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Louise Michel, the Paris commune, and Icaria: Europe's social question and the legacy of French communalism.


Paris and its revolutionary tradition were a long way from the American Midwest, but female members of the Icarian colony at Corning, Iowa reading newspaper accounts of the amnesty of "Communards" in the 1870s knew quite a lot about the life and work of one of them--Louise Michel. An intuitive utopian and lifelong rebel who first made a name for herself fighting on the barricades during the ill-fated Paris Commune in the spring of 1871, Michel was amnestied with fellow Communards in 1880 before returning to Paris to start the last stage of a life devoted to a utopian "dream" of revolution and human emancipation. There was in Michel's biography and in the larger history of the Commune--this was apparent even as far away as Iowa--a communalist spirit: nascent and unstructured, but nonetheless there to detect for the empathetic observer. The Iowa Icariennes knew about Michel and the Paris Commune because, like others in the Icarian colonies that began in the Midwestern United States in 1849, they closely followed events in France through newspapers and the occasional firsthand report: among the latter, in this instance, from a handful of former Communards who made their way to Corning in the 1870s. (1)

For most of her life, Louise Michel was the strident activist and intransigent ex-Communard whose single-minded devotion to the cause of revolution was one source of her nickname: "The Red Virgin." But in the story of Michel, there were additional elements that sparked the interest of the Iowa Icariennes: her experience as a female "soldier" in the Commune's army; the passion she brought to the cause of worker's and women's rights; and, related to these, a utopian dream and burgeoning communalist spirit borne of her experiences in 1871. These were all personal embodiments of the "Social Question." The Social Question was a widely used phrase that described the gap between the promise of citizenship and improved standard of living coming from the Atlantic and Industrial Revolutions, and the reality of actual conditions of everyday life for most people in nineteenth-century Europe and the Americas. The creation of the first Icarian community in the United States was a response by its founder Etienne Cabet to Europe's Social Question.

While the Iowa Icariennes felt an affinity with Louise Michel that drew upon her advocacy of rights and her role in the Commune, she is not usually included among the well-known French communalists of the nineteenth century--a list that includes Cabet, Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier and Victor Considerant. Yet there is a case to be made that Michel has a place alongside this group, and that the story of the Paris Commune, Michel's role in it and the larger Social Question have a salient, though sometimes forgotten role in the history of communalism. This article explores the nineteenth-century European roots of communalism in the Social Question via the role of Louise Michel and the Paris Commune of 1871.

The Social Question and the Roots of Nineteenth-Century Communalism

The many varieties of communalism have a well-documented place in American and European societies, past and present. (2) In the nineteenth century, virtually all of the best-known American nonreligious communal experiments--those associated with Robert Owen from Great Britain, and Saint-Simon, Fourier, and Cabet from France--had roots in Europe, where they were direct responses to the great social and economic disruptions brought on by the Industrial Revolution and the legacies of the French Revolution. They were, in other words, attempts to address nineteenth-century Europe's Social Question.

The "Social Question" was a widely used phrase that referred to the many transformations that appeared to be overwhelming European life in the first half of the nineteenth century. (3) These transformations especially had to do with the social and economic anarchy associated with the growth of modern capitalism and the free market; the environmental degradation accompanying modern factory production, particularly in cities, which by mid-century were becoming desperately overcrowded and unhealthy; the emergence of new social classes and the growing divide among them; and the unfulfilled promise of political and civil rights coming from the French Revolution of 1789. (4) Owen, Fourier, and the others were not the only ones to fret over what the new regime of capitalism meant for Europe and the world.

In the case of France, which this article will emphasize, Emile Zola framed the issues about industrial wastelands in novels like L 'Assommoir and Germinal that are still read today, while public health reformers John Snow and Rene Villerme, concerned about factory labor and the spread of unfamiliar diseases like cholera, helped lay the groundwork for the great urban reform movements of the nineteenth century. (5) At the same time, a generation of political economists and social critics agonized over the meaning and future of this "industrializing revolution." Karl Marx, who would become the most influential analyst of the new regime of capitalism and who spent formative years in Paris in 1843-1844, was convinced that industrialization signaled the start of a final epoch of human history that would see a new social class--the revolutionary proletariat--inherit the new technology and means of production on the road to becoming a universal class.

Most of the reformers and critics were themselves from the middle or upper classes, but workers also responded to the dramatic transformations of the day. To cite just one example, compagnonnage--the tradition by which French workers traveled across France to perfect their trade, and which was governed by an old-fashioned ritual and collectivist ethic-revived after 1815 as a way for workers to assert themselves against bosses and to defend against capitalist assaults on skill. Similarly, there was the birth--sometimes embryonic, sometimes full-fledged--of labor movements that included working-class organizations like the first trade unions, and with this came the advent of the strike as a tactic. Sometimes, workers rebelled physically against the great changes. The first half of the nineteenth century was the age of machine breaking and urban revolt, especially in France. There were waves of revolution across Europe in 1830 and 1848 before the Paris Commune in 1871. The defeat of the Commune was a lesson that efforts to ameliorate the new regime of industry and capitalism--again, to "answer" the Social Question--should come through reform and politics rather than barricades and revolt. This is the familiar, oft-told story of Europe's nineteenth-century Social Question. (6)

Another response to the Social Question in the first half of the nineteenth century was the development of economic alternatives to capitalism that included varieties of socialism, some of which were to contribute to American communalism. Louis Blanc (1811-1882) was a French theorist, political writer, and socialist who argued for an "organization of work" that would moderate competition, create jobs, and allow workers to labor collectively--which he believed was natural to them, unlike the individualism touted by liberal economists. The cooperative movement across Western Europe sought essentially the same goals. "Association," "mutualism," or later in the century "cooperation," were undertakings that came naturally to workers and their advocates, and like other plans they were meant to counter the harmful effects of free enterprise--as in so many intentional communities, to replace egoism with the collective. Two French critics of capitalism who devised influential alternative systems and who were to have an impact on Louise Michel and communes like those of Cabet's Icaria were Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865), the well-known advocate of "small producer" or "mutualist" anarchism, and Pierre Leroux (1797-1871), who proposed something close to a pure communism. All of the above are examples of the range of European ideas and programs that emerged as nineteenth-century alternatives to modern capitalism and as efforts to address the Social Question. (7)

These were some of the plans laid out by secular thinkers who fit the tradition of what we would today call social science. But many European religious thinkers were no less troubled by the Social Question and a future marked by the unhappy promise of unrestrained competition and debilitating factory labor. The writer and activist French priest Felicite de Lammenais (1782-1854), who influenced Cabet, drew upon an early version of the "social gospel" and a long history of collectivist Catholic confraternities to argue against what he considered the amoralism of capitalism and to advocate a return to what would later be called a "moral economy." (8) There was concern at the top of the hierarchy, too. After 1871, French Catholic paternalist cercles headed by wealthy benefactors sought ways to ameliorate the malicious impact of the free market. (9)

Analyses of the great changes to European society and economy, critiques of capitalism, and alternative schemes fitting under the broad umbrella of socialism (to which communal experiments like those of Fourier and Cabet adhered) all belonged to the story of the nineteenth century. That story was taken up by a later generation of scholars for whom the shared roots of European communalism and socialism--along with feminism and other modern visions sometimes labeled "utopian"-were self-evident, even as these ideas in experimental form had been removed from Europe to New World settings like the Icarian colonies. For the twentieth-century scholar Jacques Ranciere, the study of labor or working-class history and of intentional communities derived from precisely the same source: the "worker's dream" of a happy economic, political, and spiritual life in nineteenth-century Europe. (10) The founding of communes in America was for Ranciere and like-minded scholars of his generation a related chapter in an over-arching history that began with industry, revolution, and the Social Question in nineteenth-century Europe.

