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.


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.

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]