Screenshot 2022-09-22 at 10.08.10.png
Screenshot 2022-09-22 at 10.08.10.png


Henriette Zobel lived in Bornheim with her husband, Karl Zobel, who was locally notorious for his interest and involvement in politics. When the Vorparlament gathered in Frankfurt, the city became the locus of German politics. Progressives and liberals, eager to bear witness to this seismic shift in politics, gathered in Frankfurt. The Zobels were no exception.

Many people attended the National Assembly in Paulskirche as guests and observers. The assembly approved a Prussian-Danish ceasefire in September 1848, much to the outrage of those observers. Prince Felix von Lichnowsky and General Hans von Auerswald, two right-wing conservative representatives in the assembly, were attacked by a mob as they departed Paulskirche on horseback. They were both killed. Two men and Henriette Zobel were convicted, with Zobel receiving the maximum sentence of 16 years in prison. She was convicted for participation, "as well as being its instigator and ringleader."

Witnesses reported seeing a woman in a hat and scarf with an umbrella. This image was printed all over newspapers, depicting Zobel as a frenzied attacker. It was later found that the men died from bullet wounds, not damage inflicted by an umbrella. It is likely that local authorities made an example out of Zobel in order to deter ordinary citizens -- especially women -- from getting too involved in politics and taking matters into their own hands. Her umbrella is now displayed in the German Historical Museum in Frankfurt.

This example speaks to the new way in which ordinary German citizens seized their right to be involved in politics. Whether by official channels or the use of umbrellas, citizens possessed a new sense of entitlement to participate in politics. The National Assembly marked the moment at which popular participation became an essential tenet within liberal politics.