Elisabeth Rudorff – living for the Ith Mountains

Elisabeth Rudorff (1879-1963) was the daughter of Ernst Rudorff, one of the founders of natural and local history (“Heimat”) conservation in Germany. Although the father had hoped that his son would continue his life’s work, it was Elisabeth who, after the death of both men in 1916, committed herself to the conservation of nature and traditional landscapes as her father before her.

Elisabeth Rudorff lived with her younger sister Melusine in Lauenstein. Her main concern was to protect the Ith Mountains from encroaching land consolidation and forestry projects. To accomplish this she often negotiated with authorized land users, leasing or purchasing to conserve individual areas of particular natural importance. She published articles on the situation in the Ith Mountains and mobilised individuals and associations in support of her campaign.

In 1930, as a founding member of the Public League for Nature Conservation, Elisabeth Rudorff joined its national board of directors and participated in nationwide nature conservation days. Based on her experience with local initiatives, she supported the demand for a law on nature conservation which - apart from conservation of species and habitat - also included conservation of scenic beauty and uniqueness.

From the 1920s, Elisabeth Rudorff repeatedly applied to the Ministry of Agriculture and other authorities for the protection of the Ith Mountains.

“The difficulties, the battles all this entails, are twice as hard for me as a woman…”

she concluded. Yet she persevered, and as a result of her efforts significant sections of the Ith Mountains near Lauenstein became landscape conservation areas in 1939. Her application for the Ith Mountains to be declared a nature reserve, which she filed in 1948 in view of further encroachments, was rejected in 1955 following many years of intensive negotiations. Thirty years later a section of the Lauenstein Ith Mountains finally did become a nature reserve.

Text: Marlies Dittberner, Roswitha Kirsch-Stracke & Dagmar Krüger (1997)
Translation and Editing: Sabine Dentler (Bonn), Anna Gyorgy (WLOE e.V., www.wloe.org) (2008)