Melanie Reizes is born on 30th March at Tiefer Graben 8, Vienna, to Libussa (née Deutsch, aged 30) and Moriz Reizes (aged 54). Moriz comes from an orthodox Jewish family from Lemberg, Galicia (now Lviv, Ukraine), and her mother from Warbotz, Slovakia.
Melanie is the youngest of four children, joining two sisters, Emilie (6) and Sidonie (4), and a brother, Emmanuel (5). The Reizes family moved to Vienna from the market town of Deutschkreutz, Hungary (now Burgenland, Austria) at some point between 1878 and 1882.
Moriz trained as a doctor, against the wishes of his highly conservative and religious family. Libussa is an intelligent, attractive young woman.
When Melanie is three years old, Sigmund Freud (29), is in Paris studying hysteria and hypnosis with the famous neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. Freud’s explorations in this area will form the basis of his later theory of psychoanalysis.
Melanie’s older sister Sidonie, with whom she is closest of all her siblings, dies of scrofula (tuberculous cervical lymphadenitis) at the age of eight. Melanie is just four years old. In the same year, Freud leaves Paris and returns to Vienna, opening a private medical practice to treat patients with ‘nervous’ disorders.
The Reizes family inherit a considerable sum of money on the death of Moriz’s father. The family move from their second home in Vienna, a shabby 5th-floor apartment in Borsegasse, to a much larger, more elegant apartment in the middle-class suburb of Martinstrasse.
While young Melanie grows up in the Vienna suburbs, across town the 35-year-old Sigmund Freud moves to Berggasse 19, which will be his home and consulting rooms for the next 47 years.
In the same year as his last child Anna is born, Freud publishes his seminal work, Studies on Hysteria.
At the age of 16, Melanie has her sights set firmly on studying at the gymnasium (an advanced secondary school with a strong academic focus). She has long wanted to study medicine, and is already aiming specifically to train in psychiatry. In this year she passes the entrance exams.
Melanie meets her future husband while still only 17 years old. Arthur Stevan Klein is four years older than her and a second cousin. He is studying to be a chemical engineer in Zurich. He proposes to Melanie soon after their first meeting, and she agrees to marry him. The engagement spells the end of Melanie’s academic and medical ambitions.
Melanie’s father, Moriz Reizes dies on 6th April at the age of 72. On 25th December, her older sister Emilie marries Leo Pick, a young doctor.
Sigmund Freud publishes his foundational psychoanalytic work, The Interpretation of Dreams. Introducing his groundbreaking ideas about ‘dream-work’, latent and manifest content, repression, wish fulfilment and child sexuality, he will later describe this work as “the most valuable of all the discoveries it has been my good fortune to make”.
Although at first widely ignored, or else disparaged, Freud’s book lays the foundations for the entire corpus of psychoanalytic thought and practice, and will influence Melanie Klein’s own thinking deeply.
Melanie spends the summer with her husband’s family in Rosenberg (formerly in Slovak Hungary, now Ružomberok in northern Slovakia) while he is in America on a work trip.
Sigmund Freud publishes On Dreams, a text that will make a significant impact on Klein’s psychoanalytic thinking.
Otto, Melanie’s first nephew, is born to her sister Emilie Pick on 16th October. Melanie returns home from Rosenberg around Christmas time.
On 1st December 1902, Melanie’s adored older brother Emmanuel dies of heart failure in Genoa, at the age of 25. He has suffered with heart problems since childhood, and is the second of Melanie’s siblings to die far too young.
His death comes after several years of travelling around the Mediterranean region. He has probably been addicted to morphine and cocaine for some time – partly an attempt to manage his physical pain – in addition to suffering from tuberculosis. Melanie is devastated by the loss.
View more images from the archive – click to enlarge and scroll through the gallery: