Synopsis Margarete Steiff

Margarete Steiff

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Appolonia Margarete Steiff’s life is the focal point of the film. The founder of the Steiff Company and mother of the teddy bear is crippled from an early age for the rest of her life. Born in 1847, she grows up in the Swabian village of Giengen an der Brenz. At the beginning of the industrial revolution, children normally work for their families at an early age. Margarete can neither walk nor use her right arm normally. For her parents every pair of helping hands is a matter or urgency, for their lifestlye is very frugal, thus unfortunately Margarete is simply a burden to them.

Only Margarete herself and her brother Fritz firmly believe that some day everything will be fine. In spite of all impediments, using her intelligence, fantasy and talent, Margarete manages to go to school and learn how to sew. Her beloved Fritz supports her however he can.

Margarete, who has since matured to a young woman, hears about a doctor in Vienna who is effecting marvelous cures. She manages to collect money for a new and extremely expensive treatment by him. She has a risky and very painful operation in Vienna. A horrible failure – Margarete remains tragically crippled. Nonetheless her stay at the clinic has not been in vain. The doctor who treats her infuses her with the will to find an inner strength which will help her to accept her illness and surmount it. Apart from that during her journey she also meets the handsome young travelling salesman Julius, whom she later falls in love with.

Once at home again, she buys a sewing machine from Julius, which is extraordinarily expensive for the times, a real risk. She produces the first felt animals, which children literally tear out of her hands. Privately however, Margarete suffers a shattering blow of fate. Her beloved Julius decides to marry her best friend Charlotte. Margarete is in an abyss and even falls out with her favourite brother Fritz. Out of deference to her feelings, he had kept the secret about Julius and Charlotte’s fondness for each other.

Luckily Margarete surmount this deep crisis as well. She throws herself into her work and becomes the biggest entrepreneur and employer in the region. After an initial boom, her young enterprise is faced with enormous problems. The local bank refuses to give her a loan she needs to keep the company going. The Steiff Company is about to go bankrupt. Not the least for the sake of her female workers, Margarete successfully stakes everything on one last chance by attending the Leipzig Toy Fair and writes entrepreneurial history with the “teddy” bear, named after Teddy Roosevelt by its first American distributor.