Sunday, October 14, 2012

Jeanne Deroin, "The Mission of Women in the Present and in the Future" (first article) (1849)


The Mission of Women in the Present and in the Future.
(first article.)

The February Revolution, by inscribing on its banner the words Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, has recognized in principle the right of the people and of women.
But many women, and it is the majority, do not know what change the power of their influence would bring to bear on human destinies if they were called to take their proper rank in society.
The majority even keep that thought at bay, as an attack on religion and morals, and as a danger to society; they have been persuaded that they were born to obey, to love, to suffer and to sacrifice themselves, and that they must remain enclosed in the narrow circle of the domestic hearth.
Some few, on the contrary, free themselves from the yoke of these austere principles and openly defy society, which censures them severely; they misunderstand their duties because their rights are misunderstood.
They do not know, in either group, that it is in the name of religion and morality, and in the interest of society, that they must demand their rights.
They do not know that humanity’s salvation depends on the triumph of God’s law, of the rights of the people and those of women.
Our most ardent wish is to make penetrate into all hearts that truth on which rests our whole future.
It is to make women understand that it is for them not only a right but a duty to intervene in these dire struggles, the sad result of oppression and suffering, misery and selfishness.
Above all they must raise themselves above these hatreds of parties and sects which divide men, and teach to all the practice of fraternity.

(Continued in the next issue.)

Source: l’Opinion des femmes, 1 (January 28, 1849): 4.
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Jeanne Deroin, "Prospectus" of l'Opinion des Femmes (1848)


L’OPINION DES FEMMES

Prospectus

The women who understand the greatness of their mission, in the present and in the future, feel deeply that it is for them not only a right, but a duty, to take part in all the acts of social life, and to express their opinion on all the questions that relate to the organization of society.
Until now, men alone have ruled the destinies of the human race. Women have been excluded from all the religious and political assemblies, where the great principles on which societies are founded are discussed; and human intelligence, split by the pride of man, has only been able to glimpse a part of the truth. The religious traditions have remained misunderstood, because men have wished to raise the impenetrable veil that envelops them all by themselves.
The dogmas of all the religions, explained by man alone, in an incomplete fashion, have produced error, superstition, and the crimes of fanaticism.
Rebelling against his own work, man has fallen into atheism; he misunderstood God and his holy law, because he could not understand it alone.
The same aberration has produced analogous results in the political systems; the right of the peoples has been based on the right of the strongest, justice on privilege, the liberty of the few on the slavery of the greatest number, order on despotism and morality on respect for false theories and incomplete laws, oppressive and improvident.
Wars of invasion, civil discord, and all the miseries that degrade humanity are the consequences. Endless political convulsions testify to the suffering state of societies, and prove that man alone cannot organize and reveal the approach of a new era.
The time has come when we must realize the promise that God has made to woman, by telling her that she is called to triumph over the spirit of evil.  That is to say, that she will triumph over selfishness by the power of her love and devotion.
Daughters, sisters, wives and mothers, women have the same interest as men in social happiness.
In the face of these threatening hatreds, which prepare new civil discords for us, all those who have a generous heart and elevated sentiments recognize that the moment has come for them to demand the right to accomplish all their duties, to intervene in order to calm all the irritated minds, and to make everyone understand that the temple of fraternity cannot be built on a bloodstained foundation.
It is time, finally, that the opinions of women come to bear their full weight in the balance of the interests of humanity, and make them tilt in favor of the oppressed.
Truth has never flowed from the mind of man; it will flow from the minds and hearts of men and women laboring towards the same goal and with the same love.
We appeal to all men and women of heart and intelligence to aid us in founding a publication, the principle aim of which will be to develop all the consequences of the divine principles on which our future institutions must be based. We will constantly demand, not only as a right, but as a duty and with dedication, the civil and political equality of women, because we have the deep conviction that social organization cannot be complete and lasting without the cooperation of the two sexes.
We will summon with all our will and all our efforts the reign of the law of God on earth.
We want to recognize, explain and reconcile all the principles of eternal truth contained in all the religious and social beliefs of the past and of the present, in order to arrive at the unity of doctrine which will satisfy every conscience, and we will unite all in a single communion.
Finally, we want to establish the temple of the future, the great religion of fraternity and universal solidarity, the bases of which were posited by Christ, within which we will no long have heresies or outcasts, where all will be called and all will be among the elect.
We sincerely accept the Republic, and we want, progressively and peacefully, all the consequences of the three great principles that it has proclaimed at the hour of its advent.
Our politics will be a politics of peace, of labor, and of reconciliation among all parties; we will use all our influence to gather them into one, the party of universal fraternity.
We will debate principles, opinions and facts, with fairness, without ever accusing individuals or intentions. We will respond to the serious objections that are addressed to us, and that polemic will always be, on our part, honest and dignified: writings by women should give every example of moderation and respect for conventions.
Education, on which rests the future of the human race, we be for us the object of serious study, and we will constantly demand that we occupy ourselves with concern for the development of all the physical, moral and intellectual faculties of the children of both sexes, and that all be given equal education, a scientific, artistic or industrial education, depending on their vocation.
The Opinion des Femmes will concern itself with the sciences, fine arts, literature, and industry, in eminently religious and moral aspects, and with regard to practical utility.
Our critique will be a meticulous study; we will give kindly advice and well-earned praise.
We will welcome the complaint of the laborer who asks for work and credit, instead of an unproductive handout; we will support the just demands of the oppressed.
We will constantly seek the promptest and most effective means possible of improving the condition of all suffering beings
We will prepare for the reconciliation of the rich and poor, by all the means in our powers.
We will constantly labor to reconcile all opinions and all interests.
Finally, we will ensure that this publication contains both theory and practical means, and that it is at once a high education and good work.

