Collected Stories


My aunt wasn't just the first woman to study, but the first altogether. She was born in 1937 in Iran (in Teheran) and was the oldest of six children. It was her dream to study medicine. Not only did she make her dream a reality, but her father even allowed her to study in another city in the south of Iran, Shiraz, about 1000km away from Teheran. She began her studies at the end of the 50s and was an inspiration for all the women and men of the family until her early death with only 44 years. She showed us that we could do it all, that a woman, at the time when studying was limited to mostly men in Europe, could realize her academic dream in Iran.


My mother, born 1921, was the first woman in my family to go to university. She started stduying German, History and Geography in the fall of 1940 under the most difficult war circumstances. Even a bomb alarm didn't keep her from a written exam which she would have had to repeat had she gone to a bomb shelter. In February 1945, she took her teaching exam. She already started to teach in the fall of 1944 as an assistant teacher. As a young teacher and mother she faced discrimination and told us children that she would want to be born as a man in her next lives because men had it much easier. She married my father who returned from war with heavy facial injuries in March 1945. My father was also the first person who studied in his family. The state gave them Hitler's "Mein Kampf" as a wedding gift. She didn't believe in survival anymore at the time. Between 1946 and 1960, she gave birth to 6 children. She had 6 weeks of parental leave, then she was back at teaching. She biked home to nurse. She taught as a contracted teacher until 1958. Then she didn't work anymore until 1966. There was a lack of academically educated teachers in the 1960ies, and she was asked to teach again. 1966 she did and attained the degree "Magister der Philosophy" (Master of Philosophy) in 1972. In 1978, she received the professional title "Oberstudienrat" (Senior Teacher). She was a pioneer in her profession and in the art of reconciling job and family under difficult circumstances. She retired when she was 60 years old. She was bid farewell with honor. She died in 2007. Her five children and 8 grandchildren all studied at university and got a degree. My mother was a formative role model for me and my longlasting professional fight against discrimination and for equality, the advancement of women, gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting.


My sister and I were the first women in our family who studied. My maternal grandmother came from a bakery, my grandfather from a farm. My mother was an only child. She finished high school but it was expected that she would work in an office after that, uni was no possibility. My father comes from a family of carpenters, luckily his older brother took over the carpentry business and my father become a teacher for vocational schools. After he finished hthis education, he only worked for a short while as a teacher before deciding to go to the Montan University in Leoben. He couldn't expect any financial assistance from his family, he financed the biggest part of his studies with part time and summer jobs or with stipends. He did manage even back then (in the Mid-60ies) to study 1 year in the USA. There was never any doubt that my siblings and I were allowed to study if we wanted to and we were also free to choose the field. But my father did keep pushing me during the final school years to become a teacher. Simply for the fact that he pushed, I didn't consider it. At the time, I wasn't so conscious of ther fact but it is a privilege to be able to choose which field you want to study and be supported financially by your parents. It was always my goal towork abroad or at least travel a lot professionally. Even though I only achieved this for a few years after university, I did interrupt my studies several times for internships abroad for a few months or semesters and could also spend several months in Bolivia for my thesis. Therefore, for me, studying means freedom - freedom to make new work experiences in connection with experiencing new cultures; a freedom that I never experienced again afterwards.


As far as I can track it back, the first woman in my family to study was a cousin of my parental grandmother. This cousin worked as a medical doctor after university but when she got married, her position was automatically terminated. It seems that that was just what was done in Vienna back then, similarly to the female teachers' celibate. A profession and a marriage were thought impossible to reconcile for a woman. My great-grandparents also experienced this. My great-grandmother had to give up her profession as a teacher after her wedding. Back to my grandmother's cousin: she had to flee with her Jewish husband before the Shoah. Through detours, they came to the USA where she became a gynaecologist and even worked in cancer research at Berkeley. You can still find her scientific papers from the 70ies online. My grandmother was younger than this cousin and had a father and a brother who were also doctors. So she, too, began to study medicine shortly after the Second World War. Even though her grades were better than her brother’s, he suggested that she should become a Medical-Technical Assistant instead. But she became a general practitioner and worked all her life fulltime in the hospital – even with three children. I know that she never felt entirely competent in her job and had many self-doubts. Classic case of the imposter syndrome? Her husband, my grandfather, did not study and was a librarian at the University of Vienna by the way. That my grandmother did not marry someone „in her league“ (an apothecary for example) was always an issue between my grandfather and his family-in-law. Many people also thought that my grandfather was the doctor and not my grandmother because a “Mrs Doctor” was the “wife of a doctor” back then.


