Hubertine Auclert ( 1848-1914) was one of the young women attracted to the Parisian feminist movement led by Léon Richer and Maria Deraismes in the 1870s. 1 She had been born into a family of prosperous and politically active provincial landowners. After rebelling against her convent education and her family's attempt to keep her in the convent, Auclert took her comfortable inheritance (sufficient for a moderate middle-class life) to Paris. Richer and Deraismes welcomed her, and Auclert quickly became one of the most outspoken activists of the movement.
Auclert broke with Richer and Deraismes because they would not support women's suffrage, which she considered the essential instrument of the emancipation of women (see part 7). She founded her own small group of militants, known initially as Droit des femmes ( Women's Rights) and later as Suffrage des femmes ( Women's Suffrage). While political rights were clearly Auclert's greatest concern, she had quite diverse feminist interests and wrote on hundreds of aspects of complete equality. 2
One issue on which Auclert held strong opinions was marriage. Napoleon's decree of March 17, 1803, had established his code of the civil law and, in it, the legal inferiority of married women. Eight chapters of that code addressed the laws of marriage; Articles 212-226 formed one such chapter, entitled " The Respective Rights and Duties of the Spouses." These articles, which were read at all French marriage ceremonies, stated such legal principles as "the wife owes obedience to her husband." Auclert had no doubt that such laws made marriage "a perpetual prison" for women, requiring "the annihilation of the personality and the will." She did not de