Birthing the "Woman Question," 1848-1870
The crust of patriarchal political order rocked and trembled in 1848, the so-called springtime of the peoples. Beginning with the ouster of Louis-Philippe in Paris, protests and disturbances erupted in Berlin, Vienna, and Frankfurt, in Mainz, Meissen, Milan, Modena, Barcelona, Cologne, Prague, Venice, and Stockholm. The once redoutable chancellor of Austria, Prince Metternich, fled Vienna for exile, and the once fearsome European system of control on freedom of speech, the press, and association evaporated--though only temporarily. "Democracy" was on the march--but would it include women?
In some of these cities, feminist activity poured forth through the fissures opened by men's claims for representative government, for freedom of the press and association. Once again claiming their share of liberty, women founded newspapers and formed their own associations to demand rights and acknowledge their duties as integral members of "the people." Some demanded the right to vote on laws, freedom in marriage, including the right to divorce, and they called for educational and economic solutions to combat women's growing poverty. Others fought alongside men on the revolutionary barricades; a few even adopted male costume in order to fight against the established order. In Paris, a group of women who baptized themselves "the Vesuviennes," after the famous volcano in southern Italy, organized to parade through the streets in revolutionary bloomer costumes and tricolor sashes, whetting enthusiasm for the new order. Their "political constitution" called for men to share the housework, and demanded civil divorce. 1 They clearly believed, with the Saxon activists Robert Blum and Louise Otto, that "women's participation in the state is not just a right but a duty." 2
The feminist honor roll for the 1848 revolutions grows ever longer. In the German-speaking world, the names of Louise Otto in Saxony, Matilda Franziska Anneke in Cologne, Kathinka Zitz-Halein in Mainz, and Karoline Perin in Vienna have joined the list of known activists in