DECEMBER 4: Anna Vock (1885-1962)


Anna Vock, the trailblazing lesbian journalist and LGBT activist from Switzerland, passed away on this day in 1962.

One of the only known photographs of Anna Vock/”Mammina” (x).

Anna Vock was born on January 13, 1885 in Anglikon, Aargau. Little is known about her childhood or early life, but she made a name for herself in adulthood as one of the leading lesbian voices in LGBT community organizing and activism in Switzerland. Although lesbianism was not nearly as criminalized and monitored in the 20th century as gay men’s sexuality was, Anna frequently came under fire for her work in lesbian specific journalism. She was often followed by Swiss police and even arrested for a period. 

Her activism began with the underground lesbian organization Amiticia, which Anna found together with her friend Laura Thoma in 1931. The goal of the organization was to create an organized coalition of Swiss lesbians and reach out to those lesbians who did not live near the nation’s urban centers to let them know that they were not alone. Anna was the official secretary for Amiticia and oversaw its advertisement in the popular German lesbian magazine Garconne. The advertisement read, “Sisters of Lesbos, you too have a full right to love and its freedom.” Anna would also be the first lesbian to join the gay organization Excentric Zurich Club (EZC), resulting in other lesbians following her lead and their full integration into the organization. 

One of the first editions of Der Kreis published without Anna’s pen name on the masthead was the December 1943 edition (x).

In 2014, a fictionalized film about the history of the organization titled Der Kreis/The Circle was released. Watch the trailer here

Anna was also one of the first writers for Switzerland’s very first LGBT specific magazine, Der Kreis (The Circle, 1942-1967). She worked primarily in the women’s section of the magazine and in the personal ads, but eventually worked her way up to becoming the editor-in-chief and head publisher by 1933. Although Anna worked under the pen name “Mammina,” the tabloid magazines Sheinwerfer and Guggu unearthed her real name and published it along with her home address for the all the public to see. This resulted in her being fired from several jobs and being arrested on suspicion of “communist activity” and “acting as a pander” on account of Der Kreis’s personal ads. 

Although Anna was eventually released from prison after a relatively short sentence, she never returned to her editing position at the magazine. When Karl Meir took over as editor-in-chief of Der Kreis in Anna’s stead in 1943, he published the “obituary,” “Farewell, Mammina. Your name will remain forever united to our cause in Switzerland. You prepared the ground on which we must build. Hopefully we will succeed.” The undeniably life-saving magazine Anna help found eventually outlived its creator, with Anna passing away on December 4, 1962 at the age of 77.