The first woman who studied in my family was my aunt. My grandmother wanted her two daughters and her granddaughter to study at university because she herself couldn't study due to the beginning war and her social background and its lack of resources. After I was long finished with my degree, she once asked me how it felt to sit in a lecture hall and spend a day at uni? I realized then where my own desire to stuy and work at university came from. A sense of entitlement developed from queer uni groups, encouraging lecturers and feminist theory. But I also needed many other resources: my mother who supported me within my family in my wish to study philosophy. My father who was sure I would achieve my degree. My aunts who showed me how many classes one should take and in which cafés to go to study.


I was the first woman in my family to study at universtiy. But this was never a big issue - I only realized when I started to think about this for this project. My mother probably could have studied at university if she had wanted to - both of her brothers studied, although only one finished his degree. From what she told me about it, the most important factor for my grandparents was for her to have "job security". She wanted to become an elementary school teacher, but my grandparents convinced her otherwise. At the time it wasn't a "secure job" because there were many elementary school teachers. So after the "Matura", she went to a trade school ("Handelsakademie") and atually did have a "secure job" in a bank until her retirement. I don't know if she ever considered studying at university - I'll have to ask her at some point!

That I wanted to study after my "Matura" was no real issue. My mother - and all other relatives, too - thought it was a good idea and supported me as a matter of course. My sister also studied shortly after me. Going to university after school felt like "the logical next step". I studied in the early 2000s and always felt very comfortable during my studies - I did choose a discipline where the share of women was extremely high, men were a very small minority at the Centre for Translation Studies. In hindsight it is obvious thought that the share of men was much higher when it came to lecturers. Even with my since then increased awareness of those things, I can't think of a single situation where I or a fellow female student were discriminated against because of our gender. For me, going to university was definitely the right choice and I still work passionately as a translator. I am grateful that for me, studying as a woman in the early 2000s actually was a walk in the park!


If you trace back the direct line of my ancestors, I am the first woman in my family who managed to finish a university degree, albeit not the first one who attempted it. When I decided to lead a self-sufficient life and to study, it was the direct path to 10 years of precarity. 10 years of stress and psychological pressure. 10 years of fear of not being able to pay the rent, of losing health insurance, of losing my job and of not even be entitled to unemployment benefits - unless abandoning my studies. When I ran out of breath, I took a leave of absence of 2 years and worked a badly paid full-time job. This gave me the chance at least to sell my studies as a second-chance education, take an educational leave and write my Master's thesis. The money of the employment office wasn't sufficient to pay for necessities, of course. I encountered discrimination less as a woman but as a working student. Rigid time tables and regulations made life needlessly difficult for me as a student and drew out my studies. Often places in courses were rare so working students went away empty-handed. The ending of curricula, irregularities with crediting earlier classes and the introduction of study fees where sheer insurmountable stones in my path and for those who already had a hard time. For somebody with a precarious work contract wtihout a 13th and 14th monthly wage, 726,72 Euro a year are a lot of money. Should I decide to have children, my biography already points towards the minimum pension. My head hit the underside of the social glass ceiling very hard, and it will take me years to recover from it.


Nobody studied at university in my family before me. There was only one high school diploma ("Matura") before mine: my father went to trade school ("Handelsakademie"). It was he, of all people, who made it difficult for me to study. Already early on he disapproved of my wish for higher education since in his eyes, girls were destined to marry and have children. It took arduous persuasion efforts of various people - and I am not sure that my mother's voice counted - before he, the possessor of "paternal power" and therefore the only person according to family law at the time with the power to make that decision, agreed that I could go to high school.

After I finished my "Matura" he disapproved of my going to university, especially with my chosen discipline that offered no opportunities to become a teacher, the only profession that could be reconciled with taking care of children. This disapproval became apparent in an erratic financial support for me, so that I started to working occasional jobs early on to cover my basic needs and finished my doctorate through scholarships abroad and working full-time.

Compared to that, my studies at the University of Vienna were heavenly. The freshly appointed (male) professor (and there was only one in my discipline) was supportive of feminist endeavors, and our male colleagues introduced us in friendly-critcal discussion to the perspectives of "others". There were some people who said discriminatory things - with one exception all people from outside of the faculty. Those statements were met with almost unanimous rejection. The sense of excitement for the future that came with the 1975 University Law was present as well as the hope that came with it: hope for a gender equal and less hierarchical univerisity future. The former was achieved in my faculty at least, the latter - across all of Austria - unfortunately not.


