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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Louise Michel

b. 1830, Vroncourt-la-Côte, France; d. 1905, Marseille, France

“Revolution, beloved mother who devours us / Giving equality, take our broken destinies / And make of them a dawning …”

—Louise Michel, quoted in Higgins, Red Virgin, 216

French anarchist Louise Michel fought to defend the Paris Commune when it was attacked by government troops in 1871. She was dedicated to revolutionary socialist ideals and believed that class warfare was more effective than parliamentary reform in attaining these goals. Michel’s interest in revolutionary thought began when she was working as a teacher in the Montmartre section of Paris. After the Commune’s defeat in 1871, she was imprisoned until 1880, then resumed her revolutionary activities, lecturing throughout France on the subjects of anarchism and the equality of women. She was accused of inciting a riot and imprisoned for another three years. After publication of her autobiography, Mémoirs (1886), she lived in London until 1896, then returned to France and continued to lecture up to her death. Michel remains, to this day, a legendary figure in France.

Higgins, Lynn A. “Review of The Red Virgin: Memoirs of Louise Michel.” Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 1, no. 2 (Autumn 1982), pp. 212–16.