French Feminism in the Nineteenth Century

By Claire Goldberg Moses | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
The Birth of an Autonomous Women's Movement

The year 1832 did not begin auspiciously for the Saint-Simonian women. Their loyalties to each other and to Saint-Simonism were shaken by their disagreements over the sexual question. Cécile Fournel, the best-liked of all the women in the former hierarchy, had joined the dissidents. At the November 19, 1831, meeting of the family at which Enfantin had presented his ideas on sexuality, she had declared,

My voice will sound weak after all those that you have heard, [but I] must declare before you that I reject the important-sounding theory that has been exposed here, no matter what you say. I reject it, and in rejecting it, I reject him [Enfantin] who teaches it, him who would spread it. . . . I think that all the women who hear me, who know me, understand that to reject this theory . . . I must have felt something profoundly immoral in it, and I hope to share my fears, and make the women, over whom I may still have some influence, aware of the danger they are running. 1

She tried to remain neutral vis-à-vis the two "fathers" and was able to do so as long as her husband Henri stood by her. But Henri soon joined Enfantin, and Cécile was alone. Elisa Lemonnier found herself in a similar situation, separated from her husband Charles by her disagreement with him over the new morality and her unwillingness to submit to Enfantin's authority. For Cécile Fournel, the separation was especially hard because she and her husband had donated their entire fortune to the Saint-Simonian community. She and one daughter scraped by for six months, until her loneliness, rather than economic hardship, caused her to return to the rue Monsigny. 2

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