Jeanne DEROIN.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Joshua King Ingalls, "The Home: Woman its True Owner" (1864)

Joshua King Ingalls was best known as a land-reformer, but he was also involved with the struggle for women's rights, and some of his most interesting writing happened when the two concerns came together. This essay, from The Friend of Progress, features that combination of concerns, and comes to a fascinating conclusion. Like many feminists of his day, including many of the most militant women, Ingalls associated women with the home and with nature (what he calls "the passive element"), and his argument here rises directly from that association. But while we might not think that the premises are terribly radical, his solution is at least striking.


The Home:

WOMAN ITS TRUE OWNER.

BY J. K. lNGALLS.

Home, as a sentiment, is especially Anglo-Saxon. It is, however, strongly marked, as phrenologists say, in all the Teutonic branches of the Caucasian race. And if any race or people have no such word in their language, it is because an oppression for ages has deprived them of its natural rights and immunities; for among all the appliances ever seized upon by a soulless tyranny, to maintain its damning sway, that of “property in land” has proved the most effectual, the widest spread in its power and influence, and the most fatal to the true enjoyment of human rights and human happiness. Landlordry is the twin brother to the monster, “chattel slavery;” or rather it is the prolific mother of a family of monsters, of which slavery and polygamy are but the elder-born.
Whatever form of expression may have been given to the condition imposed upon the masses by this system of monopoly, and whether it be named “slavery,” “serfdom,” “villainage,” or simply “tenantry,” we see involved the same essential principle. Potentially the same monster wrong sits enthroned, and the same direful consequences follow its sway, modified only in external form, or by change in custom and education, and by the application of science to industry and to sanitary regulations, and of machinery to more rapid production of many of the necessaries of life.
Given a certain area of soil—say an island removed from the interchanges of commerce—and place one man as owner, then substantially it matters little what you call the special form of relation sustained by each and all others who are dependent on that soil for a habitation and support. Their happiness and its pursuit, their liberty and its guaranties, their very life and its prolongation, are subject to the pleasure of that single owner. There may be other elements possessed by certain persons. His helplessness, mentally or physically, or his cupidity, would undoubtedly force him to award certain privileges and conditions to others, and all might, by dividing the products of their toil, be enabled to eke out a tolerable existence. But, essentially, they would be all his vassals and slaves.
Now make that island represent the world, and that owner the class of owners, in whom all legal titles vest, and we see at once the position in which the industry of the world is placed. In our own favored country, where the lands are so abundant as to be almost beyond the grasp of Mammon, there is little actual suffering and degradation from this cause, compared with what exists in the “old world.” It is because most industrious and frugal people can become land-owners, that the condition of labor is in any respect different here from what it is under the worn-out monarchies of Europe.
It is very fine for politicians, who want our votes, to flatter us with the idea that we have no hereditary aristocracy, no nobility or governing class. But what is all this fine talk in the face of facts? For the whole period of our national existence, a system of chattel slavery, unequaled in atrocity since the days of imperial Rome, has been fostered in this Union, without a single effort on the part of our government to counteract its power or influence, until, to extend its area, it aimed a deadly blow at the very life of the nation.
In our own State, millions of acres are held by one man; and in this city there are several incomes which average a million of dollars annually from the rent of real estate. This is equal to the earnings of two thousand workingmen at an average of five hundred dollars per year. Now can you explain to me the difference, substantially, between the system under which this result is secured, and the ownership of those two thousand men, with the ability to compel their labor and reap its products? It is often remarked that the best way for a man to get a home or a farm is to work for it. But this is said with the full knowledge that in most countries the price of land is kept so high by monopoly, and the wages of labor so low, that the labor of a lifetime would fail of that result, even if nothing were expended in food, or clothing, or provision for the family. When duly considered, the saving is equally heartless with the attempted justification of slavery on the ground that some slaves have earned their freedom, and all might if they would.
The fact that lands change hands, and go into different families, is no justification of the system. It would be quite as well to have an hereditary aristocracy, as one which is constantly recruited with parvenus, whose vulgar scorn of the very class from which only their greed has emancipated them pecuniarily, renders them more bitter in caste prejudice. Now, a man, after struggling for the best part of his life to secure a home for his dear ones, may, by a single reverse, have it all taken from him and his family turned into the street.
Some changes have been made in our laws, within a few years, to protect the rights of married women. But these only alleviate certain incidents of the system; do not strike at the root of the great wrong. And no device will ever meet the requirements of the case, until the great principle is involved, that no one can be protected in the ownership of two farms or two homes, while any suffer the want of one. The great law of limitation must be applied here, as in all subjects of legislation securing rights. Our right to life is complete. Yet it is necessarily self-limiting. It can never justify taking the life of another, except in absolute self-defense. Our right to liberty gives us no permission to enslave another. Our pursuit of happiness must not be followed at the sacrifice of another’s. So the right to home and possessorship of the soil, no less sacred than either, must have its justly defined limits, where it will not exclude and render impossible the similar ownership by others.
