because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Louise Michel

Being born in France in the mid-1800's and trained to be a teacher, Louise Michel may have startled a few folks right at first when she refused to acknowledge Napoleon III, which meant she wouldn't be allowed to teach in public school. But by the time she'd found a small school that would accept her in the Montmarte section of Paris, it was apparent to anyone who would listen that Michel was an anarchist of the first order.

On the front lines, during the Commune of Paris, when the workers ran the government out of town and took over the city for a couple of months, Michel fought at the barricades, carried the injured to safety, recruited street people to join the struggle, wrote revolutionary poetry, and spent hours ranting passionate tirades against those with the power. Dragged into court and tried for attempting to overthrow the government by means of armed violence, Michel stared down the judge and said, "Since it seems that every heart that beats for freedom has no right to anything but a little slug of lead, I demand my share. If you let me live, I shall never cease to cry for vengeance." Which got her deported to the South Pacific.

This might have discouraged some people, but Louise Michel was an in-your-face woman, so she just learned the indigenous language and started organizing the native islanders to fight for their own liberation from the French colonists. So they sent Michel back to France.

Back in France, of course, Michel picked up where she left off: organizing, teaching, writing, and speaking throughout France. Putting her in prison or jail for periods of up to several years at a time didn't even slow her down and certainly didn't stop her. So someone eventually got the idea to try putting her in a mental hospital, except that they couldn't even get her in the door before she escaped to England to continue her work there.

When Michel died at the age of seventy-five, she was in a hotel room in Marseilles preparing to give another revolutionary speech. Today, many schools, historical sites, a famous church courtyard in the Montmarte, and the Parisian metro station are all named for the woman who was referred to by one scholar as "the French grande dame of anarchy." The bottom line is that Louise Michel simply wouldn't shut her mouth about what she believed to be true, something that has been said about many in-your-face women.


  1. Wow! Where did you find such inspiring info?! She was amazing!

    1. All these in-your-face women knock me out, Darrien. And the information isn't usually all that hard to find, although it often requires putting together a number of accounts to find all the "good" bits. ;^) The work is worth it because I learn so MUCH about herstory, about women, and about myself. Welcome to the neighborhood, by the way. It's always a pleasure.