From International Socialism, No.47, April/May 1971, pp.31-32.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Gaugin’s Astonishing Grandmother
Charles Neilson Gattey
Eventually someone had to try to ‘cash-in’ on Womens Liberation by publishing books catering for the feminist taste. The broad based, largely middle class nature of the contemporary movement should provide fertile ground for the astute publisher with both eyes on his bank balance. Unfortunately for FEMINA, it is not enough simply to get an author to collect together, indiscriminately, a mass of facts about a famous woman. The result, as this book demonstrates, can be both tedious and irrelevant.
Flora Tristan (1803-44) was one of the first to unite the ideas of female liberation with a plan for the emancipation of the working class. Her syndicalist vision of a strong workers union covering France, and eventually the whole of Europe, was interwoven with her belief that women should have equal rights with men. Many of the ideas outlined in her major work L’Union Ouvrière (1834) were later reflected in syndicalist movements in France and Belgium.
Women, she believed, would only achieve equality by joining the proletariat in their struggle for emancipation. Only a strong working class movement would provide the conditions for female equality. So, in her book, she appealed to women of all classes to join the workers struggle and liberate themselves.
Sadly, only a glimpse of the ideas, the political climate,and the impact of Flora Tristan are afforded by this book. To obtain that you have to wade through a morass of trivia and gossip that can only be compared to the more turgid columns of the worst women’s magazines. It is all very disappointing.
Last updated on 10.2.2008