This analysis has emphasized the French roots of the Social Question, but of course the phenomenon was a European and Atlantic one. Sometimes, the "answer" to the Social Question in Europe was rebellion, but for some nineteenth-century European reformers--whether French, British, or German--and their mainly working-class followers, the response was to leave the Old World for the New. Robert Owen's New Harmony experiment of 1825, though it mostly included persons from his own social class rather than proletarians, was born of concerns about industry and the experience he had gained from the factory he owned and managed at New Lanark, Scotland. In the 1840s, a handful of Fourierist communities modeled on the phalanxes described by Charles Fourier were established in the United States by enthusiasts such as Albert Brisbane. (11) And Etienne Cabet's French Icarians, inspired by their leader's literary vision of a new world in Voyage en Icarie (1840), abandoned a Europe lost to industrial degradation and political turmoil. (12) Though the preconditions of the Owenite, Fourierist, and Icarian communalist experiments in the United States are sometimes forgotten, Europe's Industrial Revolution and the effort to address the Social Question were the fundamental inspirations for these communal experiments of nineteenth-century America. It was also the setting that produced the Paris Commune and Louise Michel, whose histories are additional reminders of the nineteenth-century ties between European and American communalism.

The Paris Commune of 1871

Louise Michel is probably best known for her role as a Communard, that is, as a participant and supporter of the Paris Commune of 1871, which was one response to the Social Question. The Commune was a mostly working-class rebellion that gained control of Paris from March to May 1871. It began as a spontaneous demonstration by a section of the city's working class against a national government that had recently lost a short, painful war against Prussia and was attempting to reassert control over the capital. In doing so, the government provoked an urban rebellion that became a civil war, with the city of Paris pitted against the French government and national army. Very soon after coming to power, the Commune demonstrated a special sympathy toward the working class by promoting progressive or socialist economic and political goals. In the end, the Commune's leaders were not able to devise a fully coherent program. This failure resulted partly from the fact that the Communards were preoccupied with the need to defend the city against the military forces of the national government, which eventually defeated them. (13)

"Commune" describes a municipal entity of any size in France, from village to city. In France, the term has a modern political history that dates from the Revolution of 1789 and was adopted by the Paris municipal government elected after the rebellion of March 1871 and the subsequent evacuation of the city by the regular French army. Communards were supporters of the Commune, most of whom were skilled workers, as judged by the records of those who joined the municipal National Guard (federes) or were later arrested. Unskilled workers and clerks also participated but at lower rates. Proletarian factory workers of the type described by Marx were not prominent because the Parisian economy had fewer modern factories than cities like Manchester and Birmingham in England or Lille and Saint-Etienne in France. Women participated, too, though they could not vote in elections. Dedicated Communards--especially those who fought on the barricades through the final Bloody Week street battles of May--were second- or third-generation sons and daughters of the changes to French society wrought by industrialization and capitalism. The Paris Commune was one response to the Social Question. (14)

"Utopianism, social and cultural experimentation, and drastic self-conscious innovation--symbolic and concrete--occur," writes the historian Richard Stites describing the early years of the Russian Revolution, "in the midst of all major social revolutions of modern times." (15) This was certainly true of the Commune, where a utopian spirit infused the spring of 1871. This was revealed in a range of public policies, in the art promoted by the municipal government, and in the later recollections of individual Communards like Michel. Communards were motivated by a determination to make economic and political change; the desire for local autonomy and the creation of a federal system across France; the resentment felt by ordinary Parisians toward the government for the recent military defeat to Prussia and her German allies; and, as the fighting between city and nation intensified, the desire of neighbors and coworkers to defend neighborhoods against the Versaillais (the national army attempting to retake the capital). (16) Tragically, the utopian spirit of the spring of 1871 descended into the terrible street-by-street fighting that brought the rebellion to an end during Bloody Week (May 21-28, 1871). (17)

It is worth emphasizing that the Commune was preoccupied with defending itself during its short existence, because at the time and ever since, the Commune was criticized for its slowness in producing concrete policies. But in its short life, the Commune, operating through an Executive Commission composed of a variety of political factions representing the left of the French political spectrum, pursued a set of social and economic goals that included providing pensions for families of federes who had been killed and extending a moratorium on debts. Its "Declaration to the French People of 1871" spoke to individual and municipal rights, even if there were few specific recommendations on taxing, finances, and industry. (18) The utopian promise of a proletarian state--and with it a new, progressive, noncapitalist superstructure--was stillborn in 1871. "Paris, ville libre," the short-lived vision of a free and autonomous city within a federated French national state, was crushed during Bloody Week. (19) By the end of this French civil war, as many as twenty thousand persons, mostly on the Communard side, were killed, and more than forty thousand arrested. Many of the latter were tried, convicted, and sent to overseas penal colonies in Algeria or New Caledonia, and Louise Michel was among them. Michel and the remaining convicted Communards were granted amnesty in 1880. (20)

The Commune was the longest-lived, but also the most tragic and violently repressed, of all nineteenth-century European rebellions. The Commune had its origins in progressive, utopian ideals aimed at addressing the Social Question and through its Executive Commission tried to enact a handful of reforms. But given its precarious situation and the intransigence of the French national government at Versailles (just twenty miles from Paris), it is not surprising that during its short life, the Commune focused more on political and military matters than on economic or industrial policies. After the fact, the Commune stood more for what it might have become than for what it did. (21)

Communalism and the Paris Commune

The communism of the Paris Commune has long been a topic of scholarly interest--in fact, for many decades probably the main topic of interest. (22) Its communism has usually been situated in the handful of collectivist economic, political, and educational programs adopted by its Executive Commission. Afterward, critics accused some Communards of belonging to the First International headed by Karl Marx and the Russian anarchist Michael Bakunin, but in fact that organization had few adherents in 1871. (23) Indeed, most of the Commune's reforms were common to the spectrum of the mid-nineteenth century French political left--from socialists to Proudhonist anarchists to neo-Jacobins, and from communists associated with Marx to those who followed Pierre Leroux. Second-generation adherents of the ideas of Saint-Simon and Fourier were there, too.

