Red Virgin: Memoirs Of Louise Michel

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University of Alabama Press, 1981 - Biography & Autobiography - 220 pages
Louise Michel was born illegitimate in 1830 and became a schoolmistress in Paris. She was involved in radical activities during the twilight of France’s Second Empire, and during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and the siege of Paris. She was a leading member of the revolutionary groups controlling Montmarte. Michel emerged as one of the leaders of the insurrection during the Paris Commune of March-May 1871; and French anarchists saw her as martyr and saint – The Red Virgin. When the Versailles government crushed the Commune in May 1871, Michel was sentenced to exile in New Caledonia, until the general amnesty of 1880, when she returned to France and great popular acclaim and support from the working people of the country. Michel was arrested again during a demonstration in Paris in 1883 and sentenced to six years in prison. Pardoned after three years, she continued her speeches and writing, although she spent the greater part of her time from 1890 until her death in 1905 in England in self-imposed exile. It was during her prison term from 1883 to 1886 that she compiled her Memoires, now available in English. These memoirs offer readers a view of the non-Marxist left and give an in-depth look into the development of the revolutionary spirit. The early chapters treat her childhood, the development of her revolutionary feelings, and her training as a schoolteacher. The next section describes her activities as a schoolteacher in the Haute-Marne and Paris and therefore contains much of interest on education in 19th-century Europe. Her chapters on the siege of Paris, the Commune, and her first trial show those events from the point of view of a major participant. Of particular interest is a chapter on women’s rights, which Michel saw as part of the search for the rights of all people, male and female, and not as a separate struggle. The Red Virgin: Memoirs of Louise Michel will be useful to both scholars and students of 19th-century French history and women’s studies.
 

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A magnificent work. Louise was such a unique, courageous, eloquent and sensual woman, and her memoirs reflect this. I am grateful she left so much of herself in writing these memoirs, as they help preserve a small element of what made her so special, as well as preserving the memory of many other communards who left much less behind them.  

Contents

1 Introduction
1
2 Vroncourt
4
3 The End of Childhood
15
4 The Making of a Revolutionary
24
5 Schoolmistress in the HauteMarne
31
6 Schoolmistress in Paris
38
7 The Decaying Empire
45
8 The Siege of Paris
56
17 The Death of Marie Ferre
135
18 Womens Rights
139
19 Speeches Abroad 18821883
143
20 Speeches in France 18821883
150
21 The Trial of 1883
158
22 Prison
172
23 My Mothers Death
179
24 Final Thoughts
190

9 The Commune of Paris
63
10 After the Commune
69
11 The Trial of 1871
81
12 Voyage to Exile
89
13 Numbo New Caledonia
95
14 The Bay of the West
104
15 Noumea and the Return
115
16 Speeches and Journalism November 1880January 1882
123
Epilogue
198
Bibliography
202
Translators Note
204
Appendix I Chapter List Showing Source in Original Text
206
Appendix II Table of Poems in Original Text
207
Index
209
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About the author (1981)

Bullitt Lowry, associate professor of history, and Elizabeth Ellington Gunter, instructor of English, both teach at North Texas State University.

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