Feminisms of the Belle Epoque: A Historical and Literary Anthology

By Jennifer Waelti-Walters; Steven C. Hause | Go to book overview

MADELEINE PELLETIER

Madeleine Pelletier has already been seen, in part 2, stating advanced ideas about the education of girls. "A feminist mother," she argued, "should dress her little girl as a boy." That idea, along with strong feelings about such diverse subjects as haircuts and toys, was intended to prepare girls (and society) for genuine equality, beginning with an equal education. "Whatever their sex may be," Pelletier argued, "persons are entitled to intellectual enlightenment and the full blossoming of the spirit."

Pelletier naturally carried the same ardent attachment to complete equality, and the same capacity for radical ideas, into her discussion of male‐ female relationships. Her most important work to deal with this subject was a book published in 1911 under the title of L'Emancipation sexuelle de la femme ( The Sexual Emancipation of Women). The title may seem to imply a wider and more active sex life for women, but that was not Pelletier's goal. Indeed, she personally chose a life of virginity, as the title of her autobiographical novel of 1933 makes clear: La Femme vierge ( The Virgin Woman). 1 This did not mean that Pelletier had chosen or advocated lesbianism (nor that she rejected it more than heterosexuality). 2 Pelletier sought a sexual equality that started with the abolition of the double standard. She made that point and many of its implications clear in the following excerpt from the first chapter of L'Emancipation sexuelle de la femme.

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