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Louise Michel (French: [lwiz miʃɛl]; 29 May 1830 – 9 January 1905) was a teacher and important figure in the Paris Commune. Following her penal transportation to New Caledonia she embraced anarchism. When returning to France she emerged as an important French anarchist and went on speaking tours across Europe. Her use of a black flag at a demonstration in Paris in March 1883 was the earliest known use of what would become known as the anarchy black flag.
- I am told that I am an accomplice of the Commune. Certainly, yes, since the Commune wanted more than anything else the social revolution, and since the social revolution is the dearest of my desires. More than that, I have the honour of being one of the instigators of the Commune, which by the way had nothing–nothing, as is well known–to do with murders and arson. I who was present at all the sittings at the Town Hall, I declare that there was never any question of murder or arson...Do you want to know who are really guilty? It is the politicians. And perhaps later light will be brought on to all these events which today it is found quite natural to blame on all partisans of the social revolution…Since it seems that any heart which beats for freedom has the right only to a lump of lead, I too claim my share.
- "In Defence of the Commune" (1871)
"Memories of the Commune" (1886)
- how I loved her. How grateful I am to her for the freedom she allowed me to act as my conscience dictated, and how much I would have liked to spare her the bad days she so often had.
- about her mother
- He had brought a volume of Baudelaire which we read a few pages of when we had the time.
- One of the future revenges for the murder of Paris will be that of revealing the customary infamous betrayals of military reaction.
"Why we are Anarchists" (1891)
- We are Anarchists because it is absolutely impossible to obtain justice for all in any other way than by destroying institutions founded on force and privilege. We cannot believe that improvement is possible, if we still keep up the same institutions, now more rotten than in the past, or if we merely replace those whose iniquities are known by new men.
- In what would you that we should help those who govern—their work being only exploitation and wholesale murder—it has never been otherwise: the reason for the existence of a state is nothing but the accomplishment of some crime or other in order to assure the domination of a privileged class.
- The land which belongs to all can no more be divided than the light which also belongs to all.
- The ideal alone is the truth — it is the measure of our horizon. Time was when the ideal was to live without eating an other up. Is it not so still under another form which exists in the so-called civilized countries where the exploiter eats up the exploited? Do not the people in nocks fertilize the soil by their sweat and blood?
- That is what we want to destroy — this annihilation — this eating of man by an other man.
- is it not time that our limited tongues should fall into the ocean of speech and of human thought? What will be the language of mankind delivered to the new Aurora — Anarchy!
Quotes about Louise Michel
- Along with her more famous sisters, the radical women born in the decade of the Paris Commune, Madeleine Pelletier belonged to the first generation of women for whom higher education was available and participation in mass political parties open. They shared not only the heritage of the Russian nihilists-Chernyshevsky's fictional Vera, Breshkovskaia, Perovskaia-they also grew up with stories of the Paris Commune and Louise Michel, whose funeral Pelletier and Alexandra Kollontai attended.
- Marilyn Boxer in European Women on the Left edited by Jane Slaughter and Robert Korn (1981)
- The most interesting women in modern European history appear in the ranks of radical political movements. It is difficult to find conservative or traditional counterparts equal to Louise Michel, Emma Goldman, and Rosa Luxemburg. Even Isadora Duncan, creator of modern dance, flirted with communism. More thoughtful and articulate and certainly as politically active as any of these women is the lesser known Spanish anarchist, Federica Montseny. On asking what attracted these women to radical politics, one discovers in each a commitment to feminism. No person, not even Emma Goldman, explored this necessary relationship between feminist and socialist principles more provocatively than did Federica Montseny.
- Shirley Fredricks in European Women on the Left edited by Jane Slaughter and Robert Korn (1981)
- The world carnage put an end to the golden era when a Bakunin and a Herzen, a Marx and a Kropotkin, a Malatesta and a Lenin, Vera Sazulich, Louise Michel, and all the others could come and go without hindrance. In those days who cared about passports or visas? Who worried about one particular spot on earth? The whole world was one's country.
- Emma Goldman "The Tragedy of the Political Exiles" (1934) in The Nation
- For the anarchists in the United States Voltairine de Cleyre became the American version of Louise Michel, the French anarchist teacher who had engaged in terrorist activity during the Paris Commune, had endured several prison sentences, and was the recognized saint of international anarchism. Louise Michel had lived in deep privation, gave all her possessions to fellow revolutionaries, and spent a life of devoted self-sacrifice in the cause of anarchism. Her one self-indulgence was a passionate devotion to her mother. Anarchists emphasized the similarities between Michel and de Cleyre. Both were teachers; both nearly had been assassinated by former followers and had refused to prosecute their attackers; both tended toward extreme generosity toward the movement
- Margaret S. Marsh, Anarchist Women, 1870-1920 (1981)
- How many are there of the countless millions who have entered this life, passed through its changing scenes and at last have laid down to rest, of whom it can be truly said, “Here rest they who have labored for the uplifting of the oppressed, who have devoted their energies unstintingly in the interest of the ‘common people?’” We fear there are few indeed. A life devoted to the interest of the working class; a life of self-abnegation, a life full of love, kindness, gentleness, tragedy, activity, sadness and kind-ness, are some of the characteristics which went to make up the varied life of our comrade, Louise Michel. In the elderly woman, clad in simple black garments, with gray hair curling upon rounded shoulders and kindest of blue eyes glancing from the strongly marked face, none but those who knew her personally would in the last few years have recognized Louise Michel…So it is in the baffling ocean of humanity. A strong character like Louise Michel looms up like a pillar of light or a star of hope, and the weary reformer sees it and takes fresh courage to struggle on in the surging ocean of humanity, and endeavors to calm its troubled waves and point the way to the harbor of plenty.
- Lucy Parsons, "Famous Women of History": Louise Michel (October 29, 1905)
- "La mujer," one of the articles that Luisa Capetillo published in 1912 in Cultura obrera, was later included in the anthology, Voces de liberación (Voices of Liberation), published in 1921 by Lux Editorial from Argentina. Printed for the purpose of gathering the libertarian voices of the most progressive women in the world, the book