Looking back, a case can be made that there were also two forms of incipient or developmental communalism in the Commune distinguishable from its communism. (24) One was in the desire by Parisians for local autonomy and a federal system made up of all municipal communes within France. This was a communalism writ large that had roots in French traditions and institutions dating from at least the Middle Ages and that more recently had served as inspiration for the Parisian municipal government during the French Revolution of 1789-1794. (25) However, as a generation of scholars has described in the last four decades, there was in 1871 also a communalism writ small--an urban communalism evident in militant neighborhood parochialism, generated in part by the massive urban renewal of Paris undertaken by prefect of the Seine Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann in the 1850s and 1860s.

This latter interpretation was first offered in 1964 by Jacques Rougerie, the preeminent French historian of the Commune, who strayed from the dominant Marxist-inspired interpretations of his day to describe the events of 1871 as a "communalist insurrection." (26) Rougerie saw the Commune characterized less by the catastrophic social antagonisms identified by Marx than by the desire of an intermediary type of working class to establish a "Free Paris"--that is, a decentralizing revolt motivated at the start by frustration with a shamefully prosecuted war but which quickly evolved into something more. (27) Since Rougerie's day, the scholarly focus has continued to narrow to the neighborhood level in an effort to explain the motivation of Communards. Influential interpretations by Robert Tombs and Roger Gould argue that the Communards were defending their neighborhoods during the fighting of Bloody Week and that parochialism was as strong a factor as social class in the contest. (28) Gould's analysis underlines the difference between the Commune and the June Days Rebellion of 1848, the latter an instance of open class struggle while the Commune was guided by a "participation identity" molded through local experience and shifting residential patterns brought on by the "Haussmannization" of the Second Empire (1852-1870). (29) The working class suburbs of Paris, annexed to the city only in 1860 and whose inhabitants were organized in the National Guard, showed a particularly fierce localism in 1871. For Gould, it was a combination of social class and attachment to neighborhood that brought the Communards to the barricades; more broadly, nineteenth-century urban militancy was less a function of proletarianization or labor protest than of neighborhood loyalty and short-term provocations. (30) This urban, neighborhood communalism was also manifested in autarkic economic and political policies adopted during the spring of 1871, in the persistent regional ethos of migrant workers who joined the federes, and then, tragically, in the street fighting of Bloody Week. In this sense, Gould's view is a latter-day echo of the recollection of Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray, a Communard who fought on the barricades and wrote its first history and for whom "the Commune was a barricade," not a government. (31) These were the experiences lived by one of Lissagaray's fellow Communards, Louise Michel, whose communalist sentiments could be detected by others, even as far away the Icarian colony of Iowa.

Louise Michel: Communalism, Feminism and Politics

In 1905, at the time of her death, probably no one represented the mystique, the symbolism--one might even say the romantic face--of revolution more than Louise Michel, one of the "unruly women" described in Gay Gullickson's history of women in the Paris Commune. (32) This was the case not because of Michel's political ideas, which were self-consciously imprecise, but because of other qualities: her striking physical appearance (remarkably like images of "Marianne"--the idealized, feminine icon of the French republic), intense empathy for the poor, unflagging revolutionary zeal, and burgeoning utopian impulse. (33) Still, Louise Michel is not especially familiar to those outside of France.

Born in a small town in eastern France, Louise Michel (1830-1905) trained as a teacher before moving to Paris in 1866. She began her political life during the last years of the Second Empire as a vehement anti-Bonapartist and during the Prussian siege of Paris in the fall and winter of 1870-1871 as a member of a neighborhood Vigilance Committee. She took on a prominent role in the events of March 1871 when the working-class population of her Montmartre district confronted soldiers trying to remove the cannon of the local National Guard. Through the end of the Commune in May, Michel seemed to be everywhere--reviving the Vigilance Committee (disbanded near the end of the Prussian siege), advocating on behalf of universal free education, organizing ambulances for wounded soldiers, and even finding time, as Gullickson points out, to "rescue stray animals." (34) "During the entire time of the Commune," Michel later wrote, "I never really went to bed.... Everybody who wanted deliverance gave himself totally to the cause." (35) Passionate and prone to the dramatic, at one point she volunteered to make her way to Versailles to assassinate Adolphe Thiers, the head of the government, an offer not accepted by the Executive Commission. For donning a federe uniform, participating in sorties against the Versaillais, and fighting on the barricades during Bloody Week, Michel gained a reputation as "the Great female warrior of the Commune." (36)

When the Commune fell, Michel was arrested and taken to the prison camp at Satory on the outskirts of Paris, where Communards of all ages and both genders were kept in dire conditions. In December 1871, she was tried and sentenced by a military court to deportation to the French penal colony of New Caledonia, where she remained from 1873 until her return to France with the amnesty of 1880. From then until her death, Michel was a defiant and unrepentant ex-Communard, taking up political causes, speaking before groups, leading demonstrations, and serving another, shorter spell in prison. She now became a European figure, spending much of her time outside of France, especially in England. In ill health following a strenuous visit to French Algeria, Michel died at Marseilles in January 1905. Buried there, her remains were disinterred and brought to Paris, where her funeral cortege and reburial became the occasion for an enormous demonstration of eighty thousand to one hundred thousand persons, which may have been the largest in the capital since the death of Victor Hugo two decades earlier. (37) Soon after her passing, a group calling themselves the "Friends of Louise Michel" was founded to carry on her message. Subsequently, there were anniversary commemorations and pilgrimages to her gravesite that would go on for years and that were sometimes held in conjunction with anniversary remembrances of the Commune. (38) By 1929, as one Paris newspaper observed in reporting on the continuing anniversary celebrations of her death, "There is a 'legend' Louise Michel, and like all legends it is long-lived." (39) For devotees in France and across the Atlantic, Michel embodied "la mystique de la Revolution" as much in death as in life.

The legend of Louise Michel was a long time in the making. For those who knew of her in the late nineteenth century, she symbolized revolution, political emancipation, the active role of women in public life, and a nascent communalist spirit more than she stood for strict ideas of communism, anarchism, or any other ideology. Though she is not usually included with famous communalists of the century like Owen, Saint-Simon, Fourier, and Cabet, Michel's personal story and words resonated in many places, including the Icarian colony of Corning, Iowa. In this sense, it is not hard to see her in the same light as two nineteenth-century contemporaries: Sojourner Truth and Flora Tristan. The American Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) was the former slave who became a famous abolitionist. As described by Wendy Chmielewski, Truth also was an advocate for a clear "utopian vision and search for community" before and after the American Civil War, speaking on countless occasions on behalf of women's rights and working diligently, though ultimately unsuccessfully, to secure land grants for former slaves. (40) Similar qualities are to be found in the life story of Flora Tristan, who, like Truth, has belatedly earned a place in the history of communalism. Tristan (1803-1844) was from France, though with Peruvian roots. She was a tragic figure who suffered marital abuse and witnessed the ravages of war in South America before turning her energy toward the urban poverty and degradation that accompanied the early decades of industrialization in France and England. Tristan died from tuberculosis while on a speaking tour to spread the "good news" of communal socialism and women's rights. (41) All three--Louise Michel, Sojourner Truth, and Flora Tristan--were emblematic of certain trends in the nineteenth century. They were independent women who devoted their lives to a "utopian vision and search for community" while operating in paternalistic societies that provided little opportunity to pursue their goals with the same resources available to male thinkers and activists such as Owen, Cabet, or the followers of Saint-Simon and Fourier. In hindsight, all three figures may be seen as products of the Social Question, utopian thinkers, and nascent communalists.