I approach the question of ownership, as between the sexes, with much diffidence. And I propose to say as little as possible on the subject of marriage and its intricate questions. I prefer, indeed, to treat the man and woman as one in their relation to the home. “In the beginning God created them male and female, that they should not be twain, but one flesh.” But in law, the title must vest in one or the other. I am decidedly of the opinion that it should vest in the woman, and in her alone. In a word, the Home—the initial term and starting-point of the social scale—should be wholly withdrawn from the commercial stock-board; and the soil—the source whence all sustenance to life is drawn— should be free to all who wish to cultivate it, and no longer be placed in the market to gratify greed, or the insane desire of speculation; no longer be staked upon the dice-board of stock-gamblers, even if its value were specific, and the only sufferers the immediate victims, who are so often turned homeless upon the cold charities of the world. As one of the surest steps to give this security of home, I recommend the vesting of all titles to real estate exclusively in woman.
The woman corresponds to the passive agent; man to the active. He should control the movable, she the permanent possessions; and thus the sphere of her activity and influence would be naturally, harmoniously filled, without any danger of injury to her sweetness or delicacy of character. Being then under no necessity of seeking marriage for an establishment and a home, she would exercise her intuitive perception in choosing a congenial companion, whose cooperation and executive power, rightly exercised, would improve her possessions. The man would in one sense then earn his home; that is, make himself desirable as a companion to the legal owner, of whom he would be, so to speak, a “tenant at will.”
As the law of tenure now is, and as woman’s position affects herself and offspring, only the few, either men or women, can have homes, without a life-long toil. The woman is expected, in order to secure her home, to entrap some man who already has one, with the pretense of a love she would perhaps gladly bestow elsewhere. It may be replied, that to put woman in possession of the home would be to make her the dupe of the idle and vagrant, who will impose upon her credulity, and thus make her their victim. And with no corresponding change in the aims and purposes of life to her, this objection might have some force. But as every woman would have a home, and as men of activity and industry would then be admired as much as the mere possessors of wealth now are, and as genial companionship, and an intelligent and industrious partner, would then be her principal need, the risks she would run would only serve for a healthful restraint and discipline. Besides, whatever mistakes she might make, her husband could not alienate her home, or deprive her of its possession. By this arrangement, the man would have abundant scope for all his powers. In trade, in finance, in manufacture, and in the conduct of the farm, his full activities on the material plane would be called forth. With the removal of the great overshadowing care, which now bears so heavily upon man and woman, in view of the uncertainty of any provision which can be made against misfortune, they would both experience new impulses to attain excellence of mental culture and elevation in the social sphere.
In beautifying and rendering more productive the homestead, the man would enjoy the of Progress. satisfactory assurance that no event could give it to the grasp of the spoiler, while his loved ones would be turned homeless away. Though without legal ownership in his home, in any sense which would allow him to convey it away, or involve it for his debts, yet he would doubtless be able to arrange with the fair owner for an apartment exclusive to himself, if required; which is more than many men can now do, although the legal owners of their own homes, and of scores of others. At the same time he would have no such control as would enable him to ill-treat his wife, and force her to leave home and support, or put up with brutality; and the woman would have fuller opportunities for the exercise of her faculties and capabilities than now, either in cooperation with a consort or independent of one, if she chose to remain single. She would be at liberty to follow the bias of her mind in regard to marriage, and not be compelled by anxious parents, or by a weak ambition to shine in a genteel establishment, or by a real necessity for a support, to accept a husband as the only way of obtaining a home; and in which she must either become a house-drudge, an extravagant piece of furniture, or, turning the tables upon our sex, a genuine domestic tyrant.
But what is more important, it will release woman from that despotism of society growing out of the inverted state we have contemplated, and which compels her to a life of celibacy often against her will, and to live without the love for which she is by nature formed, because the man she would marry has not the home or has not sought her hand. Much has been said about what is necessary to the true development of woman’s capacities, and the wider sphere of activity she requires; but it is in vain that she changes her dress, or seeks more active employments. Until the Home is hers inalienably, and she has and exercises her queenly prerogative of choosing a companion, she will never attain her true social, political, or industrial position.
These sentiments may shock many, and none more than those poor victims who suffer most from the violation of natural rights. Men who regard woman simply as a dependent and minor, made to serve their pleasure, a plaything for their amusement and a slave to their passion, will also be shocked. While inflicting on woman the wrongs she has borne so meekly, such will raise the cry of indelicacy, and lift their voice in warning to her, “not to overstep the boundaries prescribed for her sex.”
One year has been mockingly accorded her in four, (leap year,) in which to assume her natural prerogative; but even without the social embargo, this privilege, if sincerely rendered, would avail her nothing. Without a home of her own, to offer herself is merely to invite herself to some one’s home; or, if her lover is poor, to invite him to charge himself with her support.
Marriage, indeed, under present social arrangements, is little more than the above. That it has not become wholly perverted proves it a divine institution. But with greater security to the Home, and greater freedom of the affections, the more its divinity and indissolubility will be seen, and the more attractive and truly delicate the character of woman will appear.

