What do purple ribbons mean

... because “we have to do something” - The Purple Ribbon as an example for women-specific press products from self-publishing in the GDR

written by: Lisa Städtler
published September 13, 2018
In the six editions of the Lila Band published between 1987 and 1989, a collection of texts from the self-published, articles unfold in a remarkable diversity of content and form in which the social situation of women in the GDR - especially in the area of ​​the Protestant Church - courageously thematizes and is critically assessed.

“It is impossible for us to meet all expectations. Therefore, at this point, once again for all critics and interested parties, an attempt at a definition: 'Purple Ribbon' is written by and for women at the famous base. We do not claim to be perfect. We want to convey concern and help maintain or establish contacts between women and women's groups. We want all readers to want to write something themselves and then, if possible, publish it here. ”1

In the fourth edition, the editorial team defined the issue that came with the publication of the Purple ribbon was pursued. The Purple ribbon was a collection of texts with a women-specific orientation that was self-published in Dresden. Between 1987 and 1989, a total of six editions of the DIN A5 format hectographed sheet collection appeared every six months Purple ribbon was published with the addition only for internal use within the church, but this did not mean that the magazine only circulated within the church. Rather, this addition contained the possibility of circumventing the state authorization requirement for printed products in the GDR and thus the censorship

The desire to hold onto thoughts

The idea for Purple ribbon was created in the late summer of 1986 during a seminar on the topic of 'Images of Women in the Bible and Church', which was organized by the regional office of the Junge Gemeinde, the youth work branch of the Protestant churches in the GDR, in Dresden. 4 Friederike von Kirchbach (formerly: Woldt), who between 1986 and 1992 was the state youth warden of the Saxon state office for young communities, wrote in the introduction to the first Purple ribbon: “At the end of our seminar 'Images of Women in the Bible and Church' we warn [sic!] That we have to do something. This time we didn't want to drift apart with a few new thoughts that inevitably fade away when we're home and alone again. The idea of ​​this collection of texts was obvious. ”5 That Purple ribbon was therefore conceived as an open and interlinking medium from the start. Von Kirchbach wrote: “This first issue shows that we are not afraid of diversity. Next time we want to distribute 'purple ribbon' according to requests and needs! So get in touch with the regional office if you are interested. ”6

Formally diverse and easy to understand

From the first edition onwards, the Purple ribbon different types of text. Poems were also part of the magazine, as were reports from feminist seminars, workshops and exhibitions as well as articles on dealing with social expectations of women, on projects by women (in decentralized parishes) and on language appropriate to women. Later, the concern with female homosexuality was added.7 In addition, personal and sometimes very intimate reports dealt with topics such as the relationship to one's own mother (in the third issue) or the Chernobyl reactor disaster (in the second issue). A column for dates, event tips, reading recommendations and other information related to (church) women’s work was consistently part of the Purple ribbon, usually placed on the last pages of the text collection. Often individual texts were supplemented with drawings. The language was clear and understandable for everyone. The Purple ribbon In this regard, it can be distinguished from self-published feminist publications with more scientific-theological claims such as Das Netz, which was published by the Feminist Theology working group. 8

The Purple ribbon was produced in an edition of around 600 copies per issue on wax matrices.9 The majority of the text collection was distributed and mailed by members of the editorial team. However, it can be assumed that the number of readers is significantly higher than the number of copies would suggest, since the text collection was passed on to the recipients (like printed products in the GDR in general ).10 The number of pages increased steadily from issue to issue. While the first edition of the Purple ribbon found space on eleven pages, the sixth and last counted Purple ribbon with 23 more than twice as many pages.