Because of Michel's role in the sexual politics of late nineteenth-century France and Europe, a number of scholars have also identified her as an early feminist. (42) Some of this notoriety had to do with the post-1871 effort by conservative commentators to discredit the Commune as "pathological," with female Communards subjected to a "special vitriol" because the fires that burned sections of Paris during Bloody Week were rumored to have been started by "petroleuses," Michel among them. (43) After her amnesty, Michel, more than any other survivor from the Commune, was seized upon by detractors as a symbol of the supposed deviant sexual and pathological symptoms of 1871. Upon resuming her political activities after the amnesty, Michel's private life and close relationships with other women now aroused "keen interest" (44); it was this period that the nickname and myth of "The Red Virgin" became attached to her. (45) In the 1890s, Michel's personal story even became a topic of investigation by "sexologists" for whom, writes one scholar, "a woman who flouted established gender norms by her political activism, her failure to marry, her refusal to be subservient to men, and her flagrant rejection of accepted conventions of femininity proved herself not to be a woman at all, but an inversion of what it meant to be a woman, or a third sex." (46) Yet another spur for comment was Michel's androgynous appearance and "tomboyish" mannerisms. (47) For one prominent German sexologist writing in 1905, Michel's actions during the Commune, her radical politics, even her "talent for math, ... the sciences, and her early interests in reading were additional signs of homosexuality." (48)

These were the impressions generated in sections of the medical field and on the political right, but after Michel's death, friends on the left also adopted some elements of the myth-making, even as they tried to offset the pathological interpretations by casting Michel as either asexual and singularly focused on politics or as someone who had simply kept her heterosexuality very private. One friend, the American anarchist Emma Goldman, "staunchly adhered to the asexual saint persona," while Michel's best-known biographer, Edith Thomas, chose to counter the rumors by exaggerating Michel's heterosexuality, even suggesting a liaison with Victor Hugo. (49) In the end, as one scholar has written, there has been too much of this kind of speculation: "Charges and countercharges about Michel's private life have preoccupied observers both contemporary and historical, but the wider significance of her life as a thoughtful and unconventional woman attempting to transcend the limitations of traditional femininity has often escaped notice." (50)

It was social and political change, not sexual politics, that especially animated Louise Michel. She vehemently rejected any form of orthodoxy, but rather she was a self-conscious proponent of sentiment and action over ideas--"deeds not words," as the anarchist credo of the day held. (51) Michel is best seen as a "dreamer"--though the meaning of the term can be elusive--and in this sense an instinctual utopian. (52) Still, Michel often referred to particular political and economic ideas, drawing upon an intellectual legacy that included the works of communalist thinkers Proudhon, Blanc, and Considerant and echoing the standard tenets of French socialism of the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1881, just after her amnesty, the newspaper La Revolution sociale printed Michel's "program":

   From each according to his strengths, to each according to his
   needs. We believe that society is neither innate nor immanent,
   but is a human invention whose purpose it to struggle against
   deaths that nature brings otherwise. Above all, society ought to
   benefit the weak and surround them with a special solicitude
   to compensate for their inferiority. Consequently, the goal we
   propose and hope for is the creation of a social order in which
   the individual, so long as he gives all he can give of devotion
   and work, will receive all he needs.... Let the table be set for
   everyone, and let each person have the right and the means to
   sit down to the social banquet. Let everyone eat at that banquet
   as his choice and appetite direct without anyone measuring out
   his serving according to the amount he can pay. (53)

A consistent theme for Michel, born of her experiences in 1871, was support for a kind of federalism that had ties to traditional and contemporary conceptions of communalism. "We revolutionaries aren't just chasing a scarlet flag," she wrote. "What we pursue is an awakening of liberties, old or new. It is the ancient commune of France; it is 1793; it is June 1848; it is 1871. Most especially, it is the next revolution, which is advancing under the dawn." (54) She was an early supporter of the strategy of the "general strike," breaking with the French Marxists as they became more attuned to the reformist, evolutionary goals of the 1890s. (55) At the same time, Michel spurned electoral politics and was unrelenting in her criticism of politicians, including potential allies on the left like the "Opportunists" and "Possibilists" in Third Republic France. (56) After 1880, she became a more consistent advocate of women's rights, adhering to an emerging essentialist view of the different political natures of the genders. "We women are not judged the same way men are," she wrote, "Men rule with a lot of uproar, while it is women who govern without noise." (57) Michel had been a soldier for the Commune, yet after her amnesty she became a staunch foe of militarism. For her, anti-militarism meant especially opposition to conscription laws and the paternalist culture she saw as its root. "Little girls are brought up in foolishness," she wrote, "and are expressly disarmed so that men can deceive them more easily. That is what they want.... In our world, the proletarian is a slave; the wife of a proletarian is even more a slave." (58)

There were additional aspects to Louise Michel's character that link her to communal ideas and experiments of the nineteenth century and beyond: her love of animals, the special closeness she had with her mother, and her advocacy of universal education. A quality of Michel's that seemed to resonate in the Icarian colonies was a deep, almost painful empathy for all creatures; she was, as one friend eulogized after her death, a "Christian without God." (59) Similarly, the fact that she reveled in her status as a social outcast--an exile in her own country even after her return to France in 1880--evokes comparisons with communalists and communal experiments of the last two centuries, including the Icarian colonies in the American Midwest. (60) Profound loyalty to friends, ex-Communards, and family guided her behavior throughout life and even to death: choosing fidelity over political symbolism, she opted to be buried beside her mother at Paris's Levallois cemetery rather than at Pere Lachaise, the site of the execution of the last Communards in May 1871, and by the time of Michel's death in 1905, a virtual shrine to the event. (61)

Louise Michel, the Paris Commune, and Icaria

In the 1870s, stories about Louise Michel and the Paris Commune began to arrive at the Icarian colony of Corning, Iowa, which was an offshoot of the Nauvoo, Illinois, settlement established in 1849 by Etienne Cabet (1788-1856). Cabet had founded the original Icarian movement in France in the 1840s as his own response to the Social Question before leading followers to the United States, first to Texas and then to Nauvoo. (62) By the time Cabet died in 1856, the American Icarians had split--some, including Cabet himself, going to Missouri, while others went to Iowa and from there to California. (63) The colony at Corning, Iowa, was the longest lasting of all the Icarian settlements.

