Leonie Marie von Bibra

Leonie Marie Louise Mathilda Elise (1867 – 1968)

Leonie was born at Brennhausen on May 23, 1867. She spent her twenties studying painting in Florence, Italy with an Italian master named Salvetti. She became quite close to the family during the time she lived with them and spoke very fondly of the children. She gave up her painting education when according to her, she realized that she would never be a great original painter. She could do credible copies, but unless she felt that her talent would produce great art, she did not want to pursue it. While living in Italy, she met the love of her life, one of Italy’s leading poets –Ciousi Carducci. She never married.

Leonie also spent some years in the United States visiting Wolf and his family. During this time in America, she worked as a governess for the children of a German family in St. Louis, Missouri. Apparently she became very close to the family because when she left their employ, they gave her a beautiful gold necklace which was a family heirloom.

Probably the most important experience of her time in America was a year or two of teaching at Mt. Holyoke College. She taught, French, Italian and German. She was so impressed that the young ladies were getting a real education that she resolved to establish a school in Germany. We don’t know how she financed her endeavor or why she established it in Dresden. Somehow she must have managed quite a sum of money because the house she bought was quite large and grand. She advertised the school throughout Europe and called it a finishing school for young ladies. Her students came from all over and she maintained a life long contact with many of them.

She was determined that the girls would learn something besides household and entertaining skills. She arranged for lectures on political affairs, economics, history, geography, and science as well as art and music. We found a box of wood samples all neatly arranged. Apparently the girls were to learn to identify different trees by the grain of the wood. According to the students, she was a real taskmaster. One famous story is her insistence on good table manners. Occasionally a raw egg was put in the armpit of girls to teach them how to eat with their arms close to their side. Quite a feat! No doubt she was much beloved because during all those years,  many of her students kept close contact. On both her 90th and 100th birthdays there were former students present, by then old ladies. She closed the school in 1932 when she reached her 65th birthday. She still lived in Dresden when Carl and his family visited her in 1937.

During World War II she was living in Munich, but when her apartment was destroyed in a bombing raid, she moved in with Renata Schraudenbach in Schloss Asch in Moosburg, not too far from Munich.

In 1956 she was living in an Altersheim on Dall’Armi Strasse 46 across from the Nymphenburg Palace. Even though she was nearly blind from cataracts, she took brisk walks every day along with her white cane. She was also deaf, but able to hear with a very large, old fashioned hearing aid. She was very petite and stood very straight. Every morning she rubbed her whole body with a rough towel and brush, a procedure she highly recommended for longevity. She was so animated and enthusiastic that being with her was always fun and stimulating. On May 23, 1967, she celebrated her 100th birthday party where she was the life of the party reveling in all the telegrams from national and local political figures and her many friends. She died the following spring.