Margret Hofmann (also known as the “Sidewalk Lady” and “Austin’s Tree Lady”), author and city council member, was born Margarete Elisabeth Schultze on July 3, 1925, in Berlin, Germany. She was the daughter of Friedrich and Frieda Schultze, and she experienced the growth of Nazism and Adolf Hitler’s rise to power during her childhood. Her mother was Jewish and later died in the Theresienstadt (or Terezin) concentration camp located in present-day Czech Republic. Margret was a survivor of many bombings during World War II, including the firebombing of Dresden in February 1945. After the war, she served as an interpreter for the United States Army in Germany before she migrated to the United States in 1946.
She attended Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. After attending Wayne State, she worked at a children’s hospital in Connecticut. In 1949 she hitchhiked and bicycled through the United States, which led her to attend a lecture by Albert Schweitzer in Aspen, Colorado. At the lecture, Margret Schultze met Otto Juergen Hofmann, an organ builder from Kyle, Texas. They were married in Berlin, Germany, on August 19, 1950. They had five children: Franz, Barbara, Anna, Heidi, and Steve. The family moved to Austin, Texas, in 1953. The Hofmanns became converted Quakers and were founding members of the Austin Meeting of the Quakers. Margret became a U. S. citizen in 1954. After twenty-seven years of marriage, Otto and Margret were divorced in 1977 but remained close friends.
Margret Hofmann’s involvement in Austin politics started when her children were young. Her campaign to have sidewalks constructed for children’s safety around schools earned her the name of the “Sidewalk Lady.” She said that when she went to propose the sidewalk bill to the city council, she was laughed at and made to leave the room. This embarrassment inspired her to eventually run for a seat on the city council. In 1962 she self-published a book called A Key to Survival. The book discussed her encounters during World War II, the bombings that she survived, and her perspective on those experiences. After the publication, she lectured about her experiences at schools and churches. Hofmann also authored Vietnam Viewpoints: A Handbook for Concerned Citizens (1968) and wrote articles for the Saturday Review, the Ladies’ Home Journal, the Texas Observer, the Austin American-Statesman, the Friends Journal, and other publications.
Hofmann, a Democrat, served on the Citizens’ Board of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality and the Energy Conservation Committee. She was the chair of “Think Trees Week,” which was first held in January 1974. Hofmann fought to preserve Austin’s tree canopy and, at times, literally stopped bulldozers from taking away part of the beauty of the city. In 1975 she was elected as “the first Quaker and the first foreign-born naturalized citizen to serve on the Austin City Council.” She served one term from 1975 to 1977 with Mayor Jeff Friedman. During her time in office, she put various works towards environmental efforts. Her efforts for tree preservation earned her the nickname "Austin's Tree Lady," and ultimately she was responsible for Austin’s 1983 Tree and Natural Area Protection Code. In December 1976 she pushed for a dog leash law requiring that dogs be on a leash at all times when not in the owner’s yard. She also took a stand against the South Texas Nuclear Project and urged the city to withdraw its involvement with the project.
After her term was over, she remained involved in local politics and promoted her beliefs in peace efforts. Hofmann loved to travel, and in 1987 she took a seven-month-long driving trip around the United States. She also traveled to Europe, Canada, China, and Mexico. In 2006 she received the Human Rights Award from the Church of Women United. In 2010 “a cluster of live oak trees facing the Austin City Hall was named ‘Margret Hofmann Oaks’ in honor of her work for the city.” Margret Schultze Hofmann died on February 2, 2012, in Austin, Texas.