• an English governess in Frankfurt

    The governess in the Sulzbach family in Frankfurt during the early 20th century was Gertrude Stone. Born in Gloucester on 9 June 1870, she was nearly thirty years old when Herbert reached his sixth birthday. Emil and Julie Sulzbach were keen for their children to be fluent in English (and French) and Gertrude ('Nini') was employed by them until war broke out in 1914.

    Herbert finished his schooling at the Goethe Gymnasium in 1913 – and Miss Stone wept when he failed his Abitur, the final school exam. He then went for a three month trip to Italy and northern Africa with his tutor. He returned on Nini's 43rd birthday, shortly after writing both to his parents and his governess.

    'I wrote to Nini to thank her for all the trouble that she took for my sake during my years at the Gymnasium. I think with pleasure of the times after our meals when I sat with her keeping an eye, telling her things, and cursing about Homer, history and French. Yes, I will miss that when I am back home and sitting behind a desk.'

    Miss Stone stayed with the family until August 1914, mainly helping Herbert's older, newly-married sister to set up her home. She was a welcome member of the family/household – in the same way that all governesses of the period really belonged to neither.

    Herbert's father bought her a guest house in Bayswater, London, to manage when war made it unwise for her to stay in Germany. She later married Reginald Booker and they lived in a large old house, The Priory, in Steventon, Berkshire.

    In 1935, Herbert visited Mrs Booker with his wife and sister-in-law, and when the Sulzbachs were forced to flee to England shortly afterwards she helped them with money, accommodation and references. During the Second World War she let out rooms at The Priory 'to people from unsafe areas' and Herbert's wife lived there for a short while when released from internment.

    Reginald Booker died in 1941, and Gertrude moved to a smaller house in Steventon with her brother. She died on 29 March 1958, aged nearly 88.

    (photo: Miss Gertrude Stone in the school room of the Sulzbach house, 1908)


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On my blog I write about biography, Anglo-German reconciliation, and the life of Herbert Sulzbach.


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