Through the years, French political and social ideas held an important place in the Icarian settlements. The works of eighteenth-century philosophes--Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau--and nineteenth-century revolutionaries--Buonarotti, Blanqui and Barbes--all of them formulators of the Social Question, could be found in Icarian households and libraries. (64) Icarians in the United States read and heard the news from France as they also kept a distance from their "English" neighbors by erecting cultural barriers and persisting as exiles in the new land they had chosen as home. Jacques Ranciere aptly described the Icarian colonies as the product of "a dream of men who wanted to keep a foot in each world." (65) This was the situation for many decades, though the Icarians had assimilated by the 1890s. (66)

Ahead of this, however, the events of 1870-1871 in France were felt among the Icarians as news of the Paris Commune reverberated across the United States, where one result of the reporting was to turn the word "communism" into a pejorative, an evolution that would become more pronounced in the twentieth century in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. (67) Political commentators and religious leaders in the United States denounced the Commune in the spring of 1871, drawing lessons about the "atheism" of the French working class and likening the event to the Red Terror of 1793-1794 rather than to a civil war like the one the Americans themselves had concluded themselves just a few years earlier. (68) Some Americans, especially on the political left, defended the Paris Commune. This was the case among the Icarians in Corning. Albert Shaw, a contemporary and early historian, described the young Icarians he knew as "fired by the events of '71 in Paris" and attracted to "the new communism of France" as well as "the Social Democracy of Germany and the Nihilism of Russia." (69)

Also speaking in support of the Commune at Corning was Jules Leroux, a brother of the French communist theorist Pierre Leroux. Jules Leroux had immigrated to Kansas in 1866, where he edited a radical French-language newspaper before moving to Corning with his wife in 1876. There, Leroux encouraged a positive reading of the Commune while also serving as patron to a second generation of Icarian Progressives or Communards, the Young Icaria group. (70) Young Icaria was made up mostly of young people and a few former Parisian Communards, including some who had known Louise Michel. (71) The Young Icarians opposed many of the habits and policies of the older generation, the Conservatives, who had set up the Corning colony after a split at Nauvoo two decades earlier. Specifically, the Young Icarians wanted changes in the education (the Cours icarien) of young children, a shift in production to include more skilled work and less farming, and changes to the constitution that would include voting rights for women. The two groups split in 1877, with the younger generation setting up their own settlement not far away. The Young Icarians brought in new recruits, published a newspaper (La Jeune Icarie) that printed letters from ex-Communards and articles with a socialist and feminist flavor, and wrote the promised progressive constitution. But the experiment did not last long. (72) The Young Icarians' contest with the Conservatives over assets and legacy ended up in a local court in 1878. Leroux and other members soon left for California, where a new commune with Icarian roots was established at Cloverdale in the early 1880s. At the same time, the colony at Corning atrophied, so that when their original founding charter was legally vacated in 1898, the end was little noticed. (73)

In the meantime, however, women's rights had struck a chord at Corning. This was partly a generational reaction to the failed promise of Cabet's New World "republican motherhood," which had not materialized in the actual policies of the paternalistic founder. (74) Citoyenne-a term commonly used in the communities at Nauvoo and Corning, which held forth the goal of equal rights between men and women-had been quickly reduced, writes Diane Garno, "to a polite, classless address." (75) News of the Paris Commune and the story of Louise Michel thus found fertile ground with the Icariennes and with Young Icaria as the latter were distancing themselves from their elders by writing the new constitution that gave women greater rights in a general assembly. (76) In the generational struggle at Corning, Michel became an inspirational figure for many Icariennes and for those younger males at Corning who supported improvements in the status of women. (77) At the same time, the writings of Andre Leo--another ex-Communard and a comrade of Michel, who worked as a journalist and penned popular novels promoting socialism and feminism--became known in Iowa. (78) The evolving legend of Michel, the impact of Leroux, the writings of Leo, and the arrival of a handful of ex-Communards made the Paris Commune an event, if not exactly to be emulated in rural western Iowa, to be learned from and admired. (79) Likewise, Michel's personal model of "courage and selflessness" and the communalist spirit of 1871 she embodied made her amnesty of 1880 a cause of celebration even in far-off Iowa. (80) Icariennes living in small communities in still relatively isolated sections of the American Midwest seemed to identify with the experience of female independence, activism, the sense of exile, utopian spirit, and nascent communalism in the story of Louise Michel. (81)


The Social Question was a widely used phrase in the nineteenth century that stood for disappointment, resentment, even anger at the unmet promises of citizenship and an improved standard of living coming from what Eric Hobsbawm described as the "dual revolutions" of industrialization and the French Revolution. (82) A variety of responses arose in Europe to these unmet promises: reform movements like Chartism in England; revolution, like the Paris Commune, in France; and the development of a generation of radical thinkers, Karl Marx most prominent among them but also including the utopians he seemed to poke fun at: Saint-Simon, Owen, Fourier, and Cabet. Among the utopians, the response to the Social Question was sometimes to leave Europe in order to set up alternative societies in the United States. The Icarian colonies were direct responses to Europe's Social Question.

In the story of Louise Michel, too, we can see a response to the Social Question and evidence of the historical ties linking European and American communalism. When we remember Michel, it is mostly because of the role she played in the Paris Commune, her subsequent life as an activist, and the legacy of the "Red Virgin" that was perpetuated around her, itself the product of her revolutionary passion and the myth or mystique of her sexuality. Another legacy, partly unrecognized because the other chapters of her story were so eye-catching--and similar to the stories of nineteenth-century contemporaries Sojourner Truth and Flora Tristan--is a place in the history of communalism that extended across the Atlantic, in this case to the Icariennes of Iowa. Michel's experiences during and after the Commune, communicated in word and deed, demonstrated a proto-feminism and an instinct for the communal and the utopian that appealed to Iowa Icariennes in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Her empathy for others, her embrace of exile and rejection of the mainstream, her burgeoning communalist spirit that was the product of life experiences during the Paris Commune--these, too, are part of the legacy of Louise Michel and a reminder of the European roots of nineteenth-century American communalism.

(1) Diana M. Garno, Citoyennes and Icaria (Lantham, MD: University Press of America, 2005). An early version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Communal Studies Association at Oneida, New York (October 2012). I would like to thank members of that audience for their comments. I would also like to thank the journal's anonymous readers, whose observations very much improved this article.

(2) The examples are numerous and well documented--from German Harmonists reacting against conscription into the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte at the start of the nineteenth century to Americans moving from the northwestern United States to agricultural communes in Soviet Russia in the 1920s (a reversal of the usual directional flow) to hippies pursuing alternative lifestyles in intentional communities in the 1960s. For a sampling, see Karl J. R. Arndt, George Rapp's Harmony Society, 1785--1847 (Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1972); Seth Bernstein and Robert Cherny, "Searching for the Soviet Dream: Prosperity and Disillusionment on the Soviet Seattle Agricultural Commune, 1922-1972," Agricultural History 88, no. 1 (Winter 2014): 22-44; and Timothy Miller, The 60s Communes: Hippies and Beyond (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1999). A historical overview of communalism for the United States is Donald E. Pitzer, ed., America's Communal Utopias (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997). The sources on the utopian tradition in the United States are abundant but less so for Europe. For a sample of the latter that emphasizes the French experience, see Maurice Agulhon et al., 1848: Les utopismes sociaux (Paris: CDU et SEDES, 1981); Henri Desroche, La Societe festive: Du fourierisme ecrit aux fourierismes pratiques (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1975); and Robert B. Carlisle, The Proffered Crown: Saint-Simonianism and the Doctrine of Hope (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987). On Fourierist communities in France, see Frank and Fritzie P. Manuel, eds., French Utopias: An Anthology of Ideal Societies (New York: Schocken Books, 1971) and Jonathan Beecher, Victor Considerant and the Rise and Fall of French Romantic Socialism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).

