The Black & Red Feminist History archive is moving, taking its place as part of the Libertarian Labyrinth archive at lafrondeuse.org.
Thursday, January 1, 2015
WHAT IS “FEMINISM”?
No French word is more often badly understood and falsely interpreted than the one that designates the ensemble of our demands.
And I do not fear to affirm that some men, and men women, are “feminists” without knowing it, all while rejecting the title.
Some—despite the evidence—persist in seeing in “feminism” only a masculinization of woman, a servile and grotesque copy of the male by his envious companion.
Others believe they have discovered there a disturbing tendency to invert the roles, to replace masculine domination with an equally unjust, equally abusive feminine domination, and to reduce the former “lords and masters” to slavery.
The first of these ideas is, on the part of men, somewhat vain. We do not have such a profound admiration for these gentlemen that we would want to resemble them in every respect. We prefer to be ourselves. We aspire to something other than the role of imitators.
The second attributes to us desires for revenge that are foreign to us, and that would be, moreover, very clumsy. Experience has taught us that there is no harmony possible between the master and the slave. As long as any part of humanity will claim to dominate the other, and believe that it has rights over it,…tyranny will be inevitable and revolt will be legitimate.
We no more approve of gynocracy (government by women)—which, if we must believe the scholars, has existed in very ancient times—than the fiercely masculinist society of today.
The “feminist”—let us repeat it without ceasing—proclaims the natural equivalence and demands the social equality of the two factors of the human race.
Some will objet that they are different. All the more reason to admit that they complement one another, and that no perfect work is possible without their close collaboration.
They will also say that woman is, by reason of her very nature, unsuited to certain functions. That matters little to us. We do no pretend to oblige all women to do such and such a thing. We only demand for them the freedom to choose, judging that every human being knows better than anyone what is suitable for them. We do not know the Woman, a vague abstraction. We see around us women, concrete creatures with very diverse skills, tastes, tendencies, and temperaments. And without being unaware of the differences between the sexes, we want to take account of the differences, no less great, between individuals.
Feminism is also a doctrine of justice. It aspires to balance between duties and rights, compensations and cares. It refuses to accept that a creature can be at once minor and major—minor with regard to rights, major with regard to failings—and that woman, as worker, housewife, or génératrice (sometimes the three at the same time), representing a social value at least equal to that of her companion, should be subordinated to him, and treated as an accessory, always by the laws and often by customs.
Feminism is, finally, a doctrine of harmony. It dreams of the human couple, united by heart and mind—and not only by the senses and especially by interest—composed of two unities equally conscious and free, and sustaining one another mutually; and side by side, hand in hand, always marching towards more love, more light, more beauty!...
L’Almanach Féministe, 1906.
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur.]
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
of Claire Démar and Perret Desessarts.
My soul painfully gripped by the dismal drama that has just played out before our eyes, I can, today, only deplore the loss of these two victims of the social and religious anarchy of the century, and share the reflections that this sad event has engendered in me. But, above all, I must seek to destroy a calumny that all the newspapers have been pleased to repeat. All have made known, coldly citing the event, that intimate relations existed between Claire and Desessarts. For those who have sounded the depths of the human heart, this act remains unbelievable. If they had loved, if love, that creative fire, had animated their souls, they would have had faith in one another, and they would still be among us. For isn’t love, taken in its most noble, most elevated, most extended expression, a belief? Isn’t it a religion? Isn’t it life? And it is, on the contrary, because they no longer lover, because the sweet and invigorating sentiments no longer circulated in their hearts, which were as if petrified by struggle and doubt, that they were discouraged by the cold and colorless existence, and would employ the rest of their energy to finalize the association of the tomb…. It was during the night August 4, in the year 5 that they would execute that deadly resolution; that double suicide displays a group of arrangements that proclaim an extraordinary sang-froid and vigorous strength. Perret Désessarts, age 25, had recently left Grenoble, the city of his birth. Already haunted by an obsession with suicide, he came to Paris around the beginning of that year; it was also at that time that he saw, for the first time, Claire Démar. That woman, still young, with an agreeable exterior and a strongly tempered soul, had the courage to accept poverty, and to cast far away a position that was comfortable, but suspect and without respect, glory to her! By that act, she had climbed back to the rank of woman, since that determination was free and spontaneous. It is then that she saw Désessarts. Both loved and sought glory; they understood each other. The analogy that existed between their characters made them friends. Since, in that capacity, they often met and associated their efforts of propagation. Some very interesting letters that they have written as a final farewell (which will probably be made public), only affirm that simple liaison. So let doubt not be raised before the assertion statement of the casket!