Source: The Friend of Progress. 1, no. 2 (December, 1864): 52-54.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Henriette, artiste, "Letter to Proudhon" (1849)

"En amour, la propriété c’est le viol." One of the major voices in French feminist circles around the time of the 1848 Revolution signed her name as "Henriette, artiste," and was probably Henriette Wild. She argued with Jenny d'Hericourt on the subject of celibacy in the pages of the Voix de Femmes, and she wrote a strange and interesting open letter to Proudhon in the pages of La Démocratie pacifique (January 5, 1849). The heart of the letter comes when Henriette hijacks Proudhon's famous phrase, "Property is theft"—"la propriété c’est le vol" in French—and changes it to say that "in love, property is rape or violation," while she proposes a Sainte Proudhonne, a female Proudhon, as the spirit of the future. It's pretty good stuff, and makes me want to go find her debate with Jenny d'Hericourt.

------------


Mr. Proudhon,
Bad Christian, hateful socialist, you pursue monopoly in its material, individually perceptible, which is good; but, when it is attacked in its affective form, you put yourself in the way and cry scandal! You want the dignity and equality of men, and you reject the dignity and equality of the sexes! Women, you say, has nothing more to claim, and her duty is to remain in the refuge for which nature has created her.
Pity on your sophistry! Shame on your ideas of resignation regardless! In this revolutionary time, when the voices of all the oppressed cry out, the voices of women will be raised bravely and maintained, without fear of being drowned out by yours. Do you understand me, Mr. Proudhon?
On the operatic stage, women were only allowed to take their place when it was well established, by the courage of a few, that their voices contained a particular strength that nothing could replace. That principle of exclusion no longer offers anything but a warning in our times, and you doubtless know what it has cost the feeling of humanity to maintain in some holy chapel the proud and impious challenge cast on the prerogatives of women. (?)
So install women everywhere, for without her no concert is possible and pleasing to God. The higher spheres of all the harmonies demand it of us, and we will appear in spiritual concert, as in political and social cooperation.
Our mysticism displeases you, O Saint Proudhon! Well! a little time and be born, I am sure that a holy Proudhonne who, with robust faith and courage in the face of every ordeal, will come to scrutinize our society more profoundly. That Sainte Proudhonne will doubtless discover that other property which has escaped the view of her patron. Sainte Proudhonne will tell us, in clear and precise terms, that women and their particular essence, love, by dint of being sold, of being sacrificed in pure loss and being worn down in the institutions where you have confined them, now makes the shame and misfortune of humanity. Sainte Proudonne will see well that the love ruled by you, and become the right of the strongest, constitutes the most sinful of properties, and, under the empire of its convictions, will take hold of your most audacious formula. Sainte Proudhonne will demonstrate clearly to the world and to her sisters, that in love, property is violation.
O Saint Proudhon! The combat will be harsh then between man-force and woman-love, and the apathetic world will rue this good time when, by mysticism alone, women communicated with the new spirit.
Master Proudhon... I'll stop! May these few words make you look twice at these things you want to trample underfoot!
The question of women will not bring you any happiness. All your history in this regard proves it. But it is a misfortune that the love of a woman could perhaps banish. In the meantime, believe me, refrain from speaking of them, and if the religious champions to whom you have lent a hand demand of you the reason for your silence, respond.... anything, even the most banal thing, and tell them in conclusion.... that, in the end, the women do not concern you.
Henriette..., artist.
[Henriette Wild]

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Monday, August 20, 2012

Stories by Voltairine de Cleyre and Lizzie Holmes

The anarchist tradition has always had a literary side. Even Proudhon was fond of inserting the occasional illustrative tale in his works. And the French tales of proletarian life which have been featured here had their counterparts in the English-language traditions. For instance, Lizzie M. Holmes wrote dozens of short stories for the anarchist and labor press, and Voltairine de Cleyre wrote a number as well.

I've assembled a collection of Voltairine de Cleyre's "Sketches and Stories," combining the material from the Collected Works volume with a few sketches which were not included there. And I've also collected a few of Lizzie M. Holmes' stories from the labor press, all dealing with the issue of strikes and replacement works, in a pamphlet entitled "Scabs."

"La Frondeuse" zine, Issues 3 & 4

The Black and Red Feminism zine has been reborn as La Frondeuse [The Troublemaker, or The Anti-Authoritarian.] The name is borrowed from one of Séverine's collections.

Issue 3 features works by Louise Michel, Paule Mink and Séverine.

Issue 4 contains works by Jenny d'Héricourt under various pen-names.

The name-change comes with a bit of fancy repackaging, and will be retroactive. I'll be revising and repackaging the material from the two issues of Black and Red Feminism as issues of La Frondeuse, and a number of titles from the old Corvus catalog will be expanded and revised in uniform editions. With just a little luck, the paper edition of La Frondeuse will become the first monthly subscription title from Corvus Editions, starting this fall.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Jeanne Marie, "Revelation" (1849)


"Jeanne Marie" (probably Jenny d'Hericourt) also contributed this poem to l'Opinion des Femmes. A literal, parallel translation is also available at the Libertarian Labyrinth archive.

