program for the support of scientific careers for women of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and in 2008 a street in the 21st district in Vienna were named in her honour. A Relief at the Department of Romance philology reminds on the first female lecturer at the University of Vienna.
New researches about Elise Richter focus also her sympathies for the Austro-Fascist regime and her aversion against socialdemocracy.
Lit.: ariadne/ÖNB; Elisabeth ANDRASCHKO, Elise Richter - eine Skizze ihres Lebens, in: Waltraud Heindl, Marina Tichy, Hg., "Durch Erkenntnis zu Freiheit und Glück ...": Frauen an der Universität Wien (ab 1897), Wien 1990, 221-231; Exhibition "Bedrohte Intelligenz – Von der Polarisierung und Einschüchterung zur Vertreibung und Vernichtung im NS-Regime", Vienna 2015; Hans Helmut CHRISTMANN, Frau und "Jüdin" an der Universität. Die Romanistin Elise Richter (Wien 1865-Theresienstadt 1943), Mainz u.a. 1980; CZEIKE vol. 4 1995; EMÖDI/TEICHL 1937; Mavise ERKOL, Sprachwissenschaft und Nationalsozialismus am Beispiel der Romanistin Elise Richter. Diplomarbeit, Univ. Wien, 2002; FREIDENREICH 2002; Gedenkbuch für die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus an der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften; HELFERT 2010, 99-105; KEINTZEL 1993; KILLY vol. 8 1998; Susanne KIRST, Elise Richter. Jüdisch-akademisches Leben in Wien 1865-1943, Tübingen 1997; Elise RICHTER, Summe des Lebens (Autobiographie), hg. vom Verband der Akademikerinnen Österreichs, Wien 1997; SIMON 1997.
Katharina Kniefacz and Herbert Posch