(3) Jerome Lallement, "Trois economists face la Question Sociale de XIXe siecle," Romantisme 133 (2006): 48-58. The phrase was used throughout Europe, as well as in North and South America. See Anne Lekke, "Creating the Social Question: Imagining Society in Statistics and Political Economy in Late Nineteenth-Century Denmark," Social History/Histoire Sociale 35 (Novemer 2003): 393, 422; Jacqueline Heinen, "La question sociale en Pologne: Un processus de polarization qui modele les rapports de genre," Materiaux pour l'Histoire de Notre Temps 53 (January 1999): 41-52; and Rosa Bruno-Jofre, "The Catholic Church in Chile and the Social Question in the 1930s: The Political Pedagogical Discourse of Fernando Vives des Soler, S.J.," Catholic Historical Review 99 (October 2013): 703-36.

(4) According to Pamela Pilbeam, "Explanations of the Social Question varied from the psychological and moral to the economic." Pilbeam, French Socialists before Marx: Workers, Women and the Social Question in France (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2000), 12.

(5) Writes Pilbeam: "In the first half of the nineteenth century, most social commentators in France thought that they lived in a sick society ... [and] the problems would become more acute unless radical solutions were adopted." Ibid., 12.

(6) There is an enormous literature on these topics. A good overview of the modern era in Europe remains the series by Eric J. Hobsbawm: The Age of Revolution, 1789--1848 (New York: Vintage, 1996); The Age of Capital, 1848-1875 (New York: Vintage, 1996); The Age of Empire, 1875-1914 (New York: Vintage, 1989); and The Age of Extremes, 1914-1991 (New York: Vintage, 1996). Charles Tilly wrote as much about the pattern of European revolution as anyone. For an overview, see European Revolutions, 1492-1992 (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 1996). The idea of the Social Question underlies many works, but see, for instance, Andrew R. Aisenberg, Contagion: Disease, Government, and the "Social Question" in Nineteenth-Century France (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999); Elizabeth Sage, A Dubious Science: Political Economy and the Social Question in Nineteenth-Century France (New York: Peter Lang, 2009); Douglas Moggach and Paul Leduc Browne, eds., The Social Question and the Democratic Revolution: Marx and the Legacy of 1848 (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2000); William H. Sewell Jr., Work and Revolution in France: The Language of Labor from the Old Regime to 1848 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980); and William Coleman, Death Is a Social Disease: Public Health and Political Economy in Early Industrial France (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982). For the United States, see Emmett R. Curran, "Confronting 'the Social Question': Catholic Thought and the Socio-Economic Order in the Nineteenth Century," U.S. Catholic Historian 5 (March 1986): 165-93. On the internationalization of the idea of the Social Question in the nineteenth century, see Olivier Chaibi, "L'Internationalisation de la question sociale au cours du premier XIXe siecle: de l'internationalisme des 'utopistes' a l'Association international des travailleurs," Cahiers d'Histoire: Revue d'Histoire Critique 124 (juillet-sept. 2014): 25-44. On the tradition of compagnonnage, see Cynthia J. Truant, The Rites of Labor: Brotherhoods of Compagnonnage in Old and New Regime France (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994). A recent biography of Marx is Jonathan Sperber, Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life (New York: Liverwright, 2013); see also J. Amarigilio, "Subjectivity, Class, and Marx's 'Forms of the Commune,'" Rethinking Marxism 22 (2010): 329-44.

(7) Leo A. Loubere, Louis Blanc: His Life and His Contribution to the Rise of Jacobin-Socialism (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1961); K. Steven Vincent, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the Rise of French Republican Socialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984). A classic account that touches upon most of these themes is E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York: Vintage, 1966); see also Rohan McWilliams, "Back to the Future: E. P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm and the Re-Making of Nineteenth-Century British History," Social History 39 (April 2014): 149-59. On "association" in the Paris Commune, see Martin Phillip Johnson, The Paradise of Association: Political Culture and Popular Organizations in the Paris Commune of 1871 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996).

(8) Pilbeam, French Socialists before Marx. The phrase "moral economy" is from the British historian E. P. Thompson, "The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century," Past & Present 50 (February 1971): 76-136.

(9) On religion and politics in France, see Edward Berenson, Populist Religion and Left-Wing Politics in France, 1830-1852 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984). On religious paternalism during the Third Republic, see Maurice Levy-Leboyer, Le Patronat de la seconde industrialization (Paris: Les Editions Ouvrieres, 1979). On religions, revolution and communalism more generally, see Lawrence Foster, "When Do Millennial Religious Movements Become Politically Revolutionary?: A Comparative Analysis of the Oneida Community, the Taiping Rebellion, and the Mormons during the Nineteenth Century," Communal Societies 31 (2011): 1-28. See also W. O. Henderson, "Friedrich List and the Social Question," Journal of European Economic History 10 (Winter 1981): 697.

(10) Ranciere's interpretation of the history behind the founding of the Icarian colonies can be found in Ranciere, The Nights of Labor: The Workers' Dream in Nineteenth-Century France, trans. John Drury (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1989), particularly chap. 12, "The Journey of Icarus"; see also Ranciere, "Why Did the Icarians Leave France?" in Lillian M. Snyder and Robert P. Sutton, eds., Immigration of the Icarians to Illinois (Nauvoo, IL, 1986), 6-16. Two other historians whose work linked labor or working-class movements and communal/utopian plans are E. P. Thompson and Christopher Johnson; see Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class and Johnson, Utopian Communism in France: Cabet and the Icarians, 1839-1851 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1974).

(11) Carl J. Guarneri, "Brook Farm and the Fourierist Phalanxes: Immediatism, Gradualism, and American Utopian Socialism," in Pitzer, America's Communal Utopias, 160-68.

(12) Ian Donnachie, Robert Owen: Social Visionary (Edinburgh: John Donald, 2000); Johnson, Utopian Communism in France; and Jonathan Beecher, Charles Fourier: The Visionary and His World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990). A disciple of Fourier who established a short-lived communal experiment in the United States was Victor Considerant; see Beecher, Victor Considerant. On the influence of Fourier in the United States, see Carl J. Guarneri, The Utopian Alternative: Fourierism in Nineteenth-Century America (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991). On the Icarians in the United States, the key work is Robert P. Sutton, Les Icariens: The Utopian Dream in Europe and America (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994). An English translation of Cabet's work is Travels in Icaria, trans. Leslie J. Roberts (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003). On the broader impact of Owen, see Ian Donnachie, "'A New Moral World': International Dimensions of Owenism 1815-1830," in Elizabeth Russell, ed., Transforming Utopia: Looking Forward to the End (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 185-93.

