Ita Wegman Archive
The Ita Wegman Archive is housed on the ground floor of the “wooden house” built in 1924 in the garden of the Ita Wegman Clinic. Ita Wegman’s written legacy as far as it has been preserved in the Clinical Therapeutic Institute in Arlesheim and in the Casa Andrea Christoforo in Ascona is collected, sorted, arranged, read, and made accessible here. It is mainly comprised of written material, but to a lesser extent also images and other visual material. The written collections contain about 140 of Ita Wegman’s notebooks – which often contain preparatory work for lectures or notes, some quite fragmentary. Particularly impressive are the outlines and drafts of commemorative addresses about Rudolf Steiner. Evidence of her revisions and corrections reveal how many times Ita Wegman thought through each statement, how carefully and precisely she placed each word.
In addition, the archive possesses many handwritten and typewritten manuscripts and elaborations by Ita Wegman, essays (some printed in Natura), lectures and speeches given for particular occasions. There are both complete manuscripts and often just individual sheets or slips of paper.
The largest part of the collection is the extant corresondence, which Emanuel Zeylmans has estimated at about 60,000 letters – 40,000 letters written to Dr. Ita Wegman in Arlesheimand 20,000 written by her or one of her co-workers. They document the life and developments of the Clinical-Therapeutic Institute, the development of anthroposophic medicine, the development and production of anthroposophic remedies, the commitment to patients, the struggle for finances, the abundant scientific endeavours, the staff’s worries and joys, the events and conferences designed for continuing education and training of the staff, the celebrations, the travels …
These letters not only give a complex and vivid picture of the institutes that were created, run, or supervised by Ita Wegman, but also convey a sense of the doctor herself. Her writing style is unmistakable. Reading her letters gives us an impression of her nature: her writing is a form of speech directly addressed to the recipient. She writes directly, factually, spiritually, with great warmth and cordiality, without the slightest sentimentality.
Just as „elective affinities“ develop between people now and then, it seems to me that the German language has become Ita Wegman’s „language of choice“ or that she has made it so. In earlier years she replied to the letters of Dutch friends and patrons in Dutch; but after a certain point, she answers exclusively in German, her language of choice.
Last but not least, the estate also includes the original case histories from the Clinical Therapeutic Institute large index cards on which the findings, the therapeutic steps, the administration of medication, etc. are recorded, mostly in Hilma Walter’s delicate handwriting.
Some of Ita Wegman’s possessions can also be found in the wooden house for example: her desk chair, which as a photo reveals accompanied her from her student days in Zurich; a few pieces of broken glass from the windows of the first Goetheanum; a small black leather bag in which she always carried the mantras given to her by Rudolf Steiner; and much more.
But the archive also has visual material albeit a modest amount, e.g., a collection of art prints and photographs of works of art sent from Ascona. These are yet to be fully processed, secured to cardboard, and arranged according to themes or motifs: Mystery places, saints, Mary with the Child, scenes from the life of Christ…. Ita Wegman probably used these illustrations as a basis for lectures in Ascona and introduced the audience to spiritual content through examples from art.
Ita Wegman seems to have always encouraged her friends, the people around her, to look at paintings, sculptures, and architecture with open eyes and to experience and learn to „read“ beyond aesthetic pleasure. Countless art postcards with greetings and travel experiences or left blank arrived in her mail and were kept in systematically arranged albums. If, in Arlesheim, one wanted to know about or show what certain Roman churches, Greek temples or Celtic crosses looked like, for example, one could reach for such an album… A few of these albums have survived and are in our holdings. They are not particularly remarkable in themselves. But anyone who has tried to build up even a small collection of art prints will be amazed at their range and usefulness.
We also found many photographs, identified and unidentified. With the help of two volunteers, we are in the process, time permitting, of opening the boxes and envelopes, sorting the photographs, determining time and place if possible, and so on. This is a lengthy process. When it has been completed, our photo collections will contribute something lovely to Ita Wegman’s image and above all to her vita activa that was so immensely varied.
The Ita Wegman Archive is open to the public by appointment.