Révelation.

Mère, comme il fait froid! la terre est toute blanche;
Le mont, déjà trois fois, a roulé l'avalanche;
Un instant a suffi pour chasser les beaux jours
Et dépouiller le val de verdure et d amours.
Les oiseaux frissonnants désertent le bocage,
La plaine est comme un lac immense et sans rivage,
Les pauvres voyageurs errants sur les chemins.
Qu’ils sont infortunés, mère, et que je les plains,
Alors qu'auprès de l'âtre où la flamme pétille,
Lisant à la lueur de la lampe qui brille,
J'entends gronder au loin l'orage, les autans.
A cette heure je prie et conjure les vents
D'épargner le marin qui brave la tempête
Et d'écarter la mort qui plane sûr sa tête;
De faire luire à l'œil du pêcheur malheureux
Quelque fanal béni, quelque point lumineux.
Et lorsque j'ai prié, mon âme est plus contente;
J'entends vibrer en moi comme une voix puissante.
Elle dit : La prière, élan de charité,
Prend le chemin du ciel avec sécurité
C'est le plus pur encens, la plus douce harmonie,
Qui puisse jusqu'à Dieu monter de cette vie
Quand les hommes entr'eux auront assez aimé,
Ils reverront l'Eden à leurs regards fermé
Pour eux, dès ce moment, dépouillé de mystère,
Et sans l'arbre fatal qui perdit notre mère.
Humains, hâtez-vous donc d'amener ce beau jour,
Aimez! aimez encore, Dieu n'est que pur amour!
.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
Mère. que pensez-vous de cette voix étrange ?
Je pense, enfant béni, que vous êtes un ange,
Auquel, dès ici-bas l’esprit s’est révélé;
Qu'à vous, comme à Moïse, au Christ, il a parlé
Comme eux, il vous faut donc, martyr en cette vie,
Vous résoudre aux douleurs, même à l'ignominie,
Pour prêcher aux humains la loi de vérité,
Qui vous fut dévoilée en un jour de bonté.
Hélas dussiez-vous ne trouver en ce monde,
Qu'injustice et dédain, qu'amertume profonde,
Etre traité de fou, d'infâme, d'imposteur!
Prêchiez, prêchez toujours et laissez au Seigneur
Le soin d ouvrir les yeux à la foule insensée!
Le soldat de son chef connait-il la pensée?
Il marche cependant sur un seul mot de lui,
Prêt à verser son sang demain comme aujourd'hui.
Qu'importe si le grain meurt au sein de la terre
Alors qu'on voit sortir la gerbe de l'ovaire?
Et qu'importe au semeur qu'un autre ait récolté,
Si son salaire un jour est l'immortalité?
Jeanne Marie.

[From l'Opinion des Femmes, 1, 3 (April 10, 1849) 6. Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur.] 

Jeanne Marie, "On Woman" (1849)

[The articles by "Jeanne Marie" in l'Opinion des Femmes have been attributed to a number of people, including Jeanne Deroin, but the most likely identification seems to be Jeanne-Marie-Fabienne Poinsard, aka Jenny d'Hericourt.]