These unfortunate victims of skepticism needed, in order to accept life as it is, and not consider it a great foolishness without any solution, they need, I say, for poetry, for religion to come and revive their souls. They looked around them: everything, in these great ruins of Christendom, morals, cult, dogma, everything seemed to them lackluster, dead. This society of the nineteenth century, so cold, so selfish, only cast over their enthusiasm a frosting of mockery and disdain.
Their understanding darkened by doubt, they came then to demand of the new religion the guiding thread of life, the truth. But, wounded and fatigued by the struggle they had to maintain with the world, they could not look without fright at the numberless obstacles that selfishness, that profound evil that gnaws at the heart of all of society, brought to bear against their efforts. Despairing of easing so many sorrows, they fell into the most absolute despondency, doubted themselves and renounced their mission. It was thus that they would reproduce the drama of the young [Victor] Escousse and his friend; like them, they would demand of death the poetry of a beautiful departure; taking one another’s hands, they would fall together, finding a sort of horrible delight in this fraternity of the tomb. The young man wrote to some of his friends, a few moments before his death: “I wish you, my friend, in order to die with calm and happiness, to find, as I have, a friend to accompany you to the place where doubt is no longer possible.”
To die, failing to find your place in life!... What an energetic protest against that which exists. To die exhausted by the struggle! What despair is as great as the one that proves itself by death? Unfortunate Claire! Poor Desessarts! Would that you could be reborn in more harmonious times! When the great, beautiful religion that we proclaim, and that is now still only a faint point on the horizon, will have grown enough to shine in the eyes of all and serve as a flambeau to all of humanity, oh! then, the cold poison of skepticism will no longer freeze your young hearts from your childhood. You believe in God, for you feel the harmony, your place, which you have not been able to find now, will be for you; for then there will be a social and maternal providence that will ensure your individual development.
Journalists, people of the world, a woman and a man who, in the prime of life, die from lack of belief, are not pallid individualities of whom we may speak lightly; respect, then, these two caskets
As for us, who should not only limit ourselves to recording this fatal event, but who must see in it the indication of a great progress to be accomplished, this misfortune will bring us closer together; we will feel the need to mutually sustain each other, to join ourselves more and more by the link of a religious fraternity, and to make it so that the women who, in order to adopt more completely the new faith, break with the old world, are not led, by isolation and the lack of support they find among us, to despondency and death.
Believe it well: for that to happen it is not enough to call women to liberty, and to leave them then to struggle alone with this selfish world, which has money as its sole regulator and only God; this cold, immature world that laughs with pity at any enthusiasm, for apart from the religious sentiment that the new faith seeks to establish in minds, to what anchor of salvation could the women who sense the future attach themselves? Is it liberty, so poorly understood by all those who desire it? But we still only have the right to pronounce this magic word, which makes so many hearts resonate, in this French society, the most advanced of all societies, under the patronage of men and on their behalf; the most intelligent of the republicans still has yet to include woman in it, or to feel that justice, that right, that God is equally in our cause.
If, turning our gaze on ourselves, I ask myself: Is there in our belle France a woman capable, by her position, of lending support to all the others? Who can represent the unity of our rights? Can those most elevated in dignity, like that placed on the dernier echelon? What are they? Legally speaking, they are nothing; all are sheltered behind a name, a place, a social position that they received passively at the good pleasure of another. Alas! The French have one queen, but women have no mother!
With thoughts oppressed by ideas of the future, ideas as immense as the world, since they tend to encircle it, what are the means of propagation left to women in order to attempt to cultivate or bring closer that future? Whatever their moral strength, what can they do alone? Wear themselves out in useless attempts, and then…, think of Claire Démar...
