Austrian-Americanist, Journalist & Writer
Ann Tizia Leitich was born on 25 January 1896 in Vienna as the daughter of Emilie Schmidt and Professor Albert Leitich, a writer. After attending university, Ann Tizia was educated to be a teacher during the inter-war years in Vienna; her later fictional works with their autobiographical elements point to the fact that she suffered personally from the economic and political problems prevalent at that time in Austria.
Examples include “Amerika, Du hast es besser! (America, You Have it Better, 1926), “Ursula Entdeckt Amerika” (Ursula Discovers America, 1928) or “Drei in Amerika” (Three in America, 1946). The United States, one of the countries untouched byWorldWar I at home, sparked her curiosity as it seemed to offer people and specifically woman more avenues for development. After suffering a nervous breakdown, Ann Tizia Leitich emigrated to the United States in 1921 without informing her Viennese relatives and friends.
Once there, she took up employment as a housemaid in Chicago and continued to earn her living in Chicago and New York as a governess, typist and translator. It was not until 1923 that her relatives in Austria learned of her whereabouts through an article she published in the Neue Freie Presse, adding that the author would now report from the United States regularly.
Those pieces were often written during evenings after Leitich came home from her day job. The renowned newspaper offered the young woman a position as a Pauschalistin, a flat-rate freelance journalist for cultural and foreign correspondence. Her feuilletons, which were published regularly on the front page often dealt with American everyday life as viewed through her own experiences and also discussed cultural differences between Austria and Germany. Her journalistic work was recognized and lauded in Austria.
For example, one contemporary review in Austria stated that “her name was signed under sparkling and witty articles on life across the ocean, under articles full of surprising nativeness. In addition, her estate includes a letter of gratitude written by Stefan Zweig in 1925, in which he remarks “I have read everything you have written over there.” Both her articles and her first novels were characterized by Neue Sachlichkeit (New Dispassion), the monitoring of society that combined elements of reportages and narrative fiction and quickly found a sizeable audience.
Leitich soon became a sought-after author in German media, too, where she wrote for the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, Der Tag and the Berliner Lokalanzeiger. Her central theme, to which she continued to come back to, was the “new woman” and the corresponding changes in the balance between the sexes. Leitich recognized women in America having more opportunities for personal development than in old Europe and that their professional and public achievements were publicly more appreciated in the United States. Her ideal conception revolved around women having the same rights as men and having the same job opportunities while retaining their femininity.
Leitich never questioned the complementarity of the sexes, but wanted to expand a woman’s rights and duties and change her dependence on men: “A woman in America is what she is and not what her husband is.” Most of her feuilletons were aimed at female readers but at the same time also tried to address her readers by removing the fear of a distorted view of a man-like “new woman” while demanding changes in their behavior. The prime time of Leitich’s journalistic work can be found between the years 1923 and 1928, a time during which she obviously enjoyed great popularity in Austria and Germany; during that period she also completed a degree in art and cultural history in Des Moines, Iowa.
In 1928, she met Erich Korningen, a Viennese senior civil servant and returned to Vienna, where she, as far as we know, stopped working as a journalist and focused on her career as a writer. Between 1926 and 1976, she published more than 25 fictional and non-fictional books - novels within the framework of Neue Sachlichkeit, biographies of Austrian and American personalities, as well as essays on Viennese art and art history. She was awarded the Honor Decoration in Silver by the City of Vienna and the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art 1st Class for her work, as well as the professional title of Professor for the service to her native country.
Ann Tizia Leitich passed away in Vienna on September 3, 1976. Except for a few entries in writer’s encyclopedias, not much is known about the life and work of Ann Tizia Leitich. Many of the cornerstones of her life – her date of birth, or the year of her marriage – are subject to conflicting data.
The American thesis by Brooke Marie Wright in 2004 investigated the journalist Leitich for the first time. Was journalism just a job to earn money that became insignificant with the publication of books? Or did the discussion regarding the “New Woman” and the search for new impulses for the gender relations in “old” Europe open up new avenues of expression, which closed again at the end of the 1920s? As long as a comprehensive academic rediscovery of Ann Tizia Leitich is still missing, questions like these will remain unanswered.