Charlotte Wolff

CW headshot
Charlotte Wolff (1897-1986) was born into a middle-class family of secular German Jews in Riesenburg, West Prussia. She was attracted to girls and women and her family accepted her sexual orientation. She studied philosophy before obtaining her medical degree in 1926 in Weimar Berlin where she was befriended by Walter and Dora Benjamin. One of the 700 or so women physicians then practicing in the city, Wolff treated prostitutes and poor women in working-class neighborhoods. Her volunteer work at a birth control clinic led her to the fields of psychotherapy, sexology and chirology (the study of hands). After being detained by the Gestapo in 1933, she fled to Paris.

In Paris and the artists’ colony of Sanary, Wolff met an international circle of artists and writers including Maria and Aldous Huxley, Thomas and Heinrich Mann, and Man Ray, who photographed her in 1935. Since her medical degree was not recognized in France and she feared a Nazi invasion of France, Wolff travelled to England in 1936. She became a permanent resident in 1937, with permission to practice psychotherapy but not medicine. At first, she read the hands of Maria Huxley’s friends to earn her living, but soon found work as a researcher and was re-instated as a physician in 1952. She maintained her interest in sexology and published the books
Love Between Women, Bisexuality, the novel An Older Love, and the biography Magnus Hirschfeld: Portrait of a Pioneer in Sexology. Before Hindsight, she wrote a shorter memoir titled On The Way To Myself. She died in London, shortly before her eighty-ninth birthday.

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