NameWolff; Charlotte (1897-1986); Dr; FBPsS
Other NamesCharlotte Wolff
DatesAndPlacesBorn Riesenberg, West Prussia 30 September 1897
Died September 12 1986 24 Elm Park House, Fulham Road, Chelsea London SW10
Reisenberg 1897-?1913
Danzig ?1913-?1916
Berlin ?1916- 1933
Paris 1933-1936
London 1936-1986
10b Redcliffe Place SW10
RelationshipsParents Hans (nd) and Irene Wolff (nd) nee Engel
One sister Thea (died 1928)
Dr Wolff was unmarried
Audrey Wood, companion and occupier
ActivityFrom the age of 6 until she was 9, Dr Wolff attended the high-school for girls in Riesenberg.
From 9 until 14 she attended boarding school then the Realgymnasium der Viktoriaschule in Danzig where she continued her arbiturium [final examination].
At the age of nineteen she started her studies in medicine which she finished in ?1923.
She later studied philosophy in Freiburg, Konigsburg and Tubingen.
In Berlin she took her medical examinations in January 1925. Then received her approbation [approval] as Doctor of Medicine on 7 June 1926 followed by her medical doctorate on 12 March ?1928 with the dissertation "Die Fursorge fur die Familie in der Schwangerenfusorge des Berliner Krankenkassenverbandes".
After finishing her studies she worked for various hospitals in Berlin where she studied inner medicine and for one year the disease of the skin, the first at the Augusta Victoria Krankenhaus Schoeneberg-Berlin, the latter in the Virchow Krankenhaus Berlin, under Professor Wechselmann (nd).
In ?1925 she was appointed as a Doctor of the Krankenkassen Berlins and devoted herself to prophylactic [preventive] medicine and psychology. She held consultations in various parts of Berlin for pregnant women and was one of the first persons to organise birth control, combined with psychological practice in Berlin. She continued this work until 1931.The growing nationalistic movement making birth control work more and more difficult. Sympathetic to Dr Wolff's Jewish origins Dr Bendix (nd) transferred her from this work into training as a specialist for Electrophysical Therapy.
In 1932 (March) Dr Wolff was appointed director of the Institute of Electrophysical Therapy in Neukoelln-Berlin where she combined practical work with scientific study and published a paper on psycotherapy.
In addition to medical work she also continued her studies in psychology, graphology and later chirology. In her undergraduate days she had heard the lectures of Ludwig Kiages (nd) graphologist in 1919 (Munich) and was a pupil of Julius Spier (nd) chirologist (Berlin) from 1929 to 1933.
Dr Wolff had developed her own observations on the possible correlations between the morphological [form] and physiological [function] characteristics of the hand. These studies and observations , which she had the opportunity to carry out on a broad range of physically ill people, formed the nucleus of the work which she developed after leaving Germany.
After losing her place because of the Anti-Jewish campaign, in May 1933 she was arrested on charges of espionage and suspected to be a man in woman's clothing. Dr Wolff subsequently decided to leave Germany and emigrated to Paris. In Paris she shared a flat with the journalist Helen Hassel (nd) and counted the English novelist and essayist Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) among her close friends.
Prevented from working as a doctor in Paris, Wolff lived from reading hands and devoted herself entirely to research and practising psychology of the hand.
In Paris she worked with Professor Henri Wellon(nd) (Director au College de France et professor a la Sorbonne), Dr Gilbert Robin (nd), chef-medecin of several dispensaires for nervous and difficult children, Dr Minkowski (nd) psychiatrist and Dr Male (nd) specialist for diseases of children.
In 1936 she moved to London with the help of Aldous and Maria Huxley (nd). In the summer of 1936 she published her first book on the subject of hand-reading. Dr Wolff mentions this book and the possibility "to make research at the London University and the Zoological Gardens, as well as the opportunity of a considerable clientele, made me come to London" Dr Wolff had an impressive lists of clients including Wallis Simpson (1896-1986), Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), various famous stage actors , the Huxley's and members of French aristocracy.

She also made an early appearance on BBC television's "Experiment in Science" programme in 1937. Also at this time she worked for 4 years at University College London (Head Professor Cyril Burt (1883-1971)) under the personal supervision and collaboration of Dr William Stephenson (nd).
Dr Wolff was made an honorary member of the British Psychological Society in 1941 and subsequently a Fellow in 1943. Also in 1941 Wolff was temporarily registered as a medical practitioner. Only in 1952 did she become fully registered.
Later on Wolff's research diversified into lesbianism and bisexuality, writing pioneering books on the subject. Her books earned great acclaim and also some criticism from radical bisexuals and lesbians. For a while her personal life centred around the town of Malvern and her quaker friends.
In 1978 she accepted an invitation from the lesbian group L.74 (Lesbos 74) to give a reading in Berlin, her first visit to the capital since her emigration, and a year later returned again, this time to address a University summer course on "Lesbian Love and Women's Movement".