(13) There is a large literature on the Paris Commune. The most recent history, which is certain to become definitive, is John Merriman, Massacre: The Life and Death of the Paris Commune (New York: Basic Books, 2014). Overviews and representative interpretations may be found in David Shafer, The Paris Commune: French Politics, Culture and Society at the Crossroads of the Revolutionary Tradition and Revolutionary Socialism (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); Roger V. Gould, Insurgent Identities: Class, Community and Protest in Paris from 1848 to the Commune (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995); Frank Jellinek, The Paris Commune of 1871 (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1965); Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray, History of the Commune of 1871, trans. Eleanor Aveling Marx (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1967); and Robert Tombs, The Paris Commune 1871 (London: Longman, 1999); see also Yiftah Goldman, "Commune and Community: A Socialist Perspective," in Eliezer Ben-Rafael, Yaacov Oved, and Menachem Topel, eds., The Communal Idea in the Twentieth Century (Leiden, Germany: Brill, 2012), 91-109.

(14) Merriman, Massacre, emphasizes social issues in the build-up to the Commune; the widespread, popular support in Paris for the revolutionary government; and the reactionary, violent response to it by the conservative government.

(15) Richard Stites, Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 3.

(16) Historiographical issues related to the Commune are in Jacques Rougerie, 1871: Jalons pour une histoire de la Commune de Paris (Paris: PUF, 1973); Robert Tombs, The War Against Paris, 1871 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981); and Gould, Insurgent Identities.

(17) Merriman, Massacre, 201-24.

(18) Shafer The Paris Commune, 126ff.

(19) Jacques Rougerie, Paris libre, 1871 (Paris: Seuill, 1971), iii.

(20) The number of casualties in the Commune has recently been disputed. Tombs, "How Bloody was Semaine Sanglante? A Revision," H-France Salon 3 (2011): 1-13. The most recent detailed analysis of casualties is in Merriman, Massacre, xx. On the political question of amnesty in the early Third Republic, see Jean Joughin, The Paris Commune in French Politics (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1955) and Laure Godineau, "Retour d'exil: Les anciens Communards au debut de la troisieme republique," Materiaux pour l'histoire de notre temps 67 (2002): 11-16.

(21) On the memory, legacy and commemoration of the Commune, see Patrick H. Hutton, History as an Art of Memory (Burlington: University of Vermont Press, 1993); Albert Boime, Art and the French Commune: Imagining Paris after War and Revolution (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995); and Bertrand Tillier, La Commune de Paris: Revolution sans images? Politique et representations dans la France republicaine (1871-1914) (Paris: Editions Champ Vallon, 2004). John Merriman writes of the Commune, "This was a time of big dreams." Massacre, 63.

(22) On the variety of Marxist interpretations, see Shafer, The Paris Commune, 110ff. There was also an extensive reactionary critique of the Commune. See, for example, Susanna Barrows, Distorted Mirrors: Visions of the Crowd in Late Nineteenth-Century France (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981). On definitions of communalism, see Robert Bates and C. Raymond Barrow, "A General Typology of Communalism," Communal Societies 23 (2003): 1-28; and Timothy Miller, "A Matter of Definition: Just What Is an Intentional Community," Communal Societies 30 (2010): 1-15. For listings of contemporary intentional communities, see Miller, The Encyclopedia Guide to American Intentional Communities (Clinton, NY: Richard W. Couper Press, 2013), xi-xvi; and Communities Directory: A Comprehensive Guide to International Communities and Cooperative Living, 6th ed. (Rutledge, MO: The Fellowship for International Community, 2010).

(23) Shafer, The Paris Commune, 119ff.

(24) See Pitzer, "Development Communalism into the Twenty-First Century," in Eliezer Ben-Rafael et al., The Communal Idea in the 21st Century (London: Brill, 2012). Pitzer's examples are mostly since 1945, but the concept could be applied as a research strategy to the history of the Paris Commune.

(25) The records of the Commune are published in Sigismond Lacroix, Actes de la Commune de Paris pendant la Reevolution (Paris: Cerf, 1894-1909). For an overview, see David Andress, The French Revolution and the People (London: Hambledon and London, 2004).

(26) Rougerie, "Composition d'une population insurgee," Le Mouvement social (July-September 1964): 31-47. On the huge urban renewal project of Haussmannization, see David H. Pinkney, Napoleon II and the Rebuilding of Paris (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1958); David P. Jordan, Transforming Paris: The Life and Labors of Baron Haussmann (New York: Free Press, 1995); David Harvey, Paris: Capital of Modernity (New York: Routledge, 2003); and Nicholas Papayanis, Planning Paris before Haussmann (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004).

(27) Rougerie, "Composition d'une population insurgee," 31, 43. On federalism, see Rougerie, Paris insurgee: La Commune de 1871 (Paris: Decouvertes Gallimard, 1995).

(28) Gould, Insurgent Identities, 197; Tombs, The Paris Commune.

(29) Gould, Insurgent Identities, xx.

(30) Ibid.

(31) Lissagaray, History of the Commune. See also Tombs, "'Prudent Rebels': Paris and the Rural Hordes, An Exploration of Myth and Reality in the French Civil War of 1871," The Historical Journal 29 (December 1991): 716-29.

(32) Gullickson, Unruly Women of Paris: Images of the Commune (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996).

(33) Ibid., 227.

(34) Ibid., 150.

(35) Michel, The Red Virgin: Memoirs of Louise Michel, ed. and trans. Bullitt Lowry and Elizabeth Ellington Gunter (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama, 1981), 66.

(36) Gullickson, Unruly Women, 149. Much has been written about Louise Michel. Most of her personal papers are at the International Institute of Social History (hereafter, IISG), 1010-111g, located at Amsterdam, Netherlands. A condensed version of her memoir translated into English is The Red Virgin: Memoirs of Louise Michel, ed. and trans. Bullitt Lowry and Elizabeth Ellington Gunter (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama, 1981); see also Michel, Historie de ma vie (Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 2000); and Je vous ecrire de ma vie: correspondence, 1850-1904 (Paris: Editions du Paris, 1999). Michel was a close friend of Victor Hugo; their correspondence is in Michel, Lettres a Victor Hugo, 1850-1899 (Paris: Mercure, 2005). Michel has been the subject of several biographies, including Anne-Leo Zevaes, Louise Michel (Paris: Bureau d'Editions, 1936); Claire Auzias, Louise Michel: Une anarchiste heterogene (Paris: Editions du Monde Libertaire, 2009); Gerald Dittmar, Louise Michel, 1830-1905 (Paris: Harmattan, 2004); Kathleen Hart, Revolution and Women's Autobiographies in Nineteenth-Century France (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2004); Claude Helfft, Louise Michel: Aux barricades du reve (Paris: Hachette, 1983); and Edith Thomas, Louise Michel (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 2009). I would like to acknowledge Hannah Rodimel for her contributions to the study of Louise Michel and communalism.

(37) Coverage is in Louise Michel Papers, IISG, g61-100g/1004. On the evolution of political funerals during the early years of France's Third Republic, see Patrick H. Hutton, The Cult of the Revolutionary Tradition: The Blanquists in French Politics, 1864-1893 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).

