Margot Büttner – decorated and forgotten?

In 1985 Margot Büttner (1900-1987) was awarded the German government’s Order of Merit. She received this honour “not for a single deed or specific political position,” but for the “day to day work she has accomplished over half a century” for nature conservation.

She was just 21 years old and a student of geology when she began her interest in nature conservation. She worked closely with Hans Klose, and together they launched the Public League for Nature Conservation (Volksbund Naturschutz) in Berlin. This association, founded in 1922, was intended as a popular extension to the official conservation of natural monuments and to strengthen the weak position of nature conservation in society.

Margot Büttner was first its assistant, and later first secretary, remaining in that position until 1977. In addition to this area of responsibility she worked especially in public relations and education, and organised countless excursions and conferences. She was instrumental in the development and implementation of the ‘Mark Brandenburg Nature Conservation Days,’ which began in 1924. Her negotiations with the Allied Forces ensured the association’s continuation after 1945. Although she declined the official position of chairperson, she continued as secretary, managing the association as before.

Parallel to her volunteer commitments, Margot Büttner worked from 1926 as scientific assistant for the Brandenburg Provincial Commission for the Preservation of Natural Monuments. From 1949 to 1952 she worked for the Berlin Nature Conservation Agency.

Renowned expert journals such as “Natur und Landschaft” did not consider her receipt of the Order of Merit worth mentioning – as opposed to the decorations given many men.  This is an example of how committed women disappear from public awareness.

Text: Marlies Dittberner, Roswitha Kirsch-Stracke & Dagmar Krüger (1997)
Übersetzung: Anna Gyorgy,  Women and Life and Earth (WLOE e.V.) (2008)