Therefore, our hope of emancipation rests entirely on that family of men dispersed almost everywhere throughout the world, preaching our rights, our equality. But it is especially when the propagation of these ideas could be combining and made by group, by complete family, that they will gain force and activity; it is not advice that I hazard; I even believe that it would still be premature to try that attempt: the thought, the desire that has long dominated me, and that I naively express today, could also have troubled other hearts; it is good that we reflect on it….. But before that link can be formed, new believers, think about what duties your faith commits you to, all you who call yourself the apostles, the companions of woman; by the privileges attached to your sex, you are still in possession of the immense power to direct opinion; let the moral support that springs from it be lavished on all, and principally on those who have the courage to descend into the arena and take an active part in the action. Strong man, devoted as far as the sublime! Say to all those who hear you and who love you that the essential notion, the accomplishment of which has been confided to the religious men of our era, is the elevation of woman, it is her place, acknowledged, and finally her complete liberty and her rights assured to her by the whole world.
Oh! Doubtless it is useful and just that the devotion of men be brought to light, and I applaud with my whole heart every work that aims at this result; but before the world worships and recognizes in the divinity the attributes of a God that is both good and bonne, father and mother of the human family, and does not reclassify itself according to that divine thought, it is still more just and more useful, that transitorily the action of man be regarded as secondary to that of woman. Thus, to contribute with enthusiasm to facilitate any work that would glorify man alone would be, in my opinion, to take the detail for the whole, to put the accessory in relief and the principal in shadow. So, courage! The most beautiful crown is for those who reach the goal!
August 11, 1855. Suzanne.
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur.]
Sunday, April 27, 2014
Nature had been kind in bestowing her gifts on her; beauty, goodness, strength, will and energy, she possessed all these in the highest degree. She might have been happy, she chose instead to embrace and devote herself, to the “cause” which spreads fear amongst cowards and governments.
Life had just commenced to smile on her, when the Italian war of Independence broke out.
Three of her brothers took up arms to deliver their enslaved motherland.
She had already been asked in marriage, but refused. “I cannot think of marriage," said she, “while my brothers are risking their lives on the battlefield." And she valiantly remained at home to take care of her mother, her father, and her fourth brother who was blind.
She preferred celibacy to a rich marriage, poverty to luxury, solitude to the empty noise of society, sufferings to the joys which so often prove false in life.
She worked to help her parents, nor ever forgot her brother who was imprisoned and persecuted. She buried her old parents and became the “Antigone” to her blind brother, to whom she was as a mother all her life.
Her love for her brothers, the supervision of their correspondence, their trial, and the many incidents or their lives, became her only care; she embraced their principles with enthusiasm, and became a. Socialist after she had dispersed every vestige of belief in a religion she had learnt to abhor.
Monarchy could not strike at her directly: it took revenge on her remaining brother by throwing him into its prison cells.
She found herself thus alone between the prisons which enclosed her beloved brothers. Known as an Atheist, a Socialist, a revolutionist, government spies forced their way into her house on every occasion, searched everywhere, upset, smashed everything, in the hope of finding compromising papers—which she knew better than to keep.
To terrify and force her into submission, these ignoble searches were, throughout 40 years, carried out during night-time. Ill or Well, she was made to get up; they shook her bedding, knocked about her furniture, in order to search for correspondence from her persecuted brother.
All this only added fuel to her hatred against monarchy, the priests and the bourgeoisie, and increased her attachment to the social cane.
Her home, once filled with a numerous and happy family, had been depopulated by death and persecution. A lonely woman, she calmly withstood the implacable enmity of the monarchy’s secret spies, who respect neither virtue nor honesty, nor sorrow, nor illness, nor death.
But this strong-hearted woman gave way to nothing, bent low before no one; neither the ferocious persecutions directed against and which reflected upon her, nor the misery, nor the solitude, nor even death itself, drew a complaint or a tear from her brave soul.
She did cry, however, but with joy; it was on the day when she embraced her brother after an absence of 30 years spent in battle, in prison, in exile. They had parted as children, they met when old.
