Cover image for The enigma of Anna O. : a biography of Bertha Pappenheim
The enigma of Anna O. : a biography of Bertha Pappenheim
Guttmann, Melinda Given, 1944-
First edition.
Publication Information:
Wakefield, R.I. : Moyer Bell ; Berkeley, CA : Distributed in North America by Publishers Group West, [2001]

Physical Description:
413 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes stories by Bertha Pappenheim.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS135.G5 P344 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Bertha Pappenheim became a legend twice: first, in Vienna, under the pseudonym 'Anna O', when she cured herself of hysterical symptoms by telling fairy tales which she termed 'the talking cure', upon which Sigmund Freud based his theory of psychoanalysis; and then in Germany, as the founder of the first Jewish feminist movement.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

A sheltered Victorian "hysteric" turned Jewish feminist pioneer, Pappenheim was "Anna O.," the subject of one of Sigmund Freud's and Joseph Breuer's Studies on Hysteria, published in 1895, the same year she became the director of a Frankfurt orphanage for Jewish children. Although Pappenheim later refused to speak about her psychoanalytic experience, Guttmann suggests that Pappenheim "invented" the psychoanalytic "talking cure" alongside Breuer, whose sessions with Pappenheim led him to identify catharsis as crucial to psychoanalysis. That her contribution has gone uncredited until now is, in Guttmann's view, an ironic emblem of the patriarchal culture that Pappenheim ultimately sought to reform through social work and philanthropy. Guttmann is most secure in Pappenheim's well-documented years of energetic work on behalf of Jewish women and girls in Frankfurt between the turn of the 20th century and the 1930s. Her reconstructions of Pappenheim's early life among the affluent Viennese Jewish bourgeoisie, especially as Breuer's patient, are less convincing because, lacking primary materials, Guttmann relies heavily on speculation (the wildest concerns Pappenheim's relationship with Breuer). Guttmann, a professor of speech, theater and media studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a performance artist, is sensitive to the salutary powers of creativity and spirituality. In excerpts from Pappenheim's writings and in Guttmann's treatment, Pappenheim becomes less of an enigma but remains intriguing. Illus. not seen by PW. (on sale Apr. 30) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Bertha Pappenheim (1859-1936), a distinguished German Jewish social worker, writer, and feminist, is also widely known as "Anna O.," who coined the term "talking cure" in psychoanalysis. She was the subject of one of the case studies in hysteria published by Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud in 1895. In this first comprehensive biography, Guttmann (speech, theater, and media studies, CUNY) includes texts by Pappenheim stories, essays, poems, lectures, letters, and prayers, some published for the first time. Pappenheim ran an orphanage, fought the white slave trade and Jewish prostitution, translated Wollstonecraft, argued against Zionism, corresponded with Martin Buber, Felix Warburg, and other luminaries, and suffered at the rise of Hitler. Guttmann's homework and fieldwork are impressive, her admiration of Pappenheim justifiably strong, and her text inviting and important. Recommended for general libraries and essential for collections in feminism, Jewish studies, psychoanalysis, and social work. [The Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, will receive a portion of the proceeds from this book's sales. Ed.] E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Guttmann's often personal reconstruction of Bertha Pappenheim's life offers a chronologically detailed biography of this fascinating, famous, yet generally misunderstood woman. Of the Viennese Orthodox Jewish elite, Pappenheim was first thrust into public gaze as Anna O., the patient of Breuer and an inspiration for Freud. Scholars have long known and debated Pappenheim's contributions as an object of psychoanalytic scrutiny, as a social activist working for the well-being of women and children, as a feminist within fin-de-siecle German and Jewish communities, and as an imaginative writer. Guttmann's contribution is her effort to bring the various fragments explored by others together into a well-rounded, human portrait of this creative figure that moved among Central Europe's cultural elites and reflected that world's preoccupations, fears, and hopes. Of particular note is her attempt to grapple with Pappenheim's mysticism, a philosophic and religious characteristic shared by most European intellectuals prior to WW II, but particularly common among European Jews. While Pappenheim is never truly situated in a solidly constructed and specific historical context, Guttmann has written a highly readable and intriguing work that will stimulate the scholar and the general reader alike. B. Burkhard University of Maryland University College