‘Aux Ouvrières!’: socialist feminism in the Paris Commune

Intellectual History Review 33 (2):331-351 (2023)
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Abstract

Feminist and socialist movements both aim at emancipation yet have often been at odds. The socialist feminists of the Paris Commune provide one of the few examples in late nineteenth-century Europe of a political movement combining the two. This article offers a new interpretation of the Commune feminists, focusing on the working-class women’s organisation the Union des femmes. We highlight how the Commune feminists articulated the specific form of oppression experienced by working-class women as both women and workers, which consequently required a joint, yet differentiated, struggle to overcome. We explore three aspects of this framework. First, the Commune feminists offered a vision of the transformation of the social through reforms to girls’ education, the family and women’s work. Second, they practised a politics of coalition building by connecting their struggle with those of other oppressed groups, such as male workers, peasants and workers of other nations. Third, these ideas were instantiated in the Union des femmes’ novel proposal for women’s worker co-operatives as part of a socialist re-organisation of the economy.

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