In 1907, the Göttingen Circle of phenomenologists was founded by Theodor Conrad – one of many students of Theodor Lipps who travelled from Munich to study with Husserl – and Alfred von Sybel – one of Husserl’s early Göttingen followers. Over the next three decades, students from around the globe flocked to study with Husserl in Göttingen and in Freiburg. Among these students were numerous women, some of whom rose to prominence within the early phenomenological movement, namely, Hedwig Martius, Edith Stein, and Gerda Walther.
Martius, who would later marry Theodor Conrad, was one of the so-called “invaders” who came to Göttingen from Munich. On the advice of Moritz Geiger, Martius studied with Husserl, as well as Adolf Reinach and Max Scheler, from WS 1910/11 – SS 1912. While studying with Husserl, she authored Die erkenntnistheoretischen Grundlagen des Positivismus (1913), which then served as her doctoral dissertation under the supervision of Alexander Pfänder back in Munich. Despite her philosophical acumen and the respect of her colleagues for works such as her Zur Ontologie und Erscheinungslehre der realen Aussenwelt (1916) and Realontologie (1923), because women were not permitted to habilitate, Martius was unable to secure an academic position until 1949, when she became lecturer in natural philosophy, and then honorary professor in Munich in 1955. In opposition to Husserl, Martius was a staunch defender of realist phenomenology, and introduced the concept of “real reality” into phenomenological discourse.
Stein came to Göttingen from Breslau to study with Husserl in 1913 at the urging of her cousin, Richard Courant. She remained with Husserl until 1918, completing her dissertation, Zum Problem der Einfühlung (1917), under his supervision, and then working as his research assistant. In the following years Stein attempted to habilitate twice, producing the works Beiträge zur philosophischen Begründung der Psychologie und der Geisteswissenschaften (1922) and Potenz und Akt (1931). Unfortunately, she was rejected both times. In 1932, she obtained a position teaching philosophy at the German Institute for Pedagogical Science in Münster. However, she was removed from her position in the spring of 1932 due to her Jewish ancestry. She died at Auschwitz in 1942. Stein is widely regarded as one of Husserl’s greatest students, though her personal and intellectual relationship with the “Master” was often strained.