Frauhaus: The Women of the Bauhaus

Despite being marginalized, these women became the financial backbone of the Bauhaus

Geoffrey Bunting
Published in
8 min readSep 30, 2019

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LLight streams in through large, closely spaced windows adorned with fabric blinds that hang awkwardly from their fittings. It bounces off the particles that float through the air, giving the room a dirty, tired atmosphere. Faded scratches and chalk-like blots on the floorboards cry testimony to years of stools dragging forward and backward; in places, the floor sags under the weight of the looms spaced evenly around the room. There is something archaic in this studio: With its apathetic master and image of disrepair, it pervades an exhausted impression that reeks of a willful neglect.

This is the sight that likely greeted Gunta Stölzl when she arrived in Weimar in 1919. Upon stepping into the Bauhaus’ hazy weaving workshop and seeing the confused glances of the other students as the tutors absently welcomed them, she could be forgiven for despairing. For those attracted to the school by the promise of artistic freedom, it was an insult — a prison.

InIn 1919, Walter Gropius opened the Bauhaus’ doors with the declaration that the school would admit “any person of good repute, regardless of age or sex… [there are] no differences” he continued, “between the fairer sex and the stronger sex.” At a time when schools were segregated by gender and women were regularly denied access to academic and artistic tutelage, the allure of such a mandate was strong. Indeed, it was stronger than Gropius and his council of masters anticipated. By the time the school opened its doors, his founding announcement had attracted more female students than male.

A portrait of Walter Gropius, taken by Louis Held.
Walter Gropius, photographed by Louis Held. Photo: Dezeen

As integrated foundation courses commenced, Stölzl and the other female bauhäusler must have reveled in the freedom afforded to them by an institution that ostensibly found little value in…

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Geoffrey Bunting
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Designer, writer, and historian. Founder of Geoffrey Bunting Graphic Design (geoffreybunting.co.uk).