Reminiscences of Fröbel

Erinnerungen an Fröbel by Baroness Bertha von Marenholtz Bülow, translated by Mrs. Horace Mann Boston:1887, abridged by Johannes Froebel-Parker

Baroness von Marenholtz Bülow recalls her first meeting with Friedrich Fröbel

In the year 1848, at the end of May, I arrived at Bad Liebenstein in Thuringia. A man had taken up residence at a small farm near the springs, who danced and played with the village children and was therefore called "the old fool."

A tall, spare man with long grey hair was leading a troop of village children between the ages of three and eight, most of them barefooted, up a hill where they played and sang.

The loving patience of the man, the whole bearing brought tears to my eyes and to those of my companion.

The play being ended I approached the man with the words," I see you are occupied with the education of the people."

He agreed and said ," the other [older] people will not come unless we educate them, so we must begin with the children."

I went with him across the meadow to a country-house where he introduced me to his niece, Henriette Schrader-Breymann.

I retain the memory of only one sentence-"Man is a creative being!"

He accompanied me back to Bad Liebenstein, about an half hour away, and we discussed the disappointments of the [democratic] movements of 1848.

"Nothing comes without a struggle," he said. "Strife creates nothing by itself, it only clears the air. New seeds must be planted to germinate and grow, if we will have the tree of humanity blossom...We cannot tear the present from the past or from the future. Past, present, and future are the Trinity of time. In the children lies the seed-corn of the future!"

"That which follows is always conditioned upon that which goes before." (Shown concretely in the Second Educational Gift/die Zweite Gabe)

Although Fröbel never joined the party of progress, he was counted among the revolutionaries by those in authority, who hindered all progress and condemned his kindergarten.

"The destiny of nations lies far more in the hands of women-the mothers-than in the possessors of power, or those of innovators who for the most part do not understand themselves. We must cultivate women, who are the educators of the human race, else the new generation cannot accomplish its task."

This was almost ALWAYS the sum of his discourse.

Fröbel at Liebenstein

Fröbel, even now, after his death, has had to suffer from manifold unjust judgments, among which are those of some of his earlier pupils in Keilhau (1817-1827), who cannot complain enough of what they call the effects of some branches of instruction. The new always stands in opposition to established claims.

Fröbel often made his friends and relatives suffer when their views and interests did not harmonize with what he considered necessary or best for the good of his idea. Through his whole life Fröbel sacrificed himself and his personal interests, also the interests of those nearest to him, to the development and propagation of his idea.

How very much Fröbel influenced the moral culture of his pupils was made public by the unbounded love and gratitude expressed by the majority of them at the time of his death.

It is to be observed that his peculiar mission did not have reference to the improvement of instruction (like Pestalozzi), but rather consisted in creating A NEW FOUNDATION FOR EDUCATION in general. The truth concerning the Nature of Childhood cannot be without influence upon all branches of education.

One day when I visited him he said, his eyes lighting up, "To-day is a good day./Yes, this truth is endless and cannot be exhausted by thought."

After I had accepted Fröbel's educational method in respect to its pedagogical principles, I begged him to disclose to me in full the deeper basis of his theory of the world. He replied," No, my last word I take with me in to the grave; the time for it has not yet come." One day he read some leaves of an old manuscript and begged permission to take with him one volume containing them. "Now YOU shall know my last word." He supplied me by degrees with the proper key for understanding. The reproach of mysticism applied to Froebel's system has a certain justification so long as the theory lying at the foundation is not completely understood and scientifically established.

"If three hundred years after my death my method of education shall be completely established according to its idea, I shall rejoice in heaven, " he replied to me once when he was lamenting over its slow and imperfect advance.

Fröbel found in Liebenstein a haven of rest for his last days. Here he was again surrounded by the home atmosphere of THURINGIA, and by beautiful nature with which he had always held his most intimate and comforting communion. Here he was able to lay the foundation for the general education of the female sex the educational vocation.

The interest in his cause shown by the Princes of Meiningen and Weimar, especially by her Highness, my patroness and friend, the Duchess Ida of Weimar, renewed his courage. Through her a suitable location was at last obtained for his institution. On a walk, in the neighborhood of Liebenstein, we came upon the small ducal shooting castle (Jagdschloss) Marienthal. " This would be a beautiful place for our institution Marienthal, the vale of the Marys, whom we wish to bring up as the mothers of humanity, as the first Mary brought up the Saviour of the World."

Through the continual prompting of her brother by the duchess this end was reached only after months. One circumstance contributed to bring about this permission sooner. Fröbel had been invited with me to dine with the duchess and had put on a coat which had been laid away for a long time in a place right next to the the barn and was completely penetrated with the odor of the stable. This odor permeated the instruction room, but Fröbel had not noticed it as he was used to it. But the duchess noticed it as soon as he entered the the dining-room. Thinking the odor was coming from outside, she closed the windows, but the odor remained. I told her in a whisper of the cause, and she was greatly amused as were her daughters, the princesses. Fröbel joined heartily when I told him of the cause of our hilarity and said," Your Highness sees now how necessary it is to remove our institution to Marienthal."

After dinner the now reigning Grand Duke of Weimar, then the heir presumptive, came in with his wife. He had once censured Fröbel's obscure style but now retracted it and said, "He speaks like a prophet!" Fröbel said to me, "Do you know what warmed me up so much today? The beautiful harmony of the architecture of that dining-hall! I felt as if I were in a temple!" The marble pillars which supported the vaulted roof had made an impression on his artistic eyes. I constantly observed this feeling for harmony and beauty in Fröbel. In nature, nothing escaped him; every tree which embellished the surrounding country, every graceful curved line, every blending of color, every lighting up of the heavens, everything, indeed, which expressed beauty and harmony. On the other hand, the smallest want of harmony was annoying to him. "I miss harmony of color here, " he once said as we passed a bed of dahlias in which the colors were confusedly intermingled.

In spite of his undeniable gift of prophecy, Fröbel had a warm heart for his fellow-men. Middendorf once told me a little anecdote. Fröbel's wife had opened the closet door one day and exclaimed, "Thieves have been here! The closet is almost empty." Fröbel laughed, " I am the the thief." A neighboring village had been destroyed by fire, and, having no money, he felt obliged to help by giving them some of his effects.

more extracts from Reminiscences of Froebel by Baroness Bertha von Marenholtz-Buelow

Come, let us live with and for our children
Friedrich Fröbel 1782 -1852

Kindergarten - Fröbel blocks - Fröbel gifts
influence on Alfred Adler - Frank Lloyd Wright
Friedrich Fröbel quotes - ancestors - relatives
Baroness von Marenholtz Bülow reminiscences - her life

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