Rue Marie Speyer - Street

Rue Marie Speyer

First Luxembourg woman to obtain a doctorate in 1908, together with Anne Beffort
Activist for girls' access to university studies
Birth year
Year of death
Places of residence
Vianden, Luxembourg ¦ Fribourg - Switzerland

Who is she?

Born in Vianden on 13 July 1880, Marie Speyer passed all the examinations required of primary school teachers, the best qualification available to young girls in Luxembourg at the time. Marie completed her studies with a certificate from the "Alliance française" in Nancy. With all these qualifications in her pocket, the young woman aspired to an academic career that was reserved for men at the time. Since she could not find a job in Luxembourg, she followed the advice of Abbé François Lech to study in Switzerland, where women had been admitted to university since 1865.

In Fribourg, the brilliant student flourished in her studies of literature and Marie was especially enthusiastic about German Romanticism. The young woman did not hesitate to defend her doctoral thesis, for which she was awarded a summa cum laude. At the age of 29 she was the first woman to obtain a doctorate in Fribourg. But this journey had its price. At the time it was very difficult for young female academics to find work. Anne Beffort confessed: "[...] to go to the universities like our brothers, one needed a courage that could not be beaten or a faith that could move mountains".

On 11 December 1909, Marie Speyer became headmistress of the new girls' high school in Fribourg and committed herself wholeheartedly to promoting access to university studies for young women.

Two years later, she was offered the position of deputy headmistress at the Lycée de Jeunes Filles, which was to open in Luxembourg the same year. She was very excited to return to Luxembourg and to see her family again, especially her mother and sister, and took up the new challenge. However, Marie was soon disillusioned. She was a victim of the political quarrels that flared up around the Catholic Church's hold on the school. She was accused in newspaper articles of not being qualified for the job. These accusations made it difficult for her to cope, especially as the young headmistress deplored the lack of an intellectual climate. She describes Luxembourg as a 'intellectual desert' and admits: "[...] It's terribly lonely here and not much fun. I have to stay in touch with the outside world, otherwise I lose the thread".

Her literary and academic correspondence as well as her scientific work are of great comfort to her.

Marie Speyer died of cancer on 18 June 1914 in the St. Francis Clinic in Luxembourg.


● Germaine Goetzinger/Antoinette Lorang/Renée Wagener: Wenn wir Frauen auch das Wort ergreifen. Publications Nationales, Ministère de la Culture, 1997
● Une photo et son histoire: Anne Beffort et Marie Speyer. In: Ons Stad Nr. 92 (2009), S. 56-57. Auteur(e): Simone Beck, 2009

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