On Woman

In 1622, Marie Le Jars de Gournay, adoptive daughter of Montaigne, published a work entitled On the Equality of the Sexes, where by a tight reasoning, and an irresistible logic, she proved that at all times God had desired that equality. A bit later, around 1673, a learned doctor at the Sorbonne, Poulain de la Barre, also wrote a spiritual and victorious panegyric in favor of woman, which he recognized as inferior to man only because the latter willingly left her in ignorance in order to in order to enslave her longer to his will.
How much time is required for a just, trust idea to make its way in the world, while, by a bizarre aberration, the error has implanted itself rapidly and prospered there marvelously! Two hundred years have passed since these truths have been written; the revolutions have dragged their level across the earth, and the error, although weakened, still survives.
In 1848, in the middle of the century of enlightenment and progress, one man dared to ask, in full National Assembly, the exclusion of women from all political meetings and clubs where social questions were treated regarding the future of their brothers, of their children, and even their own future! And not only was this man heard, but this iniquitous decree was adopted almost unanimously, and no protest was raised. There, as everywhere, the strongest irrationality has triumphed, and woman has been declared eternally a minor.
Yet if we go back in history, at all times of social renewal, we see women actively participate. At the first revolutionary signal, we have seen them rush from all sides, dash into the arena, hearts filled with a common sentiment (the love of humanity), to shake off in a few hours the prejudices which have crushed them for so many centuries, and cast to the revolutionary wind, with an unparalleled ardor, the soiled rags of a civilization in delirium!
Constantly oppressed, woman is joined by a holy bond to the oppressed of all countries, of all the classes that is not one of their sufferings which does not awaken in her a tender commiseration, not one of their joys or hopes which does not have a sympathetic echo in her heart.
There is no emancipation of which she has not been the author or accomplice. It is the patrician girl who, first, trampling under foot an impious law, dared to give her hand to the son of the artisan who was raised up to her by the force of intelligence and love alone.
It was the women who, from the times of Voltaire and Jean-Jacques, spread with more conviction and courage the philosophical truths called to dethrone error and unmask the lie.
It was the women of the court of Louis XVI who, first, attacked that royal, childish etiquette on which a power still rested, undermined at its base and ready to collapse. Finally, when 89 sounded, among the women of all ranks, equality and fraternity were proclaimed with an energetic selflessness and it is by reddening the scaffold with their martyrs’ blood that that Madame Rolland, Lucile Desmoulins, Olympe de Gouges, and tutti quanti, have taught humanity that woman, the equal of man in intelligence and love, can also equal him in courage by drawing her strength from her heart.
In vain men want to make you doubt this palpable truth; each of them makes a personal exception either for the woman that he loves, for his mother, or for the sister for whom he has proven his boundless devotion; so that all these individual exceptions taken together coming close to making up the whole feminine realm, man denies to women generally the qualities he grants to each individually.
Many men view with fright woman elevated in her mind by studies like their own, and taking an active part in the affaires over which they have thus far held the monopoly. Their fear is that, carried into these regions of a new order, she will lose some of the grace and beauty which, in their eyes, makes up her greatest charm. We believe that fear is fanciful. Woman, better educated, more serious, giving aid to men in the realm of business, and even of politics, by her originality, her finesse, would cast some flowers of poetry on that sad ground: she would lose nothing from it, and men and politics would gain.
Moreover, those charms, which they would preserve in woman at the price of her liberty and intelligence, are often irrevocably taken from her by cares or illness; then she reaches an age where they are inevitably stripped from her. What remains for her then? What is her place, her mission? With what will she concern herself? Apart from the family, she has been introduced to nothing, and too often that family itself becomes hostile to her; the interests, which are not safeguarded for anyone, are still less so for the woman, and for her their defense is the source of a thousand sorrows!
But most importantly—woe, woe!—if her soul remains young, if you loving faculties are not completely extinguished, along with her beauty, neither in the family such as civilization has made it, nor in the city, as the legislators have made it, will she find the food she needs; at that time she might as well die, for there is no longer any place for her here below.
Then, these lively graces with which God has endowed woman in order to reestablish equilibrium between strength and weakness, these graces, I say, which could be a powerful lever in this world, the motive of all the grandiose actions, the recompense for all the sacrifices, for all the devotions! well,  you reduce them to the petty proportions of an often shameful gallantry; you make weapons of them, which you skillfully turn against woman herself. Thus, the more God has given her, the more beautiful, noble, gracious and intelligent she is, the more all want to contain her, enclose her in a circle sometimes so narrow that she is stifled there; replacing in this way the domestic isolation that you stigmatize among the Orientals, with a moral and intellectual isolation which, at a given time, leads to the same results. Beyond the first years of youth, the woman of the Orient only counts as a slave to he on whom she has heaped her treasures of beauty and love; just so, at a given time, the woman of the Occident only counts as a fireside, a living room tapestry, where too often she becomes the focus of ironic jibes. Young, she often blushes for her beauty, shamelessly coveted; old, she blushes and suffers from her idleness and neglect.
That is the part that, in his justice, man has played toward woman; and yet, when it is a question of initiative to be taken, of progress to be accomplished, you see her follow man, sometimes even to lead him. Then, with an instinctive good sense that even her enemies are forced to recognize, one sees her disappear completely in the days of stagnation and status quo. That is what happened in 1830; women disappeared, so to speak, from the active scene, understanding that there was nothing for them to do in the midst of that shop of upstart grocers. Indeed, they, whose mission was to preserve without stain the traditions of honor and patriotism bequeathed them by the past, could only could only groan at the shrews politics which prepared, within France, ruin and misery, and led, outside, to disrepute and contempt.
However, in 1831 and 1832, the Saint-Simonians spoke some words to woman, who suddenly awoke from her lethargic slumber; the preaching of the apostle Barrault, and of Enfantin, cast into her soul the leaven of new ideas that nothing could remove from now on. And, when the revolution de 1848 broke out, making its rallying cry, Socialisme, heard everywhere, woman was ready to accept it; for she had already understood that that word was the word of the future. Thus, if there was incontestable truth, and yet one always contested, it is that man has wandered for so many centuries in the mysteries of the social labyrinth because he wanted to walk alone, constantly rejecting the Ariadne who wished in vain to help him find his way, that of the true, the beautiful, the good—the true road, finally, originally traced by God, and the only one which leads to happiness. And it will always be the same as long as man shuts himself up with his tyrannical habits, as in a vicious circles, where the evil, constantly reproduced, becomes for the future a consequence of the past.
Let us struggle then peacefully, since progress is the prize of battle. To work, men of the future! Socialist republicans of all schools, to work! Finally boldly call woman to you, that half of your soul, your heart, and your intelligence, too long misunderstood and abandoned; labor together to found the new era, the law of the future, the law of solidarity, indulgence and love.
God protect your combined efforts.
JEANNE Marie.


