Who from Kiel has not heard of the “Toni-Jensen-Gemeinschaftsschule” (a community school) in Neumühlen-Dietrichsdorf? Or, who hasn’t passed the “Ida-Hinz-Platz” in Gaarden? And how about the “Schwester-Therese-Straße” in Holtenau?

Until recently, I for one always thought that Toni Jensen was a guy. And Ida Hinz and Schwester Therese were simply just street names.

Who were these women who were so influential that schools and streets were named after them?

To do all of these women justice in one article would be difficult, instead let’s examine the first mentioned.

Toni Jensen

Toni Jensen

Toni Jensen (Foto: Nafzger – Stadtarchiv Kiel)

Toni Jensen was born as Thomasine Margarete Jensen on September 25th, 1891 in Tönning ( although some sources say Aalborg). She was the eldest of six siblings and had to help raise them from an early age. Despite these adversities, she managed to finish her state examination as a teacher in 1911. At first, Ms. Jensen worked in Gelsenkirchen before being offered several positions in Kiel during 1915. She joined the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and involved herself as social democratic city councilor.

Career with obstacles

When the Arbeiterwohlfahrt (AWO) (Worker’s Welfare Association) was created in 1921, Ms. Jensen became the first chairwoman. From 1921 to 1933 she represented Kiel in the Prussian Landtag. Her main concerns were women and educational politics. She fought for equal educational chances in all strata of society.

She was almost elected to be the “Oberpräsidentin” of Prussia, which in current times equates to prime minister. Sadly, this was never realized due to the Nazis seizing power, instead, she was removed from all offices by them and was forbidden from engaging in any political activities.

Ms. Jensen tried to work as a teacher once more, but the Nazis put a stop to that as well. She did get a job, but got suspended and then fired again quickly.

Escape and return

In 1935 she followed various invitations from colleagues abroad and spent most of her time in the USA and Great Britain, where she was educating adults.

After the Second World War she came back to Kiel and joined the efforts to rebuild the city.

Toni Jensen was initially appointed as a member of the council and chairwoman for the commission for education and culture by the British military government. Quickly she rose from school inspector, to chief school inspector and eventually took over the Department for Schools and Culture in 1947.

Driving force behind the cultural senate

Under her supervision, the destroyed opera house was rebuilt in 1951. Furthermore, she was the driving force behind the newly created cultural senate in Kiel, which managed to get the “Geistkämpfer” by Ernst Barlach back to Kiel after it was confiscated by the Nazis for being “degenerated art”. Toni Jensen retired from active duty in 1956 but remained active in several city offices. She also fought for equality for women in society and for adult education, especially as a secondary means of education.

Der Geistkämpfer

“Der Geistkämpfer” by Ernst Barlach

We owe our current system of teaching and schools to Ms. Jensen. She was responsible for renewing the old and obsolete school system and tried to introduce all-day-schools in Schleswig-Holstein, which did not succeed during her time in office. However, the first all-day-school in Kiel that was opened in 1970/71 was named after her: Toni-Jensen-Schule.

Ms Jensen, who was never married and had no children, always cared about fringe groups, which were women and children in her time. Thanks to her, many improvements were introduced. For example, condition education was abolished, so children of any social standing got the same education.

Ms. Jensen died on October 20th of 1970 at the age of 79 in Kiel. She will remain in our memory as a dedicated, beloved and assertive politician.