Are They Women?
A Novel Concerning the Third Sex
  • Publication Date: September 25, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781554814800 / 1554814804
  • 146 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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Are They Women?

A Novel Concerning the Third Sex

  • Publication Date: September 25, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781554814800 / 1554814804
  • 146 pages; 5½" x 8½"

Deeply engaged in women’s rights debates and discussions of the “third sex,” Are They Women? is about the lively communities of lesbians across turn-of-the-century central Europe. It is one of the first lesbian novels written in German—indeed, in any language—and one of the very few pre-Second Wave feminist texts to provide a positive and romantic portrait of lesbians. A work of popular literature with cultural significance, Are They Women? is both highly readable and remarkably progressive for its time. This is the first complete English translation of the novel. The historical appendices provide contemporary materials on homosexuality, including fresh translations of lesbian and feminist essays, as well as compelling images from German feminist periodicals of the time.


Are They Women? is a crucial document of lesbian history. It captures a moment in time when women who loved women first had the freedom to live as they wished and a name that gave them an identity. Margaret Breen and Nisha Kommattam have provided a fine translation, and their excellent introduction sets Are They Women? in historical and scholarly context. This volume is important reading for anyone wishing to understand the lesbian past.” — Lillian Faderman, author of To Believe In Women: What Lesbians Have Done for America—A History

“This carefully and accessibly edited translation of Aimée Duc’s novel Are They Women? couldn’t come at a more timely moment: as a group of university students around the charismatic Minotschka Fernandoff travel around Europe, go on bike rides, drink cognac, and get their hearts broken, they discuss topics such as what makes a woman (or a man), why the institution of marriage fails women, which professions and political allegiances can truly be chosen, and where a homeland might be found for those who defy conventional national and sexual boundaries. With its appendix of highly relevant companion literature by activists and sexologists such as Havelock Ellis or Anna Rüling, and biographical material about the unjustly forgotten author, who was in so many ways ahead of her time, this volume is not only essential reading for classes on the history of sexuality, but also for anyone interested in its present.” — Veronika Fuechtner, Dartmouth College, Author of Berlin Psychoanalytic and co-editor of A Global History of Sexual Science 1880-1960

“This elegantly translated and helpfully edited printing of Mina Adelt-Duc’s novel, Are They Women?, introduces us to a fascinating world of young people: medical students, doctors, actors, and musicians. Some have aristocratic titles, others have money, and many have neither. They are all exploring gender, sexuality, and identity in the grand cities of Europe around 1900. Today we would identify many of the characters as lesbians or bisexual women, while others might be trans. One thing is sure though — the conversations they have in this novel, written over a century ago, echo loudly today. Anyone involved in gender studies, LGBTQ+ studies, or queer theory will want to meet and get to know these characters!” — Robert Tobin, Clark University, Author of Peripheral Desires: The German Discovery of Sex and Warm Brothers: Queer Theory and the Age of Goethe

Mina Adelt-Duc: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

Are They Women?

Appendix A: Reviews of Are They Women?

  • 1. Review of Sind es Frauen?, Westermanns Illustrierte Deutsche Monatshefte [Westermann’s Illustrated German Monthly Magazine] (November 1901)
  • 2. From Numa Praetorius [Eugen Wilhelm], “Weibliche Homosexualität” [“Female Homosexuality”], Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen [Yearbook for Intermediate Sexual Types] (1903)

Appendix B: Anita Augspurg on Women and Marriage

  • 1. Anita Augspurg, “A Typical Case of the Present Time. An Open Letter” (1905)

Appendix C: Anna Rüling on the Women’s Movement and Homosexuality

  • 1. Anna Rüling, “What Interest Does the Women’s Movement Have in Solving the Homosexual Problem?” (8 October 1904)

Appendix D: Havelock Ellis and Female Inversion

  • 1. From Havelock Ellis and John Addington Symonds, “Sexual Inversion in Women,” Sexual Inversion (1897)

Appendix E: Cover Images from Draisena

  • 1. Cover of 24 April 1899 edition of Draisena
  • 2. Closeup of cover image from 26 October 1898

Appendix F: Cover Image from Adelt-Duc’s Novella Collection

  • 1. Cover image of Indische Novellen (1914)

Works Cited and Select Bibliography

Margaret Sönser Breen is Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. Nisha Kommattam is Associate Instructional Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago and an affiliated researcher at the Institut für Südasien- und Südostasien-Studien at the University of Cologne, Germany.