This is a story of an extraordinary woman, who depite physical difficulties followed her dream.
Margarete Steiff was born 166 years ago today, 24th July 1847 in Giengen/Germany and died of pneumonia 9th May 1909 in Giengen/Germany
She was a seamstress and founded the Margarete Steiff GMBH 1880 which makes to this day stuffed toy animals.
Margarete was a very lively, well-built child and led a carefree life until she became ill with polio at the early age of 1½. She was destined never to walk and to be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
Her mother, above all, found this very difficult to bear. She would have to care for her daughter for as long as she lived. Her daughter would never be able to take on the role of housewife and mother and, at the time, it seemed as though she had absolutely no prospects for the future.
The apparently helpless Margarete had other ideas, however, and was full of the joys of life. She radiated a positive aura and her convivial, cheerful nature made her very popular.
She spent her free time playing with the other children whenever possible. Margarete was a creative inventor of new games. She was always having new ideas and organized the games in such a way that she could take part.
In doing this, one of her natural gifts became evident, one that was to help her a great deal in the years to come: Margarete had a way of telling people what had to be done in a manner that made them want to do it.
Following an unsuccessful operatin on her legs, she went to a health resort. After that Margarete had a lot of catching up to do in school. Being a cheerful and ambitious person, she soon brought herself up to the required level.
The next thing that Margarete wanted to do was to attend a sewing school. Her father objected to this initially, wishing to prevent her from being disappointed if she was unsuccessful. She asserted herself, though, and showed her parents once again that they had underestimated her. Although she took much longer to get work doneand frequently had to ask her sisters to help her, she became a perfect seamstress after a few years. Margarete was always trying to overcome her limitations.
When she was around 17 years old, Margarete realized that she was never going to be healed. She knew that she was going to have to come to terms with her illness in order to find peace of mind and her real way in life. Margarete’s father, Friedrich Steiff modified his house in 1874 and among other things converted the study on the first floor into a dressmakers workshop.
Margarete was unable to turn the wheel of her sewing machine with her right hand, so the machine was turned round: she used her left hand to drive the machine and guided the fabric with her right hand.
She started making stuffed animals as a hobby.
These toys began as elephants, which were originally a design Steiff found in a magazine and originally sold as pincushions to her friends. However, children began playing with them, and in the years following she went on to design many other successful animal-themed toys for children, such as dogs, cats, and pigs. She designed and made most of the prototypes herself.
Margarete Steiff was just 61 years old when she died on 9th April 1909.
What had originally seemed to be a hopeless life became a shining example of what can be achieved with courage, strength, heart and willpower.
What an inspiration, what a positive and amazing woman!
Nowadays Steiff animals are famous with the yellow “Knopf im Ohr” and the label with the name.
My squirrel “Perry” with his original label
I am lucky to have got some Steiff animals as a child. I still have them here. Now they are rather expensive!
My favourite teddy whom I loved dearly. So much loved that the straw is coming out of his paws. Yes, in those day it was straw! Still cuddly and lovable!
My 52 year old teddy called “Zotti”
My monkey “Yoko”
I loved this monkey and chewed on his thumbs, hence they are broken and the straw shows….. poor monkey!
Goldfish , hen and cat
My wonderful “Perry”
My sister’s 55 year old teddy called “Petzi” dressed in our old baby clothes.
Finally, my son’s Steiff teddy “Ted”, much loved and 16 years old.
There is a movie from 2005 which is a wonderful life story of her which is well worth watching.
Her biography was taken from her website, see below.