Source: L’Opinion des Femmes, 1, 1 (January 28, 1849)  5-6.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]



Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Jenny P. d'Hericourt (as Félix Lamb), "The Valain Family" (1847)


The Valain Family.

It was January 7; the winter was cold and foggy; the icy north wind roared around the ancient buildings of old Paris blew off the snow, which, like a white shroud, covered their dome. The inhabitant of the sumptuous hotel, dressed in silk, cashmere and fur, stretched idly on the duvet, and a warm and fragrant atmosphere, watched the sparks that outlined the rich mantelpiece of his fireplace twinkle, all while savoring the exquisite wines and delicate dishes served in their fancy dishes. He waited in a sweet indolence for the night to bring his the pleasures of the ball, the Opera or the cocktail party. The poor man, in his attic room, wrapped in clothes that could not protect him against the assaults of the season, struggled against the cold which slowed his labors, against the hunger that twisted his bowels and brought tears to his poor children.
In an elegant boudoir in a hotel in the Noble Faubourg, a pretty young woman, sunk in a cozy armchair, appeared to read closely one of the newspapers placed on a light table of finely sculpted wood. Her noble and intelligent face sometimes expressed astonishment and sadness, sometimes disbelief, and she rain her little pink fingers over her smooth, pure brow, as if to brush away a somber image, when the door was opened gently.
“Is Madame the baroness home to the doctor?” asked the fresh voice of a young maid.
“Let him enter, Victoire; you know that I am always here for him,” responded the young woman.
Seconds later, Dr. Dorian trod the soft carpets which covered the parquet floor, and paid his respects to the baroness, who gestured to an armchair placed close to her own.
“You who have more knowledge and experience than I, my good dear doctor,” said the young women, after the customary compliments, “tell me then if it is true that there are people who die of cold, and of hunger, while still others seek in suicide a refuge from misery? I just read a part of these papers, and what I have seen there is frightful; all these things are exaggerated, aren’t they?”
“The papers, Madame, tell only what they know, and they are ignorant of nine hundred and ninety-nine misfortunes out of every thousand.”
The baroness opened her eyes in astonishment and fright.
“My profession,” added the doctor, “reveals to me the pains of body and soul that are the portion of the masses; that sad truth remains unknown to you, the privileged of this world, for your flatterers fear troubling your digestion and your slumber, of attaching regret to your joys. Oh! Believe me, Madame, that the real miseries are very numerous and above all very unknown. Certainly, few people know those of an unfortunate family that I must go to visit when I leave your hotel.”
“So, doctor, what are the misfortunes of that family?” asked the baroness.
While the doctor, sitting by a roaring fire, satisfies the curiosity of the young woman, let us lead our reader down the Rue Saint-Jacques.
Not far from the Church of St. Jacques du Haut-Pas sits a dilapidated house, which one enters through a dark, wet and cold alley, which leads to a no less ramshackle staircase, lit by a few “guillotine” windows which gave onto a narrow courtyard, from which rises the sickening stench of sewage; the walls, cracked by the weather, soiled by dust, oozing with the damp. Mounting the warped and uneven steps, you feel the cold touch your soul, and ask how human creatures, children of God, can roost in this frightful vulture's nest. Alas! is the worker free to choose his residence? If he has, like the fortunate ones in the world, a taste for luxury and a need for well-being, is he allowed to obtain a fragment of the things which are the fruits of his constant labor? Is he not the sheep who is only covered with wool for the profit of his possessor? Isn’t he the worker bee who only produces honey to satisfy the sensuality of beings foreign to his species?
In the top floor of the hovel, in two narrow attic rooms, lived the Valain family, consisting of a father, a mother and three children. For three months, the head of the family, drained by labor and privations of every sort, remained in bed, not even thinking of calling for a doctor, whom he could not pay, and whose prescriptions he could not follow. The forced idleness had put him in arrears with his landlord, a hard man, who had told them to move out on January 8; the baker no longer wanted to give them bread, which they must have; the wood merchant would be careful not to sell a log without immediately receiving the payment for it: let one judge the distress of these five unfortunates having for resources, in this harsh season, only the daily wage of Mrs. Valain, which did not exceed one franc. They lacked even the bare necessities
Midi had just struck at the old church of Saint-Jacques; the whole family had gathered in the first room; the father slept; his face ashen, his cheeks hollow, his eyes deeply sunken in their sockets, his extreme gauntness, all indicated a consumption which would soon have a fatal issue. The three children, all hunkered close together to keep warm, blew on the fingers and looked sadly at the hearth, which did not even contain cool cinders. The mother, pale, thin, and chilled, worked without looking up.
The youngest of the children, barely three years old, broke the sad silence which ranged around the sick man with his weeping.
“Hush! Hush! You’ll wake your father,” said Mrs. Valain.
“But I am hungry and cold, mama.”
“Poor thing!” said the mother, drawing the blond head of her son to her breast, on which she let flow some desperate tears. “Weep no more, my Charles; you see, my shirt is almost finished; when it is done, you will have bread.”
