Eric Flint Wiki
Gretchen Richter
Fictional Character
1632 series
POD: May, 1631
Appearance(s): 1632;
Ring of Fire;
1634: The Baltic War
1635: The Dreeson Incident
1635: The Eastern Front
1636: The Saxon Uprising
1636: The Ottoman Onslaught
Nationality: United States of Europe (born in Germany)
Religion: Catholicism (formerly)
Episcopal Church
Date of Birth: 1611
Occupation: Leader of the Committee of Correspondence
Parents: Anton Richter (father, deceased),
Elisabetha Kellerin (mother, deceased)
Spouse: Jeff Higgins
Children: William Higgins,
Joseph Higgins (sons)
Relatives: Hans Richter (brother, deceased),
Veronica Richter Dreeson (grandmother)
Annalise Richter (sister)
Affiliations: Committees of Correspondence
Created by: Eric Flint

Maria Margaretha "Gretchen" Richter (b. 1611) was a German down-timer woman who, after becoming a citizen of the time-displaced New United States, became one of the most potent and forceful advocates for democracy and equal rights in Europe. She was so well-known that she was often referred to simply as die Richterin.

Early Life and Grantville[]

Gretchen was born and raised in a printmaking family. With the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War, Gretchen's parents were killed, leaving only her brother Hans, her sister Annalise, and her grandmother, Veronica.

Just prior to the Ring of Fire event, Gretchen and her family (which now included several surrogate "siblings"), were forced into becoming camp-followers by a "Catholic" mercenary group. Gretchen herself was the concubine of a soldier named Ludwig, and had already given birth to a son named Wilhelm (which was probably Ludwig's). Despite his unfortunate origins, Gretchen loved her son. Hans Richter, in desperation, had agreed to become a mercenary to protect the rest of his family.

The Battle of the Crapper[]

When Gretchen realized that "her" mercenaries had been defeated (although she wasn't quite sure by what), she realized that their Protestant enemies would soon descend on the camp. She began hiding the various young girls under her care, including her son, in a disused outhouse. She then stood and waited for the attack, as several other young women gathered around her, but was instead found by Grantville's "Four Musketeers", led by Jeff Higgins, as they rode in on their dirtbikes. Higgins paused long enough to appraise the situation, and fall in love with Gretchen, before he and the other four rode back to attack the mercenaries of Ernst Hoffman. Happily, Grantville's military, riding aboard Armored Personnel Carriers, broke the mercenaries definitively.

Despite their language barrier, Higgins and Richter were smitten with each other. Gretchen approached Higgins to help her family. Higgins and the Musketeers removed the women Gretchen had hidden in the outhouse. Gretchen naturally assumed that the Americans would follow more or less the same rules as other armies, but found much confusing about the situation. She nonetheless felt comfortable enough with Higgins to ask him to help her find her brother, Hans. After dispatching one of her former tormentors, Diego (with some tacit help from Higgins), they found Hans under the body of another mercenary, Ludwig. Higgins immediately called for a stretcher, which quickly carried Hans away, to Gretchen's relief. Gretchen had quickly grown fond of Jeff, but at the same time she viewed him as she had Ludwig; a soldier whose protection she could buy with sex.

In Grantville[]

Richter's story was already circulating when she was given a shower and a meal. Up-time teacher Melissa Mailey hit on the idea of using Richter to spread some of the more revolutionary ideas of the future, likening her Richter to Harriet Tubman. Concurrently, the smitten Higgins asked Richter to marry him, knowing full well that there were certainly more benefits to Richter in their union. Although dubious at first, Richter agreed.

The announcement created quite a stir in the Grantville Emergency Committee, as several members thought that the marriage was coming about for the wrong reasons, and at least one member, Quentin Underwood, expressed some protectionist ideas. However, the marriage had the support of Melissa Mailey, Frank Jackson, and Mike Stearns himself. Stearns had Rebecca Abrabanel explain the Spanish concept of limpieza, and how Grantville could opt for that model, or a model much closer to the original USA. Realizing what they preferred, the committee gave its blessing to the marriage, and even teased Higgins on his using a dictionary to propose. The marriage was held on July 4, 1631. Willie Ray Hudson stood in for Gretchen's father.

In the lead up to the wedding, Gretchen found several people among the refugees and the POWs whom she knew would be loyal to Grantville. Within three days, the number she "approved" was sufficient to meet the town's labor needs, insuring that Grantville could take care of both itself and refugees.

Wedding Date[]

Although she'd agreed to marry Higgins, Gretchen did not love him in the modern sense of the word, believing love to be reserved for the nobility. Thus, Melissa Mailey took it upon herself to explain the importance of love in a marriage. Gretchen agreed to work at falling in love with Jeff, and the wedding went off basically without a hitch.

On their wedding night, with Higgins an attentive and selfless lover, Gretchen was able to overcome many of her demons, and by the morning, had discovered that she indeed loved Higgins.


While in Grantville, Richter became enamored with modern concepts of democracy and human rights. When Grantville agreed to help the university town of Jena fight off a group of mercenaries, Michael Stearns kept the Army out of Jena, but made sure Gretchen was deposited into the town. Despite Jeff's misgivings, Gretchen agreed to the plan.

In Jena, she met with a young prostitute named Mathilde and her family. This meeting laid the foundation for the Committees of Correspondence, which soon spread throughout the continent. She also shot and killed Max Jungers, a would-be pimp. Grantville Police Chief Dan Frost had taught her how to shoot. She felt guilty for violating her training by shooting Jungers in the face, rather than aiming for his center of mass. Despite Mathilde's pleas, Gretchen stayed her ground to be arrested by Jena's Town Watch.

As expected, Grantville's leaders did not take kindly to the situation. Higgins wanted to level the town, but Stearns was able to extract the names of associates of Jungers, as well as the location of a tavern they frequented. Grantville leveled the establishment most of these men frequented. Stearns also volunteered to assist the Jena watch in policing its streets.

The Battle of Grantville[]

The day before the Battle of Grantville, Gretchen confirmed that she was pregnant.

When Croatian mercenaries were sent to raid Grantville, Gretchen was downtown at the site of a one-sided slaughter of some 700 raiders. Then she, Hans, and Frost and Grantville's police force made their way to Grantville High School. During the drive, Gretchen and the others gunned down any retreating Croats that were in their path.

Their arrival at the school coincided with the arrival of Gustavus Adolphus and his cavalry. The Croats were quickly slaughtered, although Jeff Higgins, who'd been defending the gym, received a substantial shoulder wound.


In 1633, she and her husband were two of the people picked for the New United States' diplomatic mission to Amsterdam. After the city was placed under siege by Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand, she truly came into her own as an organizer, organizing a strong Committee of Correspondence that effectively gained control of the city.

This article is a stub because the work is part of a larger, as-of-yet incomplete series.