Supporting female researchers: the Princess Therese of Bavaria Foundation

5 Aug 2022

The Princess Therese of Bavaria Foundation for the Promotion of Women in Science has been honoring special achievements by female researchers at LMU since 1997.

© Portrait of Prinzessin Therese von Bayern (Friedrich August von Kaulbach, 1911)

Princess Therese of Bavaria (1850-1925), for whom the foundation is named, was a researcher who was active across disciplinary boundaries, a dedicated member of numerous scientific societies at the turn of the century, and the first – and still the only – female honorary member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities. In 1897, the daughter of Prince Regent Luitpold and the Tuscan Princess Auguste was the first woman to be awarded an honorary doctorate by LMU.

On intrepid excursions in Europe and the Americas, the scholar, writer, and patron carried out research into anthropological, ethnological, archeological, botanical, and zoological phenomena. In the process, she collected valuable treasures, which are housed today in institutions such as Munich’s Five Continents Museum and the Bavarian State Collection for Botany.

A pioneer for women in science

“Princess Therese of Bavaria is a pioneer for women in science in Bavaria,” says Dr. Margit Weber, University Women’s Representative at LMU. Her predecessor in the role, Dr. Hadumod Bußmann, established the foundation during the 100th anniversary of the awarding of the honorary doctorate to the princess by the Faculty of Philosophy.

In the spirit of Princess Therese’s life and work, the foundation that bears her name is committed to uncovering and helping dismantle inequalities in the scientific system and above all to supporting female scientists – across faculty boundaries. “We want to actively use private solidarity in areas where government funds are insufficient or for which there is no state funding at all. With the money donated by patrons – to date exclusively women – we’re helping women single-mindedly pursue their research careers,” says Margit Weber. “This is by no means a superfluous undertaking, even 25 years after the establishment of the foundation.”

The foundation’s most important funding instrument is the Princess Therese of Bavaria Prize, which is awarded every two years. Researchers from the four overarching subject groups at LMU are chosen in alternation: the natural sciences; the humanities and cultural studies; animal and human medicine; and economics, social sciences, and law. The main selection criteria for receiving the prize include exceptional scientific achievements and an academic career that can serve as a model for women at university to emulate.

Princess Therese of Bavaria Prize: recognition for young early-career female scientists or established female professors

The Princess Therese of Bavaria Prize is awarded as part of a broader event that honors the award-winning researchers and celebrates the still largely unknown Princess Therese and her academic achievements. At the same time, the celebration serves to strengthen awareness at LMU for the achievements of women in science and to publicize the work of the foundation.

“With the Princess Therese of Bavaria Prize, the foundation supports young, up-and-coming female researchers in particular, but also established female professors,” says Margit Weber. Previous winners of the award include the doctors Anja Muntau and Birgit Ertl-Wagner and the biologist Kirsten Jung, whose outstanding careers have made them role models for many early-career female scientists – but also young researchers such as Simone Mühl from the Faculty for the Study of Culture, who received the prize worth 10,000 euros for her work on an excavation in northern Iraq and is now Scientific Director of the Orient Department at the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) in Berlin.

“The award is well known in the academic world,” says Margit Weber. “In this prize, unlike so often in science, it is not just about evaluating a person by certain metrics, but about acknowledging their career or life’s work to date.”

Support and acknowledgement


New Prinzessin Therese von Bayern Chair

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In addition to the prize, which was established in 1997, the Princess Therese of Bavaria Chair of Systematics, Biodiversity, and Evolution of Plants was founded in the summer semester of 2021 at the instigation of the University Women’s Representative. It is the first professorship at LMU and in Bavaria to be named for a woman. The chair is funded by the Princess Therese of Bavaria Foundation with an endowment of 400,000 euros and is associated with the directorate of the Bavarian State Collection for Botany; additionally, Margit Weber was able to raise funds for the chair from the Munich-based Edith Haberland Wagner Foundation.

“Alongside these fixed measures, it’s also important, we feel, to be able to help female researchers in straightforward ways,” says Margit Weber. For example, a coronavirus emergency fund raised by Weber from private donations in 2020 is being managed via the Princess Therese of Bavaria Foundation. “With this fund, we were able to assist female students and early-career researchers during the lockdown, helping them for example to organize and finance emergency childcare or to apply for allowances for technology investments or bridging grants,” explains Margit Weber. On top of this assistance, many other, highly individual support measures were funded, which helped people pursue their studies or career goals or research projects during this difficult time.

How helpful these supports were is illustrated by the many emails and letters which the beneficiaries send to the University Women’s Representative. “The childcare grant was an enormous help – now I can pay to have the children looked after without having to worry about money on top of everything else,” writes a dentist. Many students express their gratitude for the subsidies they received to buy laptops or tablet computers while the university was closed, so that they could take part in online courses; meanwhile, early-career scientists could complete their dissertations thanks to bridging scholarships.

Private support where government funding is lacking

“We hope that our work also further increases the profile of the foundation so that we can attract new patrons – perhaps even some male ones,” says Weber. “For us, it’s very gratifying to see how quickly this funding pays off and how much we can achieve with it not just for individual female scientists, but for research by women in general.”

For more on the Princess Therese of Bavaria Foundation, see:

The Princess Therese of Bavaria Foundation is a non-profit fiduciary foundation (gemeinnützige Treuhandstiftung) at LMU, which functions primarily as a special donation platform for the purpose of supporting women at LMU. The foundation’s advisory council decides on how resources should be allocated.

Princess Therese of Bavaria Foundation: contacts and donation options

For more on the Foundations at LMU, see:

Foundations at LMU: An enduring bond

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