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Reference PSY/WOL
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Previous Numbers Wol/001
Level Collection
Extent 19 boxes, 1 oversize box
Title Wolff, Charlotte (1897-1986)
Date 1915-2003
Box Number 1-19 and o/s 1
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Name Wolff, Charlotte (1897-1986)

The fonds consists of correspondence, handprints of humans and animal , manuscripts, off-prints, photographs, publishing material and printed matter relating to the life and works of Dr Charlotte Wolff.


By subject into six alphabetical series:

Correspondence: PSY/WOL/1

Handprints I: PSY/WOL/2/

Handprints II: PSY/WOL/3/

Miscellaneous: PSY/WOL/4

Personal: PSY/WOL/5

Published Books: Research Material: PSY/WOL/6

Verse: PSY/WOL/7

Historical Background

Dr. Charlotte Wolff (1897-1986)

Born in Riesenburg, West Prussia, moved to Danzig in 1913. Studied philosophy in Freiburg, Königsberg and Tübingen, and philosophy and medicine in Berlin, where she was awarded a medical doctorate in 1928.

Wolff's first medical post was at the Wirchow hospital in Berlin. She also worked in family planning in some of the city's most deprived areas. She was nonetheless arrested, on charges of espionage and wearing men's clothes, and released only when a guard recognised and defended her as the wife's doctor. Three days later her apartment was searched, and Wolff decided that it was time to leave Germany. In May 1933 she emigrated to Paris.

In Neukölln she had begun to specialize in cheirology, the study of the hand, and she had developed a theory of diagnosis via the hand. In exile in France and England, she performed experiments publishing her results. In 1941, in recognition of her work, she was made an honorary member of the British Psychological Society.

In Paris, Wolff shared a flat with the journalist Helen Hassel. Barred from working as a doctor, she lived from reading hands. In 1936 she moved to London with the help of Aldous and Maria Huxley. It was Maria who arranged a meeting with Virginia Woolf, whose hands Wolff analysed. In return Woolf invited Wolff to tea.

Shortly after the completion of her book The Hand in Psychological Diagnosis, Wolff was finally registered as a doctor in Britain, and could practice again. Her research diversified into lesbianism and bisexuality, and won international recognition in these areas, influencing particularly the German lesbian movement of the 1970s.

In 1978 she accepted an invitation from the lesbian group L.74 (Lesbos 74) to give a reading in Berlin, her first visit to the capital since her emigration, and a year later returned again, this time to address a university summer course on "Lesbian Love and Women's Movement".

She died in 1986.

Biographical details taken from: Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History, from WWII to Present Day, Routledge, London, 2001. Published obituaries (all 1986) include: The Times (A. L. Barker), New Statesman (Gary Pulsifer), Women's Review, No.13, (Janet Law).

Custodial History Given to British Psychological Society Archives Liverpool c.1986. Transferred to History of Psychology Centre, Staffordshire University 1998. Transferred to the History of Psychology Centre, John Street, London, WC1, 2002.

British Psychological Society accession number 0026.

Acquisition Details Deposited in the Wellcome Library by the British Psychological Society in September 2008.
Accession Number 1611
Access Status Certain restrictions apply
Access Conditions

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, with the following exceptions:

PSY/WOL/2/1-6, 9-14, 16, 19-26 and 28 are Restricted Access (for various dates).

PSY/WOL/3/4-5 are Restricted Access until 1st January 2040.

PSY/WOL/5/3 is Restricted Access until 1st January 2025.

Reproduction Conditions Images are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.
Language German
Language English
Language French
Physical Description The handprints in PSY/WOL/2 are very fragile. Handle with care.
Notes Compiled by the Cataloguing Project Archivist at the British Psychological Society History of Psychology Centre, with minor editing by Wellcome Library staff.
Subject Down Syndrome
Subject Intellectual Disability
Subject Intellectual Disability
Subject Mental Disorders
Subject Homosexuality




MaterialType Archives - Non-digital
System No. fc4cca6f-ca61-4875-ba17-9ce203b7f8d1