Women: Conformity vs. Resistance

Flora Tristan
Women Writers
Sand vs. Tristan
--Rebels I
--Rebels II
--George Sand
--Flora Tristan

Works Consulted

 "With my union project in my hand, from town to town, from one end of France to the other, to talk to the workers who do not know how to read and to those who do not have the time to read....I will go find them in their workshops; in their garrets and even, if needed, in their taverns, and there, face to face with their poverty, I will compel them, in spite of themselves, to escape from this frightful poverty which is degrading and killing them." -Flora Tristan (Moses, 115-116)
The Woman Messiah
Contrary to the romantic ways of such writers as George Sand or Marie d'Agoult, Flora Tristan was not a novelist. She became active in the feminist movement in the mid 1830s, arguing for divorce and against gender constraints. She saw women as prostituted to marriage and believed that it was only through divorce that the morality of France could rise. After all, the "women's ignorance, hostility toward their husbands, or brutality toward their children [was] not their fault but that of society."(Moses, 112) As her writings became more published, she saw herself as "the woman messiah," who alone would bring about freedom to women and the working class. (Moses, 115)
By the early 1840s, Tristan redirected her writing away from simply women issues and moved towards the rights of all working class Parisians. She claimed to be the first socialist writer to speak to the workers rather than simply about them. Her new goal was to abolish the death penalty and raise the lifestyles of the working class but she didn't forget about freeing the women. In 1843 she wrote L'Union Ouvriere (the worker's movement). It was addressed to the working men of France but within it, addressed issues of women's emancipation. Having clung to her feminist views, she used the rising numbers of politically active working class men to help her in establishing women's freedom. She claimed that the working class men would only be liberated themselves if they helped emancipate their women. After all, if the men did not help equal the pay for women, the men were sure to lose their jobs to the cheaper labor. She proposed that unions should construct "a series of 'worker's palaces' to educate their children, to aid 'the wounded of work', and to care for the aged." (Moses, 109)


Contrary also to the female authors of the time, Tristan was not a bourgeoisie but was instead, a member of the lower working class. Her father's land and money had been confiscated after his death (when she was merely four years old) and due to some legal technicalities, she was declared illegitimate. She worked in a lithograph workshop up until she married her boss and soon found herself enslaved in marriage. A few years later she escaped from her marriage but was only granted a legal separation after her husband shot her. In 1844, she began touring around France in the hopes of educating the working people but fell ill and died in the process. Four years after her death, a monument was erected at her gravesight and 8,000 people came to honor her.
In the life of the workers, woman is everything. She is their providence. If she is missing, everything is missing. It is woman who makes or breaks a home.... As a mother, she influences man during his childhood; it is from her and only her that he draws his first notions of this science so important to acquire, the science of life....As a sweetheart, she influences him during his entire youth....As a wife, she influences him during three-fourths of his life.--Lastly, as a daughter, she influences him in his old age.
-Flora Tristan (Moses, 110)