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Montag, 15. Februar 2016

Zinaida Lilina, Revolutionary, administrator and pedagogue

Meet Zinaida Lilina, Bolshevist revolutionary, women's activist, social and culture administrator and opponent to Stalin. She was a tough woman, and an important figure in the Bolshevist movement, but also controversial, especially in bourgeois eyes, and nearly forgotten by history (many biographies on her friends even fail to have her name right), which makes it somewhat difficult to detect her life.
A propos de Mlle Deshorties
In her memoirs, Charlotte Robespierre recalls that her brother Maximilien courted her cousin-in-law, a certain Mlle Deshorties. However, she did not make clear what the young woman’s first name was. As she indicates, there were three daughters Deshorties. Well, in his hagiography, Ernest Hamel affirmated that the young woman’s name had been Anaїs and that she later became the wife of a lawyer called Leducq. This knowledge, especially her first name, has been spread, and more or less every historian and biographer is sure that Maximilien indeed courted a young woman named Anaїs Deshorties… In his review of Marc Bouloiseau’s biography on Robespierre, Louis Jacob offers another insight: He claims that the name of Mlle Deshorties was, in fact, Marie-Catherine-Antoinette. “Antoinette” is also the name that is given in the Encyclopedia Britannica’s article on Robespierre. Le Gentil, in his biography of the Leducq family from 1692 to 1877, simply names her Marie-Catherine, which is also her name in several fora on genealogy. Le Gentil, too, states that it was her who had a relation to Maximilien. I will try to trace back her life, which is not easy since reliable sources are rare and biographical mentions rather hagiographic.
Lenin warns against Stalin: a personal conflict
In his Letter to the Bolshevik Party Congress, written in Winter 1922/1923, and afterwards known as his “Last Testament”, Lenin wrote about Stalin: 
“ Comrade Stalin, having become Secretary-General, has unlimited authority concentrated in his hands, and I am not sure whether he will always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution.“ (on 24th December 1922)
Robespierre on women’s intellectual capacities, or Robey likes Bluestockings
In 1787, the Académie of Arras, a savvy society then in fashion all over Europe, decided to open its doors to women as well. Only few academies had done so until then, and this progress was short-lived, as Napoleon forbid to the academies to welcome women among its members. However, back in the Old Regime era, the Arras academy admitted, among some male savants, Marie Le Masson Le Golft (1749-1828) and Louise-Félicité de Kéralio (1757-1821), later a rather un-feminist jacobine. In his virtue as the academy’s president, it was Robespierre’s task to welcome the new members. He profited from this opportunity to examine the benefits of a general admission of women to the academies for the academies, for women and for society as a whole. This resulted in a long speech. This speech was first printed in 1974 in the Annales Historiques de la Révolution Franҫaise. It is notable that it would be anachronistic to qualify Robespierre as a “feminist” here, as the term was only coined 100 years later and within a society that was, indeed, shaped not least by Robespierre himself during Revolution, namely a society based on democratic legitimation, but made no sense in an Old Regime society. His thoughts were not uncontested and rather progressive, though. He did not argue that women and men were equal, but intrinsicly different, though with the same intellectual capacities. His main argument seems to be that the presence of women “civilises” men and encourage them to even more efforts and merits. Thus, an active participation of women would be less important than a passive presence. Robespierre is highly heteronormative here: women are the “more interesting sex” - in men’s eyes. Because of that “empire” (ascendency) they possess over men (a very sexualised ascendency, as it seems) they spurn men towards social progress. Thus, women may be the motor of progress, as Robespierre suggests - but it is nevertheless men who are the drivers. Not very feministic in our nowadays’ eyes… I will quote only some passages from this rather circumlocutory speech.

A letter of friendship to Bonbon Robespierre

Arras, the 30th messidor year II
Fellow citizen and friend,
Lovey-dovey Père Duchesne
Jacques-René Hébert to his sisters in Alençon, announcing his wedding to Françoise Goupil, which took place in February 1792:
“My situation, although exhausting due to the mass of occupations with which I am charged, becomes happier with every day. I have to let you know, my dear friends, of the alliance I am contracting with a young damsel who is very amiable and of an excellent character.That would make enough advantages, and if she was devoid of any resources it would render the one whom I love not less dear; but to gratify my happiness, she has enough fortune to be undisturbed about her lot if death should part us. . … I am very certain that you will like my loveable intended. She is very religious, in the old style I would say she is a person in the proper way. … This damsel’s name is Goupil: She has, until now, passed her whole life in the nunnery. Through her personal qualities and the advantages that she enjoys she could aspire to a much richer party as I am; but my good fortune has given me preference over several competitors.” 
“She has much piety left; and as I love her tenderly, I do not vex her about that subject at all but limit myself simply to some jokes.”
And, after the marriage, he assures his sister:
“I am well and happy. United to a wifes that combines all good properties to the charms of wit, whose education is complete, the character perfect, I am leading the sweetest, most peaceful life. … My wife desires a lot to know you. When our affairs will be more settled we will invite you to make a jouney to Paris where we will keep you as long as it will be possible for us.”
As to her, Françoise writes to her sister-in-law on 24th July 1792:
“If Mr Hébert is good enough to make his happiness consist in the possession of mine, it is truly me, Mademoiselle, who could assure without mercy that I am perfectly happy with him who gives me every day anew proofs of his tenderness, I am bearing the precious pawn for this in my bosom since three months, he would like that it will be like me and I want it to be like his father: this is the eternel subjects of our disagreements. We agree much easier on the desire to have you as a witness of our love, and it is not our fault if it doesn’t settle soon.”
Françoise Goupil, Mère Duchesne
I have always had a soft spot for Mme Hébert, Françoise Goupil. It is difficult to reconstruct her life, for very few has been written about her, and when, it has been with the intention to disparage her husband. So, here is what can be found on her. This is basically an edited version of this blog entry.