Joyous Greetings: The First International Women's Movement, 1830-1860

Joyous Greetings: The First International Women's Movement, 1830-1860

Joyous Greetings: The First International Women's Movement, 1830-1860

Joyous Greetings: The First International Women's Movement, 1830-1860

Synopsis

Over one hundred and fifty years ago, champions of women's rights in the United States, Britain, France, and Germany formed the world's earliest international feminist movement. Joyous Greetings is the first book to tell their story. From Seneca Falls in upstate New York to the barricades of revolutionary Paris, from the Crystal Palace in London to small towns in the German Rhineland, early feminists united to fight for the cause of women. At the height of the Victorian period, they insisted their sex deserved full political equality, called for a new kind of marriage based on companionship, claimed the right to divorce and to get custody of their children, and argued that an unjust economic system forced women into poorly paid jobs. We meet Jeanne Deroin, jailed for organizing unions, who wrote inspirational tracts from her Parisian cell to women abroad; Matilda Anneke, who fought on horseback during the Revolution of 1848 and published women's newspapers in Germany and, after emigrating, in America; Ernestine Rose, a Jewish woman who sued her father for control of her dowry and became a popular public speaker; and Lucretia Mott, the Quaker minister and abolitionist, who maintained international connections and helped to found the American women's movement. These women were part of the vanguard of a feminist movement that emerged as early as the 1830s, proving that feminism transcended national boundaries and existed decades before the suffragettes. These women rejected the traditional view that women's subordination was preordained, natural, and universal. Restoring these daring activists' achievements to history, Joyous Greetings passes on their inspiring and empowering message to today's new generation of feminists.

Excerpt

In May 1851, two forty-five-year-old Frenchwomen, Jeanne Deroin and Pauline Roland, sat in a stone cell in Saint Lazare, the medieval prison for women in Paris. Wearing the convicted prisoner's uniform, a blue- checked neckerchief and a plain wool dress, they passed their time by writing. Leaders of the French women's movement, these close friends had already spent a year in jail for attending an unauthorized political meeting of the socialist Union of Worker's Associations, which they had organized.

As activists, journalists, and schoolteachers, Deroin and Roland had been pressing hard for women's complete political and social equality before they were arrested. in the revolutionary spring of 1848, Roland attempted to vote; Deroin wrote for and helped edit the Voice of Women (La Voix des femmes), a daily feminist newspaper whose offices became an organizing center. Believing in the power of group action, Deroin and Roland continually worked to bring women together: through newspapers and labor unions, in clubs and by petitions.

Almost from the beginning they had to fight their male associates for women's rights. Deroin wrote for a second newspaper in 1848, a monthly called La Politique des femmes; after a few issues appeared, the revolutionary government ruled that women could no longer participate in politics and the journal had to be renamed L'Opinion des femmes. Deroin then ran as a candidate for the legislative assembly in the spring of 1849. Criticized by French socialist P.-J. Proudhon on the grounds that just as men could not be wet nurses so women could not be legislators, Deroin retorted in print . . .

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