Johanna Mestorf

* 17th of April 1828 in Bramstedt, † 20th of July 1909 in Kiel

In 1899, Prof. Dr. h.c. Johanna Mestorf became the first woman in Prussia to be awarded the title “professor” by the German Emperor Wilhelm II. She was 70 at the time and could look back at a successful scientific career which began in 1863 with her translations of archaeological publications and an extensive scientific opus. She had been director of the Museum for National Relics (“Museum vaterländischer Altertümer”) since 1891, where she had previously worked as the custodian since 1873.  Towards the end of her scientific practice she was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1909 by the Faculty of Medicine at Kiel University.

These accomplishments and tributes are even more impressive when one considered that women in Prussia, up until 1908, were not allowed to attend universities. Prussia was the last state in Central Europe to revoke their restriction and even then the habilitation of women was only formally allowed in 1919. Johanna Mestorf is one of the exceptional women who stand for the uphill battle of gender equality at European universities.