A clear-sighted woman with a strong vision of reform in medical treatment.
Ita Wegman brought many qualities to Weleda and its associated endeavours. She was a person of extraordinary energy and assertiveness, with a great talent for putting theory into practice, and she was often the final arbiter concerning financial matters – she always managed to get the necessary funds when they were needed. She founded the clinic in Arlesheim and the Clinical-therapeutic Institute that later became Weleda.
On the medical side she was a close colleague of Rudolf Steiner and her impetus for the foundation of anthropsophic medicine and its new ideas for treatment and practice were indispensable to the company’s successful development.
A pioneering life
Ita Wegman (22 February 1876 - 4 March 1943) was born in West Java, modern-day Indonesia, the eldest daughter of a Dutch colonial family. At the end of the nineteenth century she went to Europe and studied therapeutic gymnastics and massage.
In 1902, when she was 26, she met Rudolf Steiner for the first time, and five years later she began medical school at the University of Zurich, already frequently accepting women students for medical disciplines. She was granted a diploma as a medical doctor in 1911, with a specialisation in women's medicine, and joined an existing medical practice.
In 1917, having opened an independent practice, she developed a cancer treatment using an extract of mistletoe following indications from Steiner. This first remedy, which she called Iscar, was later developed into Iscador and has become an approved cancer treatment which is still in use today.
Foundation of a clinic and a therapeutic home that are still here today
In 1920 she purchased land in Arlesheim, where she opened her own clinic, the Klinisch-Therapeutisches Institut, or Clinical Therapeutic Institute, the next year. A number of other doctors joined the institute, which grew steadily over the next years as the first centre for anthroposophical medicine.
She then also founded a therapeutic home for mentally handicapped children, Haus Sonnenhof, in Arlesheim. Around the same time, she co-founded the principles of anthroposophical medicine and the company Weleda, with Rudolf Steiner and Oskar Schmiedel.
At around 1923, Rudolf Steiner asked Wegman to join the Executive Council of the newly reformed Anthroposophical Society at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland. She also became director of the medical section of the research centre at the Goetheanum.