In her youth—and even in her last days—her dream was to fight and die for the social cause side by side with her brothers.
But her brothers will not have the consolation of seeing her a standard-bearer in the great fight which is preparing everywhere!
On December 12th of this sad year now drawing to a close, she died.
She died smiling and tranquil, for her blind brother had been by her side day and night.
The Romagnol Socialists, who adored her, gave her a funeral worthy of her virtues, her strength, her courage, and her Socialist convictions, which she retained to her last breath.
Here name was Amelia Cipriani.
She was my sister.
(Translated from La Petite Republique for Justice.)
Amilcare Cipriani, “A Woman,” Freedom 16 no, 167 (April-May, 1902):13-14.
Monday, March 31, 2014
A Letter from Pauline Roland
We extract from the Espérance a letter of a courageous and intelligent woman, a martyr of modern times, a heroine of Socialism, dead fighting for Progress and for Humanity.
Pauline Roland is no more—and yet she still fights among us, with the drops of her blood as with the pearls of her thought, she shakes the scourge at the heads of the reactionaries, revolution in the faces of the civilized?
Have Women the Right to Labor? 
A Simple Question
Addressed by a captive to the citizen Emile de Girardin,
editor of the Bien-Etre universel
Prison of Saint-Lazare, April 1851
I just read the first issues of your new publication, and I must confess, one article among those that it contained attracted my attention in a very particular manner. So permit me to chat with you about a subject that, no doubt, concerns as much as it does me.
If, in what you wrote on the subject of my sex, you were moved by serious moral considerations and the love of truth, deign to give some clarifications to a woman who finds herself in prison for having believed that labor is the right of every human being, and that women are human beings just like men, equal to them, and having roughly the same rights and the same duties.
Let us see, then, and respond in good faith: you have enough wit to admit when you are wrong. I cite your words:
“The first and supreme function of women is to bear strongly constituted, healthy and robust children, to feed and raise them.
“It is thus for men to labor,
“For the woman to administer her household.
“She must only do what she can without leaving the paternal roof when she is a child; the conjugal roof when she is a wife; the cradle of her children when she is mother.”
That is, in all its simplicity, the law of the life of woman as you will decree it if tomorrow, which God forbid, citizen Emile de Girardin, should call you, like the Bérards or Armand Marrasts, to produce some Constitution for us: you would give us the right to idleness, which we do not want, by holding us under a perpetual tutelage, which we equally reject; for, as the popular song says:
Labor is liberty.
But let us continue.
Does woman have a soul? wondered the doctors of Mohammedanism, as, before them, had wondered a certain bishop of the Council of Macon, whose question, according to Gregory of Tours, was drowned in the general disapproval of his colleagues.
Has woman a life of her own, or is she only an appendix of the life of man? Is she a free, equal being, existing as a member of Humanity, independent of the functions that are assigned to her? As a human being, does she have the right, as much for herself as in the interest of the family of which she is a part, of the society of which she is a member, of acquiring all the physical, moral, and intellectual development of which she is susceptible? That, citizen, is the moral question that in three lines – tossed out a bit absent-mindedly, allow me to say – you have resolved in the negative. If the thing had occurred under some Council of Macon, they would not have let you pursue it, and I doubt that you would have been more fortunate if you had posed it at a conference of doctors the new faith, of which you proclaim yourself a follower.
Here, allow me to tell you a little anecdote, very truthful, the principal character of which is one of the most illustrious physiologists of our times, doctor Lallemand. One day, in Montpellier, that learned man having to examine an aspiring doctor, he asked him what the role of woman was in the life of Humanity. – “To charm our existence by making herself love, then to reproduce the species and nurse the children,” the candidate responded immediately. – “And that is all?” – “Yes, Monsieur!” – “All! The whole role of woman?” – “Without any doubt.” – “Young man, do you have a mother? – “Yes, Monsieur.” – “How old is she? – “Fifty.” – Well! You must drown her!’’, responded the doctor, sharply. And, in truth, if your system prevailed, that would be true.
But let us take up the debate seriously again.
