Document 10A: Jeanne Deroin, "Aux Citoyens Français!" La Voix des Femmes, no. 7 (27 March 1848). Translated by Karen M. Offen. Reprinted in Susan Groag Bell and Karen M. Offen, eds., Women, the Family, and Freedom: The Debate in Documents, Volume I, 1750-1880 (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1983), pp. 247-48.

Introduction

        In March 1848, Jeanne Deroin (1805-1894) joined the staff of La Voix des Femmes (Voice of Women), French feminists' first daily newspaper, which became a center for women's political organizing. There she wrote articles that urged the expansion of suffrage rights to include women (see also Document 10B). The periodical was founded by Eugenie Niboyet and other members of the Société de la Voix des Femmes. Rejecting the identification of Saint Simonian women with free love, membership in the Société required proven morality as well as adherence to the Saint Simonian principles of women's moral, intellectual, and material development.

        The reign of brute force has ended; that of morality and intelligence has just begun. The motives that led our fathers to exclude women from all participation in the governance of the State are no longer valid. When every question was decided by the sword, it was natural to believe that women--who could not take part in combat--should not be seated in the assembly of warriors. In those days it was a question of destroying and conquering by the sword; today it is a question of building and of organizing. Women should be called on to take part in the great task of social regeneration that is under way. Why should our country be deprived of the services of its daughters?

        Liberty, equality, and fraternity have been proclaimed for all. Why should women be left only with obligations to fulfil, without being given the rights of citizens? Will they be excused from paying taxes and from obeying the laws of the State? Will they be obliged to obey the laws and to pay the taxes imposed upon them?

        Are they to become the helots of your new Republic? No, citizens, you do not want this; the mothers of your sons cannot be slaves. We address this just demand not merely to the provisional government, which alone cannot decide a question that is of interest to the entire nation. We come to plead our cause--so holy, so legitimate--before the citizens' assembly: our cause is theirs. They will not want to be accused of injustice. When they abolish all privileges, they will not think of conserving the worst one of all and leaving one-half of the nation under the domination of the other half. They will at least give us a role in national representation; some women chosen among the most worthy, the most honorable, the most capable, will be nominated by the men themselves, to come forth in defense of the rights of their sex and the generous principles of our glorious Revolution. Liberty, equality, and fraternity will thus be realized.

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