On this day in 1881, the first issue of La Citoyenne was published. It was a bi-monthly feminist newspaper published by Hubertine Auclert. It ran for ten years until Auclert couldn’t afford to publish it anymore. The struggle for women’s rights has been a long one in France. The first signs of it appeared during the French Revolution. But Rousseau so dominated the thinking of that time that no one took it seriously.
Let me make a quick diversion. Conservatives so often say things to me like, “Of Course it was wrong to X, but that’s all solved now and there is no need to do Y.” This annoys me. I’m kinda sorta okay with conservatives being awful. But I’m not okay with them claiming ownership of things in the past that they would have been totally against! Every conservative I ever talk to thinks it’s obvious that women should be able to manage their own finances and stand for election or vote. They just don’t see any of the problems today. They see the demands today as unreasonable. Just like the conservatives of 1881 found these now “obvious” rights unreasonable.
Hubertine Auclert was a major figure in French struggle for women’s equality. And part of that was moving to Algeria in 1888. What is it about Algeria and feminism? I wrote about Isabelle Eberhardt before. But it seems to come down to what Hubertine Auclert noticed when she was there: that the way the French authorities treated the Algerians was the same way that they treated women back in France.
Of course, it wasn’t just that. It was also the case that the French government colluded with Arab males to suppress the education of women, and generally push a conservative approach to Islam. It’s interesting how common this kind of thing is and how those who supported regressive beliefs are just shocked when it ends up harming themselves.
Of course, Hubertine Auclert did not live to see French women get the right to vote. She would have had to live into her late 90s for that. Women didn’t get the right to vote in France until 1944. And this is especially embarrassing, it was under the Provisional Government of the French Republic. You know: the temporary one they set up after the Allies pushed the Germans out?! Pathetic. But Auclert did live long enough to see married women get the rights to their own paychecks. So there’s that.
After La Citoyenne, it was quickly replaced by Le Journal des femmes. And then in 1897, La Fronde was started — the first French feminist daily, written and edited entirely by women.