No doubt woman is a mother, and it is a holy law of nature that that long confides the child to her tenderness. No doubt it is desirable for society that the son she gave birth to developes a robust constitution—to which you would have added a solid soul, if universal well-being did not reside for you in life and government at the lowest price. No doubt she must, when possible, nourish the baby with her milk, and in any case watch over its crib. She also needs to educate it, together with the father and society. But, in good faith, is that the occupation of a lifetime? Many women do not have children. The average maternity may be three per household. By greatly extending the cares of food and primary education, the only cares, certainly, we deign to confide solely to the mother, we would have ten years from an active life which can be about sixty years. The rest will go to dressing up, knitting socks, playing the piano, cleaning pans, or playing a game of whist. Thank you for your generosity, citizen, but we prefer real work to this boring leisure, and we affirm that the household will only be better when it is no longer our only business.
Moreover, citizen, even though woman should accept the lot you want to make for her, is that by confining her to the gynaeceum, which never takes long to become the harem or the slaves’ quarters, that you will make her the robust generatrix that you depict; the healthy nurse, the sensible educator that you want for your son? Some examples drawn from antiquity can illuminate the question.
The Athenian women lived at the back of the women's quarters, and one can not doubt, it seems to me, that the terrible corruption that Plato and Plutarch depict, just like Aristophanes, comes, among the most gifted people on earth, from the absence of women in all transactions of civil and political life. As feminine types, the City of Arts and leaves us Xantippe and Aspasia: the nagging housewife, the shameless courtesan.
On the contrary, the Spartan girls took part in the games of the gymasium indeed even the struggles by which adolescents of the austere city gave a prelude to the combats; and the ideal of the mother of the citizen, if not the citizen woman, still remains today the Spartiate.
Finally, let us see some features of the portrait of the virtuous woman, according to the famous book of Proverbs attributed to Solomon:
'”Who will find a valiant woman? Because her price surpasses many pearls. The heart of her husband is assured in her ... She knows to do good every day of his life, and never evil. She seeks wool and flax, and she does what she wants with her hands. She is like the merchants' ships, she brings her bread from afar... She considers a field and acquires it, she plants a vineyard with the fruit of her hands. She girds her loins with strength and strengthens her arms... She makes cloth and sells it; she makes belts that she to gives the merchant... She contemplates the progress of her house, and eateth not the bread of idleness.”
I know, citizen, that you could tell me that you do see any harm in the woman as Solomon paints her, since she still seems a bit confined in the household; however, to be consistent, you must reject several of the verses that I quoted. I also would respond that I myself have too much faith in the holy law of progress to satisfy myself with an ideal conceived twenty-eight centuries ago, any more than the virtue of the Spartan woman.
The life of the modern woman must be superior to both, because the progress of Humanity profits the woman like the man. And if we have gained in value, we should have gained equally in right.
So I summarize, and to the four propositions advanced by you, and cited at the beginning of my letter, I respond:
Woman is a free being, equal to man, whose sister she is. Like him, she has to fulfill some duties towards himself, by preserving, out of reach, her individual dignity, by developing herself in virtue, by making her life, not from the labor, the love, and intelligence of another – be that other her father, her husband or her son –, but of her own labor, her own love, and her own intelligence. Like man, she has to fulfill some duties to her family, which are the sweetest reward of the other labors, but cannot absorb her, even when the man, as happens to often, no longer fulfills towards the family other duties than that of provider of material bread. Finally the woman is a citizen, by right, if not in fact, and as such, she must be involved in the life outside, in the social life, which will only be normal when the entire family is represented there.
There, citizen, is my response to your first proposition.
As for the second and third, which, properly speaking, are only one, I would say: woman has the right to work like man, and to a productive, independent work, which frees her from all guardianship. She has a right to choose her own work, as much as the man, and no one can legitimately confine her to the home, if she feels herself called otherwise.