“What is it?” asked the father, who had been awakened by the sobbing of his child.
“Nothing, my friend,” responded the mother.
The child approached the patient, who took his little hand.
“Poor boy! You are frozen! Climb on the bed, Charles, and lie down next to me. It will warm you.”
The child did not make him repeat it.
“I fear that it will hurt you,” said Mrs. Valain to her husband.
“I must give him what I have to give, a bit of warmth,” responded the sick man, and onto his pale lips wandered a bitter smile.
At that moment someone knocked, and the oldest of the boys opened the door. It was the landlord.
“Ah!” he said, without greeting anyone. “You remember, I hope, that you must be gone by tomorrow.”
Mrs. Valain, turning more pale, rose.
"Oh! Sir,” she said in a pleading voice, “please, have mercy on us. You see, we lack everything. We can not get my husband to the hospital, because there are no beds. What shall we if you put us out the door?”
“Do what you want, but you must leave tomorrow.”.
“Alas! Sir, we have no place to go. My husband and children must sleep in the street...
“Wherever you wish...”
“Oh! My God!” cried that unhappy woman. “We have no fire, no bread, and tomorrow no home... My God! My God! to see my husband and children die, while so many others have a hundred times what they need!...”
And the unfortunate woman, half-mad with grief, wrung her hands in despair.
“Console yourself, my wife,” said the sick man; “one night under the stars and we will all go together to the grave... Bah! Sooner is always better for us workers...”
But Mrs. Valain did not hear. She felt all the anguish of a wife and mother’s heart; she fell at the feet of the landlord, and gripped him with her wizened arms:
“Oh! Sir,” she cried, “for the love of God, let us die here. Do not evict us!”
“I do not have a house to lodge beggars,” responded that cruel man harshly; you bore me with your lamentations, and if tomorrow, at noon, you have vacated this place...”
It's shameful what you are doing here, sir,” interrupted a young and elegant woman who had witnessed the last few moments with this heartbreaking scene, without the actors being aware… “How much do these unfortunates owe you?” she added, in a haughty, contemptuous tone.
“Three payments, which amounts to 112 fr. 50 c., stammered the landlord.
“Call this evening at the home of Mme. the baroness de X...,” replied the land, “and you will be paid...”
And that lovely lady passed him without further greeting, and entered the attic room, followed by Dr. Dorian.
Mrs. Valain, dumbfounded, remained on her knees, mouth open and eyes wide. Mr. Valain, no less astonished, half-rose, looking at the young woman and her companion. The baroness approached the poor mother and kindly offered her finely gloved hand. This gesture recalled Mrs. Valain to herself; she kissed the hand of the unknown woman and got to her feet. A rapid glance around her informed the baroness of the terrible plight of this honest family; she approached the oldest of the boys, gave him 5 francs, whispered a few words to him and approached the patient, who spoke with Dr. Dorian.
“Well, sir…?” she asked when he had ceased to question Mr. Valain.
“The honest father needs a tonic regimen and no anxiety,” responded the doctor.
The young woman held out her hand tenderly to the sick man.
“You will allow me to rid you of all anxiety, won’t you, Sir?” she said to him.
Mr. Valain lowered his eyes. It seemed hard for him to receive what he had not earned.
At that moment the eldest of the children returned, carrying bread, meat, and a bottle of wine; he was followed by a charbonnier loaded with a basket of wood. Little Charles slipped nimbly out of bed and approached the provisions; his mother beckoned him to wait. The baroness saw it. It would have been cruelty to prolong the hunger of these unfortunate beings: she rose.
“We will be going,” she said to the sick man. “I will return to see you in a dew days, Sir.”
Then, approaching Mrs. Valain, she slid into her hand a twenty-franc piece.
“Make a good broth for your husband, Madame. In an hour you will have chicken and a Bordeaux wine for him.”
 God bless you and reward you, Madame!...” stammered the poor woman bursting into tears, while the baroness clasped her hand, sanctified by labor.
“Well, Madame,” said the doctor to his companion, when they were outside, “do you still believe that the papers exaggerate?”
The baroness did not respond; tears of pity rolled down her rosy cheeks.
“That family, thanks to your providential intervention, is pulled from poverty,” said the doctor. “But, at that time, thousands of workers suffer the same conditions, suffer and die without anyone thinking of doing what you have done.”
“Oh! That’s awful, doctor,” said the young woman, shuddering.
“The number of proletarians increases, while labor and compensation decreases: imagine the increase in misery!...”
“My God! but is there no remedy for this hideous state of things?” responded the baroness.
“There is one, Madame; it is a social order based on Christianity, which is just the fatherhood of God and human fraternity.”
“Yes, but who will outline that social order, doctor?”
“It has been outlined, Madame. Do you wish to concern yourself with the question? I will lend you a little book which explains the basics.”
It is undoubtedly very serious, very metaphysical, and I admit that that scares me.”
“The work is serious in content, but not in form, for its form is just that of a voyage or of a novel written with speed and in a style that stirs the heart and imagination. It is written in a way that may interest women.”
“Ah! really; and what is that work called?”
Le Voyage en Icarie.”
“Then I would be obliged if you would bring it to me, since it will instruct me without tiring me.”
Félix Lamb.


Source: Almanach Icarien, astronomique, scientifique, pratique, industriel ..., Volume 5. 1847. Pp. 120-128.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]