Braving the Law: Madeleine Pelletier

  • Cecilia Beach


Like the other authors we have discussed, Dr. Madeleine Pelletier (1874–1939) is best known for her activities as a militant feminist and political activist.1 However, Pelletier was the only one of them born into a working-class family. She grew up in an insalubrious one-room apartment behind her mother’s fruit and vegetable shop in the neighborhood of Les Halles.Though her mother earned the money for the family—her father was paralyzed and confined to a chair—she was not a positive role model for Madeleine.An ardent Catholic and royalist, uneducated, dirty, and a slave to her work and her family, Pelletier’s mother symbolized the working-class woman’s plight. This may explain why Pelletier would never romanticize the working-class lifestyle like Starkoff and other leftist militants. On the contrary, she fought to raise the proletariat out of the degradation in which they lived.


Communist Party Anthropological Society Superior Intelligence Staging Politics Free Love 
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  1. Gordon F., The Integral Feminist: Madeleine Pelletier, 1874–1939 (U of Minnesota P,1990)Google Scholar
  2. Sowerine C. and Maignien C., Madeleine Pelletier, une féministe dans l’arène politique (Editions Ouvrières, 1992)Google Scholar
  3. 30.
    See W. Scott Haine, The World of the Paris Café: Sociability among the French Working Class, 1789–1914 (Johns Hopkins UP,1996).Google Scholar
  4. Pelletier, M. “Le Droit à l’avortement,” in L’Education féministe des filles et autres textes, C. M.ignien, ed. (Paris: Syros, 1978 ), 123–140.Google Scholar

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© Cecilia Beach 2005

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  • Cecilia Beach

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