Skip to main content

Johanna Meyer-Lövinson Collection

Identifier: AR 299

Scope and content note

This collection depicts the life and professional development of Johanna Meyer-Lövinson. It also contains some material on the life of members of the Lövinson family in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Much of this collection is made up of documents concerning Johanna Meyer's professional work. During her life she worked as a teacher, lecturer, reciting artist (Rezitatorin), radio broadcaster, and art model. Most documents concerning these occupations will be found in the largest series of the collection, Series III. This series includes such items as reviews of her performances, both in person and on the radio, and programs announcing the performances. There are also notes used in lectures, orations, classes, and radio programs. Many of her lectures centered on German literature. Other topics she discussed were women and the raising of children, life as a new immigrant to America, and Jewish themes. Files of correspondence and notes on individuals, especially contemporary artists whose work she featured in lectures, radio programs, and at readings, will also be found here.

Personal documents belonging to Johanna Meyer will be found in Series I. Included here are several items with information on events in her early life, such as trips to Austria and Italy. This series also features her memoirs and greetings on reaching memorable birthdays, as well as a few birthdays.

Series II holds papers of members of the Lövinson family and other families related to them. Many of the papers here belonged to Johanna Meyer's siblings and parents, as well as more extended relatives. Although some correspondence is located here, it also contains personal documents and published works. Documents and published items belonging to Johanna Meyer's older brother Hermann (Ermanno) Lövinson are the most prominent in this series. Noteworthy documents in Series II also consist of a royal proclamation awarding the Red Cross Medallion to Henriette Lövinson in recognition of her charitable work and reports on emigration to China by Käthe Lövinson.

This collection may be particularly useful in giving a glimpse of life in early twentieth century Germany, especially of literary interests and Jewish family life in this period. One area not well documented in this collection is Johanna Meyer's emigration experience before arriving in the United States.


  • Creation: 1868-1989
  • Creation: bulk 1896-1949

Language of Materials

The collection is in German, English, and Italian.

Access restrictions

Open to researchers.

Use restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011

Biographical note

Johanna Lövinson was born in Berlin on January 13, 1874, the youngest child of the businessman Siegfried Lövinson and his wife Rosalie nee Hirschberg. She had six siblings that lived to adulthood: Martin, Emil, Henriette, Hermann, Feodora, and Oskar.

When she was 17, Johanna Lövinson entered a teachers' seminary. At 19 she moved to Italy to work as a governess. Upon her return to Berlin she began taking dramatic lessons, and studied with the actor Max Pohl. Johanna Lövinson then began taking voice and breathing lessons and studied German literature, and found positions in finishing schools teaching students correct diction and literature. Occasionally she taught German to foreigners, directed amateur theater productions, and formed reading circles to discuss literature. In 1896, Johanna Lövinson gave her first public performance, a charity event for needy children. She became involved in performing in similar events for various organizations, something she would continue to do for more than thirty years.

In 1901 Johanna Lövinson married the businessman Eugen Meyer, twelve years her elder. Their first child, Hildegard, was born the next year, but died soon after birth from influenza. Their son Paul was born in 1904; daughter Leonore arrived in 1911. Not long after the birth of Paul, Eugen Meyer's business failed, and Johanna Meyer once more began to teach at finishing schools and gave lessons in voice projection, as well as offering lectures on Jewish topics. In addition, she gave readings of children's stories, sometimes in costume, in rented halls. This led to doing readings of literature for more organizations and events. Some readings were also occasionally accompanied by musical performance. Through her literary readings she became connected with well-known writers of the time such as Georg Hermann, Ernst Toller, and Stefan Zweig. This work proved to be her niche, and she became a successful and prolific reciting artist (Rezitatorin), sometimes traveling to other cities to perform. She brought the authors of works with her on occasion to her reading circles, and gave book reviews.

In fall 1923 the first radio station was opened in Berlin, and in 1924 Johanna Meyer found a position at the station reading children's stories and literature, as well as giving lectures on women's issues. Through the radio her fame as a speaker spread, and she was often requested at cultural events in various cities. Once the Nazis came to power in 1933 she lost her position at the radio station, but continued to do dramatic readings and lectures for the Jüdischer Kulturbund.

By 1938, both of Johanna Meyer's children had immigrated to the United States and were living in Chicago. They applied for a visa for her and she left Germany. She settled in an apartment her children provided for her in Chicago, joining her daughter Leonore a year later in Reading, Pennsylvania, where Leonore worked in a kindergarten. There Johanna Meyer began studying English and taking Americanization classes. In 1943 she and her daughter moved to Philadelphia.

In 1945 World War II ended, and Johanna Mayer learned that most of her remaining family in Europe, with whom she had lost contact, had not survived the war, including two of her brothers and their family members. Only one niece and one nephew were left.

In 1946 Johanna Meyer began to work as a model for students at several art schools in Philadelphia. This position usually required her to dress in costume, and to project her personality, a skill she already had from her years as a literary reader. She also began to teach German at the Junto school, which she would continue to do until 1956, at the age of 82.

Johanna Meyer persisted in participating in various endeavors in her later years as well. She was featured in a short educational film on mental health produced by the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare in 1950, where she played the mother of a patient. Most notably, she also continued to do some work for German-language radio stations in the United States. While living in Chicago and Philadelphia she participated in radio programs sponsored by the International Institute to assist new immigrants in becoming familiar with American customs. In 1949 she participated in a commemoration of Goethe's 200th birthday for the newly created radio station WFLN of Philadelphia.

By the spring of 1956 Johanna Meyer had resigned from her work as an art model. Shortly thereafter she was taken to the hospital and had to give up teaching. Johanna Meyer died on April 29, 1957.


Meyer, Leonore. Velvet and Steel: the Life of Johanna Meyer. Upper Darby, Pennsylvania: Precision Offset Printing, Inc., 1989.


4 Linear Feet


This collection documents the life and professional interests of Johanna Meyer-Lövinson. She was most well-known for her work as a reciting artist (Rezitatorin) and radio speaker in 1920s and early 1930s Berlin. In addition to her artistic activities, she was also involved in teaching. Her collection is composed of papers concerning her personal life such as memoirs, momentos, and a diary as well as her own writings and numerous notes. In addition, it holds correspondence and reference files on authors whose writings she featured in her own work. The collection also contains papers of her family, a few photos, and a film reel.


This collection is on twelve reels of microfilm (MF 965):

  1. Reel 1: 1/1 - 1/12
  2. Reel 2: 1/13 - 1/38
  3. Reel 3: 1/39 - 2/10
  4. Reel 4: 2/11 - 2/32
  5. Reel 5: 2/33 - 2/52
  6. Reel 6: 2/53 - 2/84
  7. Reel 7: 3/1 - 3/9
  8. Reel 8/: 3/10 - 3/21
  9. Reel 9: 3/22 - 3/32
  10. Reel 10: 3/33 - 4/3
  11. Reel 11: 4/4 - 4/9
  12. Reel 12: 4/10 - 4/25

Related material

Researchers interested in the life of Johanna Meyer-Lövinson should be aware that the LBI Library has a copy of her biography by Leonore Meyer Velvet and Steel: the Life of Johanna Meyer .

Several archival collections and memoirs held by the LBI also relate to Johanna Meyer:

  1. Ermanno (Hermann) Loevinson's memoirs {ME 826)
  2. Martin Loevinson Collection (AR 3331)
  3. Martin Loevinson's memoirs "Geschichte meines Lebens. Teil I: Die goldene Jugendzeit" (ME 401)
  4. "Blaetter der Erinnerung an Dr. Moritz Loevinson zum 50. Todestage" (ME 399)
  5. Moritz Loevinson Collection (AR 5041)
  6. Siegfried Loevinson "Fuenfzig Sterne am Himmel meiner Kindheits-Jahre. 44 Briefe und 6 Gedenkblaetter" (ME 400)

Separated material

Photographs have been removed to the Photograph Collection. A box of medals belonging to Henriette May was removed to the Art Collection.

Processing information

The collection was reprocessed in March 2005 by Dianne Ritchey Oummia. Addenda and unprocessed materials were added to the collection. Arrangement was applied to the collection with the first three series based on the arrangement of an older paper-based inventory. Description was added and basic preservation procedures were performed.

Guide to the Papers of Johanna Meyer-Lövinson (1874-1958) 1868-1989 AR 299 / MF 965
Processed by LBI Staff and Dianne Ritchey Oummia
© 2005
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from JohannaMeyer.xml

Revision Statements

  • April 2009:: Microfilm inventory added.
  • July 2010:: Links to digital objects added.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States