Margaret Sittler Ermarth

Wittenberg’s Institute for the Public Humanities was established in 2022 and named in honor of Margaret Sittler Ermarth, a history professor emeritus of Wittenberg University.

Margaret ErmarthErmarth worked for the university from 1953 until her retirement in 1974 and in 1979 the university created the Ermarth Center for the Humanities which was a conglomeration of humanities departments which lasted until the year 2000. The Ermarth Institute for the Public Humanities is a rebirth of this idea and institution.

She was born on September 7, 1908, in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Ermarth attended Wittenberg College, graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 1930. She then attended Ohio State University for her master’s degree and then continued her advanced studies at the Universities of Hamburg and Berlin, as well as George Washington University. Before joining the Wittenberg Faculty, she was researcher and writer for the American Council of Learned Societies, then worked as an analyst in the National Archives in Washington DC and finally at Gustavus Adolphous College as a professor in 1947.

At Wittenberg she was promoted to full professor and received tenure in 1962. During her time at the University, she taught Russian history. She traveled domestically and abroad to learn more about modern life in Russia and enrich the quality of her lectures. She highly enjoyed teaching and was a respected member of the community—She gave speeches at community and university events, received numerous awards, was appointed to the Commission for Comprehensive Study of Doctrine of the Ministry of Lutheran Church in America in 1966, an honorary doctorate from Gustavus Adolphous College in 1975, etc. She would even become one of the Board of Directors for Wittenberg University directly after her retirement.

Her studies heavily focused on women’s religious history as well local Springfield and Russian history. Her work was influenced by her Lutheran upbringing and by the women’s movement of the 1960s. She advocated for the equality of both sexes and for everyone to come together in kindness. Her most famous written work Adam’s Fractured Rib: Observations on Women in the Church was published in 1970 though she would also translate the von Hassel diaries and contribute sketches to the Dictionary of American Biography.

Margaret Sittler Ermarth had wanted to continue her life-long calling to teaching in North Carolina but would tragically pass away on April 19, 1977 at the age of sixty-eight before she could carry out her wishes. She was preceded in death by her husband Dr. Fritz Ermarth. She was survived by her sons Fritz and Dr. Michael Ermarth, who received honorary degrees from Wittenberg University in 2013, as well as her grandchildren. A memorial service was held not only by her family but by the University itself on campus.

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