(Monday to Wednesday, 10 am – 4 pm; tel. 0041 61 705 73 77)
The Archive receives many visitors. It is also a place for scholarly and biographical research. The correspondence and collections contain interesting material with regard to a wide variety of questions and contribute to elaborating the foundations and development of both the anthroposophical and anthroposophical-medical movements. This is demonstrated by a number of publications, but especially in the series of publications by the Ita Wegman Archive itself.
As is customary, after the founding of the Ita Wegman Archive we drew up a set of “user guidelines” which set forth and describe the rules for consultation and use of our holdings.
Life data of Ita Wegman
Born on 22 February 1876 in West Java, the eldest daughter of Dutch parents. Her father was administrator of the sugar factory „Parakanterus“ („The Straight Path,“ in the capital Karawang.)
Her father is transferred to the sugar factory „Gending“ near Probolinggo in East Java.
Attends primary school in the town an hour’s drive away. Daily journey there and back in a two-horse carriage; Ita liked to take the reins from the driver to speed the pace and drive up in front of the school herself. She was a good pupil and made a point of always being at the top of her class.
After finishing primary school she was given private lessons with her younger sister.
At the age of fifteen, she goes with her sister to Arnhem for further schooling. They live with Mrs. Wenting. During the holidays she travels abroad, often to Brussels to visit a friend of her father.
At the age of 18 returns to the Dutch East Indies. Father now lives in the town of Probolinggo as superintendent, entrusted with the management of several sugar factories. The usual social activities do not suit her. In order to escape what she perceives to be an empty existence, she takes piano and singing lessons with Mrs. Henny Steinbuch-Bastiaans, with whom she becomes friends. They both study theosophy. Meanwhile, she also spends a long time in the mountains to strengthen her health. At the house her father bought there, she creates a magnificent flower garden and sends for seeds from Holland. Her roses are also much-admired.
Return of the family to Holland due to her father’s illness.
Two years of training in gymnastics and Swedish massage in Amsterdam. During this time she lives in Haarlem, in the house of Henny Steinbuch-Bastiaans’ sister.
In Holland further contact with theosophy. It is likely that she is already a member of the Theosophical Society.
30 August, graduates in gymnastics.
Autumn, begins her stay in Berlin where she pays a visit to the newly appointed General Secretary of the German Section of the Theosophical Society, Rudolf Steiner.
In Berlin, she first pursues further training in Swedish massage and hydrotherapy.
She then opens a therapeutic center for physical therapy in Berlin, along with Mrs. Büsselberg. (Later, Mrs. Büsselberg will also study medicine.) She attends Rudolf Steiner’s lectures and, after a conversation with him, becomes his personal student.
She makes the decision to study medicine. She chooses Zurich because she heard from Marie von Sivers that Rudolf Steiner described Switzerland as the country where, in the future. it would be possible to work most freely as a doctor.
25 May, moves to Zurich.
Completes Matura and then studies medicine in Zurich; during this time, she studies in Munich for 2 semesters.
Attends the Theosophical Congress in Munich.
11 July, awarded Swiss federal medical diploma from the University of Zurich.
Doctoral dissertation completed.
After the dissertation, several years as assistant doctor in various hospitals, including Winterthur and Liestal. She then establishes her own practice in Zurich, with a facility for physical therapy and a small infirmary. Frequent weekend trips from Zurich to Dornach to hear Rudolf Steiner’s lectures.
Illness (influenza and pneumonia).
Spring, Rudolf Steiner’s first medical course. Summer, relocation of her medical practice to Basel.
6 June, Opening of the Clinical Therapeutic Institute in a villa with a large garden at Pfeffingerweg 1, Arlesheim.
31 December, the Goetheanum is destroyed by fire.
Travels with Rudolf Steiner, including to England where he gives a cycle of lectures at the August summer conference in Penmaenmawr.
2–3 September, Rudolf Steiner’s medical lectures in London.
2 October, Rudolf Steiner’s medical lecture to doctors in Vienna.
Start of collaborative work with Rudolf Steiner on a medical textbook book.
