Papers of Viola Klein

Scope and Content

The collection contains drafts and typescripts of articles; questionaires; newscuttings and offprints; correspondence and photographs of Klein

Administrative / Biographical History

Viola Klein was born in 1908 in Prague and brought up in a progressive Jewish household. She studied for a year at the Sorbonne and then for a brief period at Vienna University until political unrest forced her to return to Czechoslovakia. She worked in Prague as an assistant editor on a political weekly before becoming a graduate student in languages, psychology and philosophy and completing a doctorate on French literature. Already interested in the 'woman question' she visited the Soviet Union in the 1930s and wrote several articles on Soviet marriage. Shortly in advance of the German invasion in 1938 Viola and her brother fled to England leaving behind their parents who both perished in concentration camps.

Like many other refugees Viola found it difficult to find employment and initially worked as a nanny to support herself. Eventually a scholarship from the Czech government-in-exile enabled her to enrol for a second doctorate at the London School of Economics where she was supervised and encouraged by another refugee, Karl Mannheim. With his help she published her second thesis under the title The Feminine Character: History of an ideology in 1945. The book was a ground-breaking critical investigation of traditional and changing psychological and scientific concepts of 'femininity' but was rejected by critics for its 'militant feminism' and for encouraging women to work. It did not lead to the academic post Viola hoped for and instead she held a succession of relatively low status jobs as assistant editor, translator, teacher and government researcher, being responsible for, amongst other things, research on women in employment in Britain.

She was often short of money and welcomed a commission to collaborate with the Swedish sociologist Alva Myrdal on the book Women's Two Roles: home and work which they worked on for five years from 1951. After the publication of this book Klein became increasingly involved in international research activities and organizations. Eventually, in 1964, she was offered her first official academic post as lecturer in sociology at Reading University and subsequently promoted to senior lecturer in 1967 and reader in 1971.Unfortunately, shortly after her retirement in 1973, she died suddenly, aged 65.

Access Information

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

Donated 1973


This description was written by Gil Skidmore

Other Finding Aids

There is a summary list of the collection in the archives reading room