Niboyet, Eugénie (1797–1883)

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Niboyet, Eugénie (1797–1883)

French journalist, novelist, and advocate for women's rights . Name variations: Eugenie Niboyet. Born in 1797; died in 1883.

Selected writings:

Les Deux Frères (The Two Brothers, 1839); Lucien (1841); Quinze Jours de vacances (A Fortnight's Holiday, 1841); Souvenirs d'enfance (Childhood Memories, 1841); Dieu manifesté par les oeuvres de la création (God as Manifested by the Works of the Creation, 1842); Cathérine II (1847); (memoirs) Le Vrai Livre des femmes (The True Book of Women, 1862).

Eugénie Niboyet, who began her literary career by translating English novels into French, had published a number of her own works by the time she founded the socialist journal La Paix des deux mondes (Peace in Both Worlds) in 1844. A committed pacifist and champion of the poor and downtrodden (of whom there were many in the Paris of those years), she was aligned for a period with the Saint-Simonians, followers of the social reformer and utopian Saint-Simon who is considered the founder of French socialism. Among the tenets of his philosophy was full rights and development for women.

In Paris during the turbulent year of 1848, which began with a revolution in February and ended in December with the overwhelming election of Napoleon III as president, Niboyet founded La Voix des Femmes (Women's Voice), the first feminist socialist daily newspaper in France. Run by a central committee of women including Niboyet, Jeanne Deroin, Désirée Gay , and Amelie Pray , the paper printed articles by socialists, republicans, women and men from both the working class and the middle class, and foreigners. In 45 issues published from March through June, Niboyet's newspaper advocated education, suffrage, and economic reform for women. (At the time, many French men were also denied the franchise.) The proposed education was to be equal to that available to men, although all classrooms would be strictly segregated by gender, and the reason offered for allowing women to develop their intellects was to permit them to raise their children with higher moral and social values. Suffrage was sought so that the special nurturing and inspirational qualities of women could permeate and correct the harshness of the (male) public sphere. Finally, economic reforms of women's work would assist in strengthening working-class families and eliminating prostitution.

The provisional government was not persuaded and denied women's suffrage. Niboyet was often caricatured in the press, and meetings of the paper's related Club des Femmes were frequented by men who came to jeer and mock. (The club was finally disbanded by the police as a public nuisance.) As well, tensions grew between Niboyet and the more radically socialist Deroin and Gay, with the latter two severing their connections to the paper at the end of April. Nine more issues of La Voix des Femmes were published before it folded. Towards the end of the year, the temporary government that had gained its power from the uprising of the many poor and unemployed and unenfranchised passed suffrage for all adult male citizens. Niboyet's memoirs of 1848 were published as Le Vrai Livre des femmes (The True Book of Women) in 1862. She died in 1883.

Lisa Frick , freelance writer, Columbia, Missouri