15–16 November, Rudolf Steiner’s medical lectures in The Hague.
In the same year, Rudolf Steiner founds the National Societies in England, Holland, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
December, Christmas Conference in Dornach. Founding of the General Anthroposophical Society and the School of Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum. Ita Wegman becomes a member of the Executive Council, its secretary, as well as leader of the Medical Section.
11 March, 1st Newsletter of the Medical Section.
January and April, courses for young doctors in Dornach.
May, accompanies Rudolf Steiner to Paris.
25 June–7 July, Curative Education Course in Dornach.
17–24 July, Rudolf Steiner’s medical lectures in Arnhem.
28–29 August, Rudolf Steiner’s medical lectures in London.
8–18 September, Pastoral Medical Course in Dornach.
27 September, Onset of Rudolf Steiner’s illness; Ita Wegman provides medical care throughout.
28 September, Rudolf Steiner’s Last Address.
In the same year the Sonnenhof is acquired and the first curative education institute is founded at Lauenstein near Jena.
30 March, Rudolf Steiner’s death.
Ita Wegman’s essays, „To the Friends,“ published in the newssheet of the weekly Das Goetheanum.
2 May, Opening of a nursing school in the Sonnenhof.
May, Conference in Paris.
June, Participation in the Anthroposophical Conference in Vienna with Dr. Wachsmuth. From there, trip to Burgenland and visit to Bernstein Castle and the antimony mine near it. Trip to Prague, visit to Karlstein.
10-17 November, Medical conference and anthroposophical meeting in London.
July, Founding of the journal Natura.
25 July–5 August, Summer School at Gareloch in Scotland, followed by visits to Iona and Staffa.
During the renovation and expansion of the clinic, the Villa Solari in Figino in Ticino is rented as a dependence, where some of the patients are accommodated.
December, Working week for doctors and medical students at the Goetheanum. The medical textbook, Foundations for an Extension of the Art of Healing Based on Spiritual Scientific Knowledge is worked through and working groups of anthroposophical medical students are subsequently formed in Freiburg, Munich, Tübingen, Berlin, Jena, Utrecht, and Basel. Once or twice a year, the medical students meet with Ita Wegman at the Clinical-Therapeutic Institute in Arlesheim.
Further training of doctors as volunteer doctors at the clinic in Arlesheim.
20 July–1 August, World Conference in London, organised by Daniel Dunlop at Ita Wegman’s request.
Opening of the Gnadenwald health resort near Hall in Tyrol.
2-30 August, Kamp de Staakenberg in Holland.
Opening of a medical center in Berlin.
Autumn, founding of the Heilpädagogisches Institut Hamborn near Paderborn in Germany.
Ita Wegman dedicates the institute in Hamborn.
May, Travels to Zagreb, Salonika, Samothrace, Smyrna, Ephesus, Pergamon, Athens, Eleusis, Delphi, Epidaurus, Venice.
September, Opening of a medical center in Kent Terrace in London under the direction of Ita Wegman, who visits once or twice a year.
In these years, a trip is also made to Ireland with a visit to ancient Mystery sites there.
Ita Wegman falls seriously ill.
Autumn, Trip to Israel, followed by stays in Capri and in Rome.
Ita Wegman resigns from the Executive Council of the Anthroposophical Society following a decision during the Annual General Meeting.
Founding of the Casa Andrea Cristoforo in Ascona and the children’s home La Motta in Brissago.
Opens a curative day school in Paris.
Travels to Iceland and Sweden, and visits the curative education institutes there.
Trip to Sicily.
Last time in England, summer conference in Bangor (Wales) at Penmaenmawr.
June, Journey via Vienna to Hungary, sails down the Danube to Rutschuk, Varna, Constantinople, Sofia, and Yugoslavia. Study of the Bogomils.
4 September, Accident (broken arm).
May, Moves to the Casa Andrea Cristoforo in Acona; continues regular visits to Arlesheim.
4 March, Ita Wegman dies during a visit to Arlesheim.