Adam, Juliette la Messine (1836–1936)

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Adam, Juliette la Messine (1836–1936)

French feminist, journalist, and political activist, who was the only woman present at the ceremonial signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Name variations: Juliette Lamber Adam, Juliette Lamber, Juliette Lambert; (pseudonyms) La Messine or de la Messine, Paul Vasili, La Grande Française. Born Juliette Lambert in Verberie, Picardy, on October 4, 1836; died in Callian, on August 25, 1936; daughter of a physician and advocate of women's rights; educated at home; married to Alexis de la Messine (a government official) until 1867; married to Edmond Adam (journalist and political activist), from 1868 to 1877; children: (first marriage) one daughter.

Ran a Parisian salon; founded the journal La Nouvelle Review (1879); known particularly for fighting for women's suffrage and for her work against the German threat to France.

Selected works:

many contributions to journals, beginning with a letter to the editor of Le Siècle (1856); essays, including Idées anti-proudhoniennes sur l'amour, la femme et le mariage (1858); Blanches de Coucy (1858); the biography Garibaldi, sa vie d'après des documents inédits (1859); novels, including Grecque (1879), Païenne (1883), Chrétienne (1913); plays for her salon; her memoirs.

Juliette Adam, educated only at home by her father and maternal grandmother, became well known as an intellectual, a writer, and a political activist. Her first marriage was to Alexis de la Messine, when she was in her late teens. They had one daughter and moved to Paris, but the marriage was unhappy.

Adam began spending time with a literary group, including former members of the Order of Saint-Simon Charles Renouvier and Charles Fauverty who founded and edited La Revue Philosophique. Her own views were anticlerical and egalitarian, particularly concerned with achieving the vote for women.

Her treatise Idées anti-proudhoniennes sur l'amour, la femme et le mariage ("Anti-Proudonist Ideas on Love, Women and Marriage") was a response to the socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's assessment of the social worth of women in De La Justice Dans la Révolution et dans l'Église ("On Justice in the Revolution and in the Church," published in 1858). Proudhon had argued that it would be a great mistake to grant women, the inferior helpmates of men, the vote. Adam believed that the differences between men and women were appropriate and complementary, but she argued

for their equality, calling masculine and feminine qualities different but equal. She also argued that masculine and feminine characteristics are not necessarily attached to biological sex. There is variation within the genders, she wrote, so that some women may have masculine characteristics and some men have feminine characteristics. On this basis, and because of the need for moral autonomy, she argued that women should be given the vote, and that contracts between equals should replace traditional marriage. (Adam also convinced the better-known Jenny d'Hericourt , despite her initial reluctance, to publish her own response to Proudhon.)

Though Adam had begun to publish under the name "Lamber," a variation of her maiden name Lambert, in the hopes of keeping royalties for her work, French law stated that a wife's income belonged to her husband. Alexis succeeded in obtaining the initial royalties for this, his wife's first book, which had been published at her own expense in 1858. Under his own name, he republished her biography of Garibaldi, Garibaldi, as vie d'après des documents inédits (originally printed in 1859). Seven years later, in 1866, they separated (divorce was not legal in France), and Alexis would die a year later.

For the last four decades of the 19th century, Adam ran a successful Parisian salon, which included women and attracted many intellectuals and Republicans, those concerned with supporting sovereign democracy in France. Adam's own concerns became more nationalistic in her later life, and she was particularly known for her opposition to German political presence in France. In 1868, she married Edmond Adam, a journalist and political activist. They were both deeply involved in the Republican movement, with Juliette Adam being particularly prominent in efforts to retrieve the region of Alsace-Lorraine from Germany, earning her the name "La Grande Française" (The Great Frenchwoman). She was the only woman present at the ceremonial signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

In 1879, two years after the death of Edmond, her second husband, Adam founded a journal, La Nouvelle Review (The New Review), as a forum for Republicanism and continued to edit it until 1899. The journal published papers by Guy de Maupassant, Pierre Loti, Gustave Flaubert, George Sand , and Frédéric Mistral, as well as a body of work by Adam, who provided the international coverage, with a particular emphasis on the relations between France and Germany.

She also often published elsewhere and wrote in many forms: essays, biography, drama for her salon, and novels. Some of her work was released under the pseudonym "Paul Vasili," which was shared by several authors. Antiquity was a favorite interest of Adam's, and her novel Grecque (1879) chronicles the life of an ancient Greek woman. Païenne (The Pagan Woman, 1883) is a fictional exchange of passionate letters. The novel Chrétienne (The Christian Woman), published in 1913, marks her return to Catholicism. Before her death in 1936, less than two months shy of her 100th birthday, Juliette Adam also published her memoirs.

Catherine Hundleby , M.A. Philosophy, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada