Chronology of Edith Stein's Life

Edith Stein: Major Events in Her Life

1891 Oct. 12 Born in Breslau, Germany, now is Wroclaw, Poland. Edith was the youngest of seven siblings.

1893 Edith’s father, Siegfried, died when Edith was two years old. Edith’s mother was an astute businesswoman and a fervent practicing Jew. The Stein family was a lively family with many extended family members.

1897 Edith had been to kindergarten and now began her schooling on her birthday. She was an exceptionally bright student.

1906 Spent ten months with her married sister Else caring for her niece and nephew. At this time Edith gave up the practice of her Jewish faith.

1911-13 Attended the University of Breslau. Interested in psychology. Learned about the philosophy of Edmund Husserl. Favored women’s suffrage. Engaged in a full social life, enjoyed dancing, did not drink alcohol, but liked strong coffee and cigarettes. “Though totally dedicated to my work, I still cherished in my own heart the dream of a great love and of a happy marriage.”

1913-15 Studies at the University of Göttingen: Philosophy (Phenomenology), German Studies and History.

1915 A volunteer at a hospital for soldiers of World War I suffering from contagious diseases like typhoid.

1916 Received a summa cum laude for her doctoral examinations.

1916-18 First Assistant to Edmund Husserl, the father of Phenomenology.

1917 Published her dissertation: The Problem of Empathy.

1921 Visited her friend and fellow philosopher Hedwig Conrad-Martius. Took

down from bookshelf St. Teresa of Avila’s Autobiography which she read overnight and is supposed to have said: “This is Truth.” Went to pastor of local church and asked to be baptized, but the pastor slowed her down a bit.

1922 Baptized and first communion on January 1. Confirmed February 2.

Edith sought an appointment at the university but was discriminated against because she was female.

1923-1931 Taught at girls’ high school and at Dominican teachers’ training Institute.

1923-31 Involved in translations, lectures and writing books and articles, many of which on women’s issues. Tried again for a position at the university. This time she was discriminated against because she was Jewish.

1932-33 Lecturer at German Institute for Pedagogy, Münster.

1933 Adolph Hitler outlawed teaching by Jews so Edith had to resign her position. Composed letter to Pope Pius XI concerning the plight of Jews and Christians in Germany.

1933 After Edith’s conversion to Catholicism, Edith wanted to become a Carmelite nun, but advisors convinced her that she was needed in the public forum. Now (1933) such activities were outlawed so she became a nun at the Carmelite monastery in Cologne on the eve of the feast of Saint Teresa. As a Carmelite she was called Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. As a contemplative Carmelite Edith was able in her spare time to continue her research and writing.

1938 After Kristallnacht, Sister Teresa decided that as a Jew she would probably bring reprisals on her monastery so on December 31, a physician friend of the Carmelites, drove her under cover of darkness to a Carmelite monastery in Echt, the Netherlands. There Edith composed her study of Saint John of the Cross, The Science of the Cross.

1942 Along with her blood sister Rosa, Edith was arrested by the Nazis.

1942 August 9, Edith and Rosa were gassed at Birkenau, Auschwitz.

1987 In Cologne John Paul II beatified Edith.

1998 October 11 John Paul II canonized Edith.

1999 October 1 John Paul named as Co-Patronesses of Europe: Sts. Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena and Edith Stein.

The Institute of Carmelite Studies, Washington, DC, has published in English some of the writings of Edith Stein as well as works about her.