For fuller details refer to Charlotte Wolff's autobiography "Hindsight", Quartet Books, London 1980.

Sources: excerpt from Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G. Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History, from WWII to Present Day, Routledge, London, 2001
Autobiographical notes contained in the Charlotte Wolff collection held by British Psychological Society HoPC
Charlotte Wolff's wartime (1939)alien refugee exemption from internment certificate (No.318239) is available from the National Archives website: <accessed May 2009>

Compiled by Mike Maskill, BPS Archivist for the History of Psychology Centre.
OtherInfoDr Wolff's research into lesbianism and bisexuality particularly influenced the German lesbian movement of the 1970's. In October 1937 Dr Wolff appeared on the BBC Television programme "Experiment in Science"
PublishedWorksSelected publications:

Die Wirkung der Lokalen Diathermie auf kreislauf und Waermereguilerung des Koerpers in der Zeitschrift fuer die gesamte Phys. Therapie, 45. Bd. Heft I, Verlag von Julius Springer, Berlin ?1932
Studies in Hand-Reading Chatto & Windus, London and Harry Knopf, (preface by Aldous Huxley) New York 1936
The Hand in Psychological Diagnosis (London) Methuen 1941
The Human Hand (London) Methuen 1942
A Psychology of Gesture (London) Methuen 1945
On the Way to Myself: Communications to a Friend (London) Methuen 1969
Love between Women (London) Duckworth 1971
On Older Love (UK) Virago 1976
Bisexuality A Study (London) Quartet 1977
Hindsight (London) Quartet 1980
Magnus Hirschfield: A Portrait of a Pioneer in Sexology (London) Quartet Books 1986

Scientific Papers
The Form and Dermatoglyphs of the Hands and Feet of Certain Anthropoid Apes, Proc. Zool. Soc. London, 1937
A Comparative Study of the Form and Dermatoglyphs of the Extremities of Primates, Proc. Zool. Soc. London, 1938
Les Principes de la Chirologie, Encyclopedie Francais t. VIII, 1938 (preface par Prof. H.Wallon du College de France
Character and Mentality as related to Hand-Markings, Brit. Journal of Medical Psychology, 1941
cum Rollin, H.R. The Hands of Mongolian Imbeciles in Relation to their Personality Groups, Journal of Mental Science, 1942
The Hand of the Mental Defective, Brit. Journal of Med. Psych, 1944
The Form and Dermatoglyphs of the Hands of 115 Difficult and High Grade Boys, Brit. Journal of Med. Psych, 1947
La main et les Tendances Psycho-Biologiques chez l' Enfant, Enfance, Revue Psychologique, Paris, Nov/Dec, 1948 Editor, Prof. Henri Wallon
Le Facteur Constitutionel de la Defiance Mentale et Morale d'apres La main, Enfance, Revue Psychologique, Paris, Nov/Dec. 1949

Articles about Charlotte Wolff
New German Critique 1981
Interview with Prof. James Steakley, "Love between Women and Love between Men"

Unless Soul clap its hands, Portraits and passages by Erika Duncan, Schocken Books, (New York)
NotesCopyright notice: All images are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights worldwide. The images may be viewed without payment or further permission (fair dealing), on the understanding that they have been made available by the copyright holder for purposes of private research or educational use only. Any other use requires the specific written permission of the copyright holder.Where possible, assistance will be given in identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material. Applications for permissions of any kind, concerning copyright or fees, should be directed to the History of Psychology Centre.
SourceSources: excerpt from Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G. Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History, from WWII to Present Day, Routledge, London, 2001.
Autobiographical notes contained in the Charlotte Wolff collection held by British Psychological Society HoPC
Charlotte Wolff's wartime (1939)alien refugee exemption from internment certificate (No.318239) is available from the National Archives website: <accessed May 2009>
ConventionsInternational Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families - ISAAR(CPF) - Ottawa 1996 ISBN ISBN 0-9696035-3-3
National Council on Archives, Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997

Show related catalogue records.

Wol/001Charlotte Wolff (1897-1986) Papers1915-2003
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