The motto of the anniversary year is “shaping the future together” – what future do rural women have?
Marie-Luise Linckh: We always need a future and rural women. On the one hand because of adult education for women and community education. And on the other hand as representation of interests in political terms. You still need it too. Maybe some things will change, but rural women are still fundamentally needed.
And how does it look in terms of staff, what are the age structures?
Linckh: We also have younger members. There are many local clubs that have totally rejuvenated themselves on the board. But there’s no denying it: of course, we also have the problem of aging.
Dorothee Hanschek: There are even special junior groups with members aged 9 to 18, of which we have 45 in the district. In some places there are also young rural women, who belong to the clubs but have an additional programme.
So many boys? Rural women do not have a very modern image.
Linckh: The image is probably already a problem. But we have just heard from some of our young women about how they got involved. They were already busy at school, pretty relaxed, but when the kids were older they said we had to do something and look for a new job, and then the whole clique came to us.
Hanschek: Some of them are doing very well thanks to the program. The Ulm district association, for example, offered sawing and tree felling courses as well as welding courses. Suddenly, 45 people wanted to saw. This was also well received in Unterriexingen. It’s also the great thing, that you can express your wishes, what you want to do, and help shape the program. And if a woman says she would like to try something, then we see if we can find someone to do it. Such workshops also have a future.
More than cooking and baking, or is that a cliché?
Linckh: No, it’s amazing. We keep hearing that young women want to relearn how to bake bread, dumplings or potato salad. Things come back to the boys. These are often offers that we really wanted to move away from.
Speaking of which, how did you end up with rural women?
Linckh: For me, it was the gym class. As things stand, you’re moving to a different place through marriage and you don’t know anyone yet. Then a neighbor took me with her. As was the case for many others.
Hanschek: I got there through my mother. She’s always been a farmer, my grandmother too – but none of us have anything to do with farming. But at some point a new gymnastics group was opened and that’s how I joined. Next year it will be 32 for me.
So gymnastics classes are important for rural women…
Linckh: Yes, with some local clubs, the groups are doing very well – despite the sports clubs, it’s not competition.
Hanschek: We have a lot of young people who only come to the country as women for gymnastics. We also have a mom and baby group.
But these courses have certainly suffered from Corona, haven’t they?
Hanschek: No, we still offered a lot of things. And many want to continue doing the mother-baby course online. I also gave long hybrid courses. It’s a huge effort, because there is no WiFi in the lobby and I have to add data volume. But you can also win new women this way, for example one from Aalen is on my route.
Linckh: And I think we will continue to offer a conference or online training from time to time in the future. Then women who don’t like to be there or who can’t leave because of family can also participate.
Away from gymnastics: what makes your program different?
Linckh: Rural women have always listened and come up with something on hot topics. But 50 years ago, other things were important.
Hanschek: And back then, women were happy if they could just go out in the evening and get together and maybe just knit.
Linckh: Today, you can find everything on the Internet. In fact, you wouldn’t be so dependent on discussing topics anymore. And yet it is different when you hear a lecture and then discuss it. We are then between women to exchange ideas, in a protected space. In the beginning it was important: how to eat well, get your home in shape, how to use modern machines? And today it’s only topical whether we talk about the far right or democracy. Currently, our main topic is digitization. When we chose this, Corona was not at all predictable – but it kept us working well. You always try to find a forward-looking topic.
How are rural women received by policy makers, do you feel they are noticed and taken seriously?
Linckh: Yes, I am always surprised. I can say that mostly because I’m the state chairman, although that applies to our district as well. In state politics, they know us very well. We also sent our March 8 statement on violence against women to Minister Strobl and the Ministry of Social Affairs. We then received a letter from Strobl saying that he thought the commitment was great and that he was supporting us.
Letters are one thing – but do you feel like you can make a difference too?
Linckh: Where we and our federal association have made a difference is with the mother’s pension. Also locally at the cancer counseling center in Stuttgart, with which we campaigned many years ago to break the taboo. There was a risk that the post would have to close because few donations were coming in. Help was a matter of course for us, after all, our wives are also affected. That’s why we wrote to all possible places. And have realized that 80 percent of the costs are now covered by health insurance companies. In the country, we have also been at the forefront of the fight for the education time law. Economy Minister Hoffmeister-Kraut did not like this at all. And the law is still being evaluated in the hope that it has no merit and can be repealed.
Where exactly does this help women?
Linckh: For example for the training of trainers. If the participants perceive this as teaching time, they do not need to take a vacation. This way we can also attract women, many of whom are employed.
Do you feel sufficiently recognized outside of politics and decision-makers?
Linckh: The most important thing is that you do something and talk about it. But yes, we would like to be even more noticed as an association and with what we do for our women.
Hanschek: It is also important that we as women are more noticed.
If the foundress saw your members and your activities, would she still recognize “her” peasant women?
Hanschek: Yes, I think so.
Linckh: Sure, based on the basic idea. There is a quote from the Countess: “Clubs will always be what we make of them. And the more people who participate, the livelier and better it will be for everyone.” When we started in 1947, she invited all women. She never said that only women farmers could participate. Many of the first members were refugee women, widows, regardless of age, origin, religion. She addressed everyone. We stick with that to this day. And the tasks are actually still the same.
Info: The state association celebrates its anniversary on May 2 (live stream at https://bitbw.webex.com/meet/wlb), then in the district on May 6. There is a traveling exhibition for the general public. It can be seen from May 2 to 13 in the Stuttgart State Library and then, among other places, at the main agricultural festival and at the Spätlingsmarkt in the Ludwigsburg district office.