Finally as soon as the woman reaches the age of maturity, she is entitled to do with her life as she sees fit. The paternal roof should be a refuge for her, not a prison from which she can escape only to pass into another prison. The marital home is her home, her property, at the same time it is that of the man and within the same limits. She is no more forced to remain there than he is, if her conscience calls her elsewhere. Finally, her arms being the natural cradle of her children, she carries wherever seems good to her, and we can imagine nothing more beautiful, more respectable in the future, and that the woman adorned with all her duties, of her virtues, of her loves, taking part as a human being, in industrial and civil life.
All of this, citizen, was discussed twenty years ago in Saint-Simonianism; and it seemed to me that the cause of the emancipation of women was so well won that, when someone began to cut and thrust to gain the equality of the sexes, I used to laugh, saying that it didn’t seem necessary to me to break down open doors. You and the citizen Proudhon have just shown me that unfortunately we still must fight again!
I appear weak, almost unarmed, before such illustrious champions, but I stand with faith, remembering the outcome of the struggle of David with Goliath. Those who fight for the truth have no need of armor.
Awaiting your response, whatever it may be, I pray you, citizen, accept my fraternal greetings.
 Also published as “Does Woman have a Right to Liberty?”
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]
Friday, February 7, 2014
It's certainly no surprise to find work by André Léo in Pierre Leroux's journal La Revue Sociale. The prolific writer, whose real name was Victoire Léodile Béra, was married to the editor, Grégoire Champseix. But much of her literary output was later, after Champseix's death, and despite all the very interesting material that I have pulled from La Revue Sociale, I'll admit that I have never been able to steal the time to give the journal all the attention I'm sure it deserves. So it was nice to find that members of L'Association André Léo have identified a number of contributions, under the pseudonyms Victor Léo and Léo, as also being the work of this woman with so very many names. I started my workday with a quick translation of the shortest of them:
THE YOUNG GIRL AND THE BIRD
This is the time when the wild rose and honeysuckle bushes extend fragrant garlands, when a thousand wonders frail blossom in the grass, under the foliage, in the hollows of rocks. This is the time when amidst the wheat the cornflower shines; when the wild thyme, with its soft color, lines the edges of the roads.
How sweet it is to tread the carpet meadows, when every step brings forth a perfume!
How sweet is the shade of the trees, from which we hear, stretched out on the moss, the song of the birds and the call of the cicada!
When nature lulls with a monotonous voice her voluptuous daytime sleep.
What fragrance does that breeze carry?... My spirit has leapt like the exile at the song of their homeland. – Let us go to the country; Let us worship God.
So said the young girl from the city; but they respond to her: “Custom shuts up your life.” - And, crying, she went to sit before the cage of her favorite bird, which each day she fills with seed and fresh biscuit.
“You cry,” Said the bird. “Your breast swells with indignation because they refuse you, O daughter of infinity, air and space. - And yet I, whose wings travel farther in an hour than your steps will take you in a week, you hold me in this narrow cage, far from the flowers and the sun.”
— Thus, absorbed in ourselves, we do not find in our own misfortunes a feeling for those of others. Mutually, at every opportunity, we shatter our destinies; in our hands, space has become a prison. The body lacks air and the spirit love. We suffer without understanding; and each complains by striking.
Thursday, January 16, 2014
I've been working on the remaining untranslated portions of Jenny d'Héricourt's Woman Affranchised, which has included a number of pleasant surprises, including some borrowings from her adversary Proudhon that suggest she was a close and careful reader of much of his work. I also made another search through the online archives for material I hadn't seen and ran across this letter to La Solidarité: journal des principes, a journal published by Charles Fauvety, who was both a friend of Héricourt and an old collaborator of Proudhon's. Fauvety was also indirectly connected, through association with Alphonse-Louis Constant, aka Eliphas Lévi, with Flora Tristan, whose posthumous work, The Emancipation of Woman, or Testament of the Pariah, I should be able to present in English translation soon. (Here's a taste.) The letter hints at all sorts of contexts that I cannot supply at present, and which make the final section, on "reparation," hard to translate precisely. Did she believe that she had been a "tyrant"? There were certainly some who had accused her of "masculine" prejudices, though they were mostly men, who saw nothing much wrong with them than their unfitness for her sex. And we have Juliette Adam's account of her dismissive attitude toward the younger woman. (Proudhon's critics seem to have been pretty hard on each other.) I'll certainly be digging to see if there is more to this correspondence, but, for now, we can certainly say that we see flashes of Jenny d'Héricourt's larger-than-life personality throughout the letter. Along with the apparently penitent moments, there also moments of colossal pride, which recall Constant's characterization of Flora Tristan: "Flora Tristan is the splendid personification of the most complete and most implacable pride. Milton’s Satan must be dead of bitterness since she came into the world." There are other connections between the two remarkable women, including a shared interest in the sort of secular religion which Fauvety was exploring. More about that as the relevant texts get translated...