Connections - to women's seminars and between girlfriends

In terms of content, a connection can be made between the topics of the women's seminars in Wilkau-Haßlau, which were organized by the Landesstelle Junge Gemeinde in Dresden, and the priorities in Purple ribbon produce. The topics of the women's seminars in 1987, 1988 and 1989 - women's language, mothers (images of women in the Bible and the church) and experimentation with women - can also be found in the Purple ribbon 11 A four-page report on the women's seminar with the motto Temptations appeared in the sixth issue, which - measured by the total number of pages - took up most of the space in the last collection of texts

A continuity of authorship can also be ascertained, since the drawing of most articles with clear names or abbreviations makes it possible to understand which person wrote which text, which poem or the like. Friederike von Kirchbach wrote all the introductory articles, some with a co-author. Susi F. contributed an article to four out of six issues, which is worth mentioning given an average total number of 17 pages and eight authors per issue. Gerlinde M. is listed as the author of an article in at least three out of six issues. It can be assumed that a relatively permanent working group will work around the Purple ribbon existed around, which also significantly shaped the content of the text collection. This phenomenon is typical of the structure of non-governmental women's groups in the GDR, which often existed as private circles of friends long before they became publicly active or even publicized, and from which a joint commitment ultimately developed

Women in the ecclesiastical opposition

The Purple ribbon is - in contrast to self-published publications, which only tried to circumvent state censorship with the addition only for internal church service use - not only to be located pro forma within the framework of the Protestant church. On the one hand, the idea for Purple ribbon during a women's seminar of the state office for young congregations and was also largely responsible and shaped by the theologian Friederike von Kirchbach. On the other hand, it granted Purple ribbon Constantly concrete insights into the difficulties in establishing offers specifically for women in the area of ​​the Protestant Church. In the second edition, the topic was the experiences of a women's group from Zwickau, which had attempted to prepare and open an exhibition about women. In addition to verbal resistance, they were also confronted with violent interventions, which obviously related to the contents of the exhibition: “On the day after the exhibition opened, someone forcibly entered the locked exhibition room and destroyed three panels in a primitive way . ”14 Similar accounts are in the fourth Purple ribbon to read. They related to the conflictual opening of a women's café as part of community work and the difficult preparation of a women's church convention during the Saxon church convention in June 1989. Samirah Kenawi can speak of the fact that the Protestant church in the GDR is not considered to be of patriarchal conditions and gender-specific hierarchies can be imagined.15 A close look at the Purple ribbon thus allows for a differentiated perception of the social space of the Protestant churches in the GDR, which made more open forms of communication, interaction and publication possible, but was always dependent on the specific people involved.16 Following Kenawi's thesis, this can Purple ribbon be understood formally and in terms of content as a reaction to the church or the church environment as a space of restricted communication. With the text collection, a place was created for (women-specific) topics that could not be addressed in this form either in the public or in the partially public space of the Protestant church.

As of September 13, 2018

is about to complete her master’s degree in cultural (en) history at the University of Bremen. She considers the purple ribbon to be an exciting starting point for examining the interdependencies, mutual influences and references of the various state-independent women's groups in the GDR.

Lisa Städtler (2018): ... because “we have to do something” - The Purple Ribbon as an example for women-specific press products from self-publishing in the GDR, in: Digitales Deutsches Frauenarchiv
URL: https://www.digitales-deutsches-frauenarchiv.de/themen/weil-wir-etwas-tun-muessen-das-lila-band-als-beispiel-fuer-frauspezische
Last visited on: 22.05.2021
Selected publications
Röckemann, Antje: 'Lila Band' in the GDR (1987-1989), in: Matthiae, Gisela et al. (Ed.): Feminist Theology. Initiatives, churches, universities - a success story, Gütersloh 2008, pp. 88–90.
Boy, Hubertus: 'Samizdat'. Counter-public in the 80s, in: Kuhrt, Eberhard et al. (Ed.): Opposition in the GDR from the 1970s until the collapse of SED rule, Opladen 1999, pp. 299–330.
Woldt, Friederike: I'm going to the pulpit. Notes on the spirituality of women from the former GDR, in: Jost, Renate / Schweiger, Ulrike (ed.): Feministische Impulse für den Gottesdienst, Stuttgart et al. 1996, pp. 81–85.

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