Hannah Arendt was an American political philosopher. She is widely known for being one of the most important political thinkers of the 20th century. Several books and articles written by her have had a lasting influence on political theories and philosophies.

Arendt was also a chain-smoker and was frequently depicted with a cigarette in her hand. In 1953, she was appointed as the first woman professor at Princeton. She said “I am not disturbed at all about being a woman professor, because I am quite used to being a woman”

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Hannah Arendt’s Personal Life

Arendt was born on October 14, 1906 in Linden, Prussian Hanover, German Empire to a Jewish family. Her parents were Paul Arendt, prominent businessman, local politician, one of the leaders of the Königsberg Jewish community and Martha Cohn. Paul has contracted syphilis in his youth due to which they had to move to Königsberg, the capital of East Prussia, for his treatment when Hannah was three. Later when she was seven, he died. Hannah was raised in a politically progressive, secular family. Her mother Martha Cohn was an ardent supporter of the Social Democrats.

Hannah Arendt married Günther Stern in 1929 but got divorced in the year 1937. In 1933, when Hitler came into power, Arendt was arrested for collected antisemitic research at the Prussian State Library and was briefly imprisoned by the Gestapo. On release, she fled Germany and started living in erstwhile Czechoslovakia and Switzerland before settling in Paris. In 1940, she married Heinrich Blücher, but when Germany invaded France in 1940 she was detained by the people of France as an outsider, despite having been stripped of her German citizenship in 1937. She escaped and made her way to the United States in 1941 via Portugal. She settled in New York, which remained her residence for the rest of her life.

In May 1974, Arendt sustained a fatal heart attack while lecturing in Scotland, and although she recovered, she remained in poor health henceforth, but still continued to smoke. On the evening of 4 December 1975, shortly after celebrating her 69th birthday, she had another heart attack in her apartment while entertaining friends, and was pronounced dead at the scene. Her ashes were buried alongside those of Blücher at Bard College, in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York in May 1976.

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Hannah Arendt’s Views On Feminism

Arendt did not call herself a feminist and would be very surprised to hear herself described as a feminist, remaining opposed to the social dimensions of Women’s Liberation, urging independence, but always keeping in mind Viva la petite différence!

Hannah Arendt’s Work

The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) It was the first major book of her career. It examined the roots of Communism and Nazism, structured as three essays, “Antisemitism”, “Imperialism” and “Totalitarianism”. The Human Condition (1958) , Between Past and Future (1954…1968),  Men in Dark Times (1968), On Revolution (1963) and Crises of the Republic (1972) are some of her well-known writings. 

Crises of the Republic was the third of Arendt’s anthologies, consisting of four essays, “Lying in Politics”, “Civil Disobedience”, “On Violence” and “Thoughts on Politics and Revolution”.

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Khushi Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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