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Martha Freud: A Biography

Martha Freud: A Biography

Katja Behling, R.D.V. Glasgow (Translated by)

ISBN: 978-0-745-63338-1

Mar 2006, Polity

224 pages

Select type: Hardcover

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Who was Martha Bernays, the Hamburg-born woman who, after a long and turbulent engagement and against the opposition of her mother, married the Viennese doctor Sigmund Freud and lived at his side for more than fifty years as wife and mother of six? How did she feel, coming from a traditional Jewish family but living in a household with no religious background? How did she cope with the challenge of being married to the man whose work revolutionized our ways of thinking about human sexuality?

In this, the first biography of Martha Freud, Katja Behling portrays this remarkable woman, whose loyalty and steadfastness contributed in no small measure to the extraordinary success of psychoanalysis as it went from strength to strength and spread from Vienna to the four corners of the earth.

List of Illustrations

Anton W. Freud




A Hamburg Childhood

The Move to Vienna

Isaac Bernays, Martha's Grandfather

Berman Bernays, Martha's Father

Emmeline Bernays, Martha's Mother

The Lovely Martha

Cupid's Arrow


The Cocaine Episode: an Opportunity Missed


Eli Bernays, Martha's Brother

Till Death Us Do Part


Berggasse 19

Minna Bernays, Martha's Sister

Sigmund and Martha Freud




Martha as a Mother

The Freud Family

Martha's Children

Later Years: She was 'Normal'




Refuge in Hampstead

The Death of Her Husband

The Second World War

The Final Years

Martha's Death

Martha and Her Influence on Psychoanalysis

Martha Freud, an Epilogue


Chronological Table




"A remarkable story."

"Behling evokes a Martha who is a far more substantial woman that the 'adored sweetheart in youth' and 'beloved wife in maturity' Freud apostrophized. This book stands alone or as worthy companion to any biography of Freud."
Lisa Appignanesi

"Finally a long overdue biography of Martha Freud gives us an authentic picture of the family life of her husband, Sigmund Freud. Speculations about Freud’s personal life which range from the trivial to the salacious will need to shop short on the frontier of this excellent portrait of a highly ethical and decent human being and the hard work and the love it takes to establish and transmit these qualities. Martha Freud constructed a network of child- and husband-care and social concern whose inspiration and independence prohibits dismissive attitudes towards the traditional stereotype of the good hausfrau under which she has laboured. Behling’s book gives us a picture of a particular woman which makes us rethink our general categories."
Juliet Mitchell, University of Cambridge

  • This is the first biography to be written about the life of Martha Freud, the wife of the father of psychoanalysis.
  • This is the first biography to be written about the life of Martha Freud, the wife of the father of psychoanalysis.
  • Fully illustrated with halftones of the Bernays and Freud Families.
  • Will appeal to the general reader and the student and scholar of Freud and psychoanalysis.