Chicago, May 27, 1868.
By way of our friend Faisandié, I have received the issue of la Solidarité where you recall to the public, and in particular to Mr. Montanier, la Femme affranchie and its author. I come to thank you for it. Before settling down to that subject, allow me to thank you for your article against materialist morality. Another article also gave me great pleasure, signed Pérès. Finally, we arrive then at the true foundation of ontology! From the beginning, the being is thus an appetite, force pursuing a finality; so the finality is the cause of all movement, of all determination in the being, from its first, atomic stage to its last, terrestrial stage, when it feels, knows itself, and wants—when it is a human being. Compliment Mr. Pérès for me, if you think that a compliment from me would be agreeable. It is a great satisfaction to always find myself in the same current of ideas and feeling as the one I followed in your midst; it even happens that I have drawn closer to you since our separation, for I have worked for a year on the preparation of a volume where the science of being and the solidarity of man with himself in the past and the future, his solidarity with all nature, are based on the positive sciences. My claims are irrefutably established by laws and facts; but a work, in order to make a durable impression, must, you know, foresee and resolve all the negations and objections of the adversaries; it is always my method of criticizing without mercy first before making assertions. Now, that preliminary work cannot be made in America: for that I need Paris, the readings by opponents, your conversations of thinkers and philosophers; all that is lacking here, and I do not have the time to read enough. This grips my heart so much, that it takes all my reason not to spend the end of July and August in Paris; but I hope that I will not give in to a temptation that would perhaps delay my definitive return by a year or two, the hope that in five years you will count one more champion in the ranks of the army of solidarity. In the meantime, if some articles would be agreeable to you, I am at your service; I will find a few hours to write them.
You end les Femmes médecins by saying that I have found in America the justice that I did not find in France. No, dear sir, women find only obstacles everywhere. Whatever their good will, whatever their aptitudes, they will always see ordinary men supplant them, either because the prejudice of intellectual inferiority is raised against them because of their sex, or because all men wanting women to remain subordinate, and using their unfitness as an excuse, do not want, for anything in the world, give any emphasis to a woman who is the incarnate refutation of what they want to convince themselves of. I have had to fight like ten men. If I was an average, clever man, I would probably have made my little fortune; but I am a woman, and if I had only had my individual value, without a nearly superhuman persistence and a courage, I would be dead of hunger. I make money, I am busy; but, I repeat, a woman of ordinary courage would not have been able to undergo the trial, and, thank the gods, I have sustained it and done so with dignity: the respect and esteem of a whole great city surrounds me today. I don't complain; these terrible four years of my life have tempered my character: I have less passion, but the firmness of steel. I am not embittered, I have just learned to know my species and my sex; and I said to myself that my present life being with connected my previous existence, I must submit to logic under its terrible form of reparation. If I had the odious prejudices of the males, if I had been a tyrant, I should condemn myself to return in order to atone and suffer: there would be no point in rebelling, but to bow my head and bless a trial that improves and sets things right. Moreover, apart from some difficulties inseparable from my sex, what have I to complain of? My health is vigorous, I am ten years younger and two years stronger than in France; I have lost none of my intellectual faculties and aptitudes; I have honorably earned more than my living, and I posses an honorable independence made by myself alone; my character is honored, and a complete confidence surrouns me: haven’t I had a happier fate than thousands of other worthy beings?
I bid you adieu, shaking your hand fraternally.
Jenny P. d'Héricourt.
La Solidarité : journal des principes 2 no. 8 (July 1, 1868): 127.
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]