Document 18A: Jenny d'Héricourt, excerpt from A Woman's Philosophy of Woman, or Woman Affranchised: An Answer to Michelet, Proudhon, Girardin, Legouvé, Comte, and Other Modern Innovators (New York: Carleton, 1864, translated from the Paris edition). 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. 348-49.
Jenny d'Héricourt, c. 1856
Original Cliché Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, no. 78A 40464.
Born into a French Protestant family, Jenny d'Héricourt joined Jeanne Deroin in participating in the Revolution of 1848 and served as the secretary for the Society for the Emancipation of Women, founded during the revolution. In 1856 d'Héricourt met Ernestine Rose in Paris and the two wrote descriptions of one another that provide insights into their friendship as well as their personalities. Rose sketched d'Héricourt as a "physician, a woman of noble character, great energy and talents; she is a thorough reformer, particularly for woman's rights and against priests and churches." For a description of A Woman's Philosophy of Woman, see Books-On-Line.
Appeal to Women.
Progressive women to you, I address my last words, Listen in the name of the general good, in the name of your sons and your daughters.
You say: the manners of our time are corrupt; the laws concerning our sex need reform.
It is true; but do you think that to verify the evil suffices to cure it?
You say: so long as woman shall be a minor in the city, the state and marriage, she will be so in social labor; she will be forced to be supported by man; that is to debase him while humbling herself.
It is true; but do you believe that to verify these things suffices to remedy our abasement?
You say: the education that both sexes receive is deplorable in view of the destiny of humanity.
It is true; but do you believe that to affirm this suffices to improve, to transform the method of education?
Will words, complaints and protestations have power to change any of these things?
It is not to lament over them that is needed; it is to act.
It is not merely to demand justice and reform that is needed; it is to labor ourselves for reform; it is to prove by our works that we are worthy to obtain justice; it is to take possession resolutely of the contested place; it is, in a word, to have intellect, courage and activity.
Upon whom then will you have a right to count, if you abandon yourselves?
Upon men? Your carelessness and silence have in part discouraged those who maintained your right; it is much if they defend you against those who, to oppress you, call to their aid every species of ignorance, every species of despotism, every selfish passion, all the paradoxes which they despise when their own sex is in question.
You are insulted, you are outraged, you are denied or you are blamed in order that you may be reduced to subjection, and it is much if your indignation is roused thereby!
When will you be ashamed of the part to which you are condemned?
When will you respond to the appeal that generous and intelligent men have made to you?
When will you cease to be masculine photographs, and resolve to complete the revolution of humanity by finally making the word of woman heard in Religion, in Justice, in Politics and in Science?
What are we to do, you say?
What are you to do, ladies? Well! what is done by women believing. Look at those who have given their soul to a dogma; they form organizations, teach, write, act on their surroundings and on the rising generation in order to secure the triumph of the faith that has the support of their conscience. Why do not you do as much as they?
Your rivals write books stamped with supernaturalism and individualistic morality, why do you not write those that bear the stamp of rationalism, of solidary morality and of a holy faith in Progress?
Your rivals found educational institutions and train up professors in order to gain over the new generation to their dogmas and their practices, why do not you do as much for the benefit of the new ideas?
Your rivals organize industrial associations, why do not you imitate them?
Would not what is lawful to them be so to you.
Could a government which professes to revive the principles of '89, and which is the offspring of Revolutionary right, entertain the thought of fettering the direct heirs of the principles laid down by '89, while leaving those free to act who are more or less their enemies? Can any one of you admit such a possibility?
What are we to do?
You are to establish a journal to maintain your claims.
You are to appoint an encyclopedic committee to draw up a series of treatises on the principal branches of human knowledge for the enlightenment of women and the people.
You are to found a Polytechnic Institute for women.
You are to aid your sisters of the laboring classes to organize themselves in trades associations on economical principles more equitable than those of the present time.
You are to facilitate the return to virtue of the lost women who ask you for aid and counsel.
You are to labor with all your might for the reform of educational methods.
Yet, in the face of a task so complicated, you ask: what are we to do?
Ah, ye women who have attained majority, arise, if ye have heart and courage!
Arise, and let those among you who are the most intelligent, the most instructed, and who have the most time and liberty constitute an Apostleship of women.
Around this Apostleship, let all the women of Progress be ranged, that each one may serve the common cause according to her means.
And remember, remember above all things, that Union is strength.
| Documents Projects and Archives | Teacher's Corner | Scholar's Edition | Full-Text Sources | About Us | Contact Us |