On October 8, 1904, at the Prinz Albrecht Hotel in Berlin, a woman known as Anna Ruling gave a speech "What Interest Does the Women's Movement Have in Solving the Homosexual Problem?" In this speech, she argued that the women's movement was a "cultural historical necessity" and homosexuality a "natural historical necessity." Speaking more personally, Ruling said the following:
In middle-class circles they believe, oddly enough, that among them homosexuality has no place, and from these circles the most annoying enemies recruit each other to oppose the movement to free Uranian people. I would like to give as an example, that my father, when by chance he came to speak about homosexuality, explained with conviction, "nothing of the sort can happen in my family." The facts prove the opposite. I need to add nothing to that statement.
This made her the first lesbian activist who publicly came out in a speech.
But Anna Ruling was not her real name. She was born Theo Anna Sprüngli, and through her life wrote and published under various versions of this name.
Maintaining a career as a journalist, Theo A. Sprüngli published a book of short stories about gay and lesbian characters. One short story, "Moonlight Sonata" boldly depicts a lesbian relationship that has a "happy ending." In this story, two bourgeois lesbians, Hanna and Charlotte, fell in love with one another without knowing the other felt the same way. Believing her beloved to be gone forever, Charlotte resolved to commit suicide. But before she would, she sat at her piano one last time and played, pouring out her love for Hanna in her music. Unbeknownst to her, Hanna hadn't left her after all, and silently listened to Charlotte's playing in the shadows. When Charlotte finished, Hanna came forward:
Hanna, darling, now I know everything,your playing has told me what your lips silenced; I didn't dare to hope that you would feel as I,that's why I seemed so cold, O Hanna, how difficult it was for me. Thanks, thanks to fate, which sent me here at the right hour.
The decision to commit suicide was, naturally, discarded.
Ruling was a dedicated and patriotic German, who firmly supported her country's role in World War I. Ruling's doings in Nazi Germany are sketchily known, but we do know that in 1933 she requested admittance to the Reich Association of German Authors. In her application letter, she failed to mention her lesbian political activism or her short story collection. She did emphasize vigorously her loyalty to all things German:
I have always...supported the right of German Art and German Artists....I have always fought in the front lines for German Art. With German Greetings and Heil Hitler, Theo Anna Sprüngli.
The Gestapo file shows that Ruling's application was approved without hesitation, finding no evidence of dangerous political affiliations. She had managed to remain completely closeted.