(38) Louise Michel Papers, IISG, 1010-111g.

(39) Ibid.

(40) Wendy Chmielewski, "Sojourner Truth: Utopian Vision and Search for Community, 1797-1883," in Chmielewski, Louis J. Kearn, and Marilyn Klee-Hartzell, eds., Women in Spiritual and Communitarian Societies in the United States (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1993). 21. On women in American communes, see Carol A. Kolmerten, Women in Utopia: The Ideology of Gender in the American Owenite Communities (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), 161ff (on Cabet and women in Icaria); Deirdre Hughes, "The World of Poor Eve: Re-defining Women's Roles in Nineteenth-Century Utopian Communities," Communal Societies 21 (2001): 95-104; and Anthony Wonderley, "How Women Worked in the Oneida Community during the 1870s," Communal Societies 30 (2010): 65-85.

(41) Doris and Paul Beik, eds., Flora Tristan: Utopian Feminist, Her Travel Diaries and Personal Crusade (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993).

(42) Marie Marmo Mullaney, "Sexual Politics in the Career and Legend of Louise Michel," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 15 (1990): 316. Mullaney describes Michel as a "pioneering" woman "who stepped outside conventional social roles" and was "branded as sexually variant simply because of [her] public activism [and] political commitment." Ibid., 300. Judith Coffin describes Michel as a feminist in The Politics of Women's Work: The Paris Garment Trades, 1750-1915 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 230. See also Joan Scott, Only Paradoxes to Offer: French Feminists and the Rights of Man (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), 150; Hart, Revolution and Women's Autobiographies; and Judy Reardon, "Louise Michel as a Feminist," Maryland Historian 4 (June 1973): 33-45.

(43) Mullaney, "Sexual Politics," 304.

(44) Ibid., 305.

(45) Ibid., 311.

(46) Ibid., 309.

(47) Ibid., 310.

(48) Ibid.

(49) Ibid., 313-14.

(50) Ibid., 315-16. Mullaney writes that though "she never placed issues of sexual or even feminist liberation at the core of her philosophy, Michel was always cognizant of gender," and indeed may have "chosen celibacy as a path to self-development." Ibid., 316.

(51) In their introduction to Michel's memoir, Lowry and Gunter describe Michel's anarchism "as emotional, not theoretical." Lowry and Gunter, The Red Virgin, ix. Michel publicly adopted the black flag of anarchism and supported the January 1883 "Manifesto of the Anarchists." Michel, Memoirs, 155; see also Laurence Davis and Ruth Kinna, eds., Anarchism and Utopianism (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2009).

(52) Lyman Tower Sargent, Utopia: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 109ff describes "dreamers."

(53) Michel, Memoirs, 132.

(54) Ibid., 193.

(55) Ibid., 199-200.

(56) Judith F. Stone, The Search for Social Peace: Reform Legislation in France, 1890-1914 (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1985).

(57) Michel, Memoirs, 139.

(58) Ibid., 141.

(59) Louise Michel Papers, IISG, 1010-111g.

(60) On empathy and exile, see Peter Michael Forster and William James Metcalf, "Communal Groups: Social Laboratories or Places of Exile?," Communal Societies 20 (2000): 1-12, and Lynn Hunt, Inventing Human Rights: A History (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008), 28-29, 39-40.

(61) On commemorations of the Commune, including those at Pere Lachaise, see Hutton, The Cult of the Revolutionary Tradition; Jean Braire, Sur les traces des communards: Enquete dans les rues de Paris d'aujourd'hui (Paris: PUF, 1988); and Danielle Tartakowsky, Nous irons chanter sur les tombes: le pere-lachaise, XIXe-XXe siecle (Paris: Aubier, 1999).

(62) The best survey of the Icarians in the United States is Sutton, Les Icariens. On Icarian women, the best history is Diana M. Garno, Citoyennes and Icaria (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2005). For the Icarian history in France, see Johnson, Utopian Communism in France.

(63) On Cabet and the Icarians, see Sutton, Les Icariens, xxx; see also Albert Shaw, Icaria, A Chapter in the History of Communism (Philadelphia: Porcupine Press, 1972); Johnson, Utopian Communism in France; Lillian M. Snyder, The Search for Brotherhood, Peace and Justice: The Story of Icaria, Homage to Free Thought (Deep River, IA: Brennan Printing, 1996); and Garno, Citoyennes and Icaria.

(64) Shaw, Icaria, 94-95.

(65) Ranciere, "Why Did the Icarians Leave France?" 15.

(66) Sutton, "Corning: The Commune," in Les Icariens.

(67) Philip M. Katz, From Appomattox to Montmartre: Americans and the Paris Commune (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998).

(68) Katz, "'Lessons from Paris': The American Clergy Responds to the Paris Commune," Church History 63 (1994): 393, 397.

(69) Shaw, Icaria, 94-95; see also Sutton, Les Icariens, 127; and Garno, Citoyennes and Icaria, 208ff.

(70) Garno, Citoyennes and Icaria, 190ff; Sutton, Les Icariens, 129.

(71) Garno, Citoyennes and Icaria, 185; Robert P. Sutton, "Introduction," in Etienne Cabet: Travels in Icaria, trans. Leslie J. Roberts (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003), xli.

(72) Garno, Citoyennes and Icaria, 209-10.

(73) Sutton, "Introduction," xlii, xlv.

(74) Garno, Citoyennes and Icaria, 41-44, 112-13. Cabet also drew upon his Le vrai christianisme suivant Jesus-Christ (True Christianity following Jesus Christ) of 1847 to position himself as a religious father."

(75) Garno, Citoyennes and Icaria, 95.

(76) Sutton, Les Icariens, 136.

(77) Garno, Citoyennes and Icaria, 181ff; see also Garno, "Cabet's Recruitment of Women for the Icarian Emigration to America and Women's Sense of Betrayal," Communal Societies 23 (2003): 63-73. The memoir of an Icarienne is Marie Marchand Ross, Child of Icaria (Corning, IA: Gauthier, 1986).

(78) Andre Leo (1824-1900), like Michel a socialist and early feminist, was the pseudonym of Victoire Leodile Bera. On the relationship of Michel and Leo, see Carolyn Eichner, Surmounting the Barricades: Women in the Paris Commune (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004), 125, chap. 4; see also Garno, Citoyennes and Icaria, 204, 209.

(79) Garno, Citoyennes and Icaria, 184-85.

(80) Ibid., 209. In the Icarian colony at Cloverdale, California, Louise Michel's legacy was also invoked. Ibid., 225-26.

(81) Ibid., 25-26, 90ff, 209.

(82) That the French Revolution was in fact a "dual revolution," together with the industrial revolution, is Hobsbawm's central thesis in his book, Age of Revolution (1996).

Casey Harison is director of the Center for Communal Studies and professor of history at the University of Southern Indiana. He teaches courses in modern world and European history.
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Author:Harison, Casey
Publication:Communal Societies
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Dec 1, 2015
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