I was the first in our family who finished high school and studied at university. My mother was kept from becoming a teacher, her dream job - in my grandparents' eyes finishing the statutory education was enough. My father's educational path also ended with statutory education. Nevertheless, education was always very important für my parents. My parents didn't make a difference between me and my brothers when it came to making education possible. They said: we support you as long as you work hard. That being said, contrary to today, testing different fields of study was seen as a legitimate part of the educational path. This paradigm shift from my parents comparend to my grandparents' generation still impresses me today. After me, two of my female cousins also went to university. I often felt like I had to prove that I was not lazing around while my cousins worked. For me, the possibility to go to Vienna to study was exciting and a joyful adventure - but at the same time it was completely normal: most of my friends made the same step, it was nothing out of the ordinary in my peer group. It was only during my studies that I realized the difference in various situations between us first generation students and fellow students who already had family/private networks that extended into the university. We had to built our networks first. When I decided to go for a PhD, one of my male cousins told me in a joking tone that he would have to also get a PhD if I was to become the only family member with a doctorate. For me, this was no joke but rather an example from the familiar microcosm of glass ceilings and the question who claims the space above it and who is willing to share it.


In my family, I (born 1953) am the first female university student. My mother was a tailor. Her mother came from a farming family and was a housewife in Vienna. My other grandmother had to leave school when she was 14 years old to earn money although she would have liked to continue her studies. She served different rich families. In her marriage, she earned some additional money by knitting.

I would have liked to go to university after finishing high school, wasn't confident enough to push for it in my family. My parents appreciated education but they wanted something safe for me. Starting in 1971, I went to the Pedagogic Academy in Vienna and became a teacher.

My 2 years older brother studied Mechanical Engineering and was the first man to study in the family. I started studying psychology a little later while working, but didn't finish my degree. It was too exhausting to do so while teaching and also wasn't the right fit for me when it came to the content.

When I was 50 years old, I tried visiting a lecture series for women at unie: gender studies, women's stories have always interested me. The very abstract language that was used there scared me off continuing my studies. I found other ways to educate myself that were a better fit.

I don't have children. My brother has two sons and a grandson. Will there be another studying woman in our family?


Without having combed the family tree, I myself am probably the first woman in my family who studied at university. I studied from 2008 to 2020, with one break, and finishe a BA, MA and PhD.

My parents and my younger sister are/were incredibly proud of me for that! Especially my father - who always wanted to go to university but couldn't - was an enthusiastic editor of my scientific papers and wouldn't be dissuaded from coding thousands of newspaper articles with me and under my guidance. In my father's extended farming family though, I was dismissed as "The Student" (read: arrogant nerd) more than once. In Salzburg, the prejudice that students are lazy. Contrary to this, tn my mother's bourgeois family I am "The Smart One". I still enjoy a special status here that comes with a - sometimes exaggerated - admiration for my achievements at university.

For me, studying was THE way to find myself, to take control of my own life and to empower myself. I am incredibly grateful fro this experience! There is little that makes me as euphoric as studying. After I finished my degrees, I took eight more classes just for fun.

I never (consciously) experienced discrimination because of my gender at university, nor saw it happen. Quite to the contrary: in my - critical, social science - studies, women were actively encouraged and partly even preferred.

I experienced circumstances that made studying more difficult at the beginning in my overcrowded BA and later in my PhD programme: students without a position at university were basically isolated and there was no way for them to network. It was also difficult to find a job after I was done: I had to go through 1.5 years of rejection before I found the position at the University of Vienna that borught back those wonderful feelings of my time as a student...


In my family, I am the first who went to study at university - not just the first woman, but the first altogether. That was in the 90ies. My parents didn't keep me from studying because (in their eyes) I wasn't fit to take over the family business as a woman. So you can say that I had an advantage over my brother in that regard. For me, it was an incredibly new, exciting and at the beginning even awe-inspiring world, not just university but the big city of Vienna. But it also felt like coming home a little bit. In the course of time, I grew a bit more disenchanted and started to see academia very critically, too. Nevertheless, I stayed at the University of Vienna professionally as well.


The first woman in my family who finished her studies was my aunt. That was in the 80s or at the beginning of the 90s. She immediately went all the way and is now the rector of a German university. She was only slightly earlier with her degree than her mother, my grandmother. My grandmother decided after retirement to start to study at university and even finished her doctorate. My mother, and my other aunt also got their degrees a little later in life.

In my father's family, he was the first who studied at university. With that decision grew some distance between him and the rest of his (working class) family. There are a couple more people with university degrees in the generation that followed, but it's still not a matter of course in this part of my family.