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As daughter to the Swiss couple Moritz and Luise Rotten, she attended the "höhere Mädchenschule Luisenschule" during 1888-1898, later studying at the Victorialyzeum Berlin from 1904. In September 1906 she took the Reifeprüfung at the Kaiserin Augusta-Gymnasium Charlottenburg. She graduated in her studies in philosophy and German language and literature in Heidelberg, Berlin, Marburg and Montpellier. In Marburg she met with Hermann Lietz and Gustav Wyneken, which was vital to the future development of her thinking. In 1913 she published her PhD thesis under the title "Goethes Urphänomen und die platonische Idee" (Goethe's "Urphänomen" and the Platonic ideal) in Marburg.
In 1913 she began lecturing at the University of Cambridge on German literature. In 1914 she returned to Berlin and worked in the "Auskunfts- und Hilfsstelle für Deutsche im Ausland und Ausländer in Deutschland" with professor Friedrich Siegmund-Schultze. In the same year she co-founded the "Bund Neues Vaterland", later the "German League for Human Rights". In 1915 she travelled as a representative to the 1st International Women's Congress in The Hague and worked for the foundation of the "Internationalen Frauenliga für Frieden und Freiheit" (International Women's League for Peace and Freedom").
In 1922, together with Beatrice Ensor and Adolphe Ferrière she founded the New Education Fellowship becoming its vice-chair for German-speaking countries and editor, of its German language journal which eventually came to be called Das Werdende Zeitalter. From 1922 she was associated with the school farm, Schulfarm Insel Scharfenberg, begun by Wilhelm Blume in Berlin and was a frequent visitor to the Odenwaldschule founded in 1910 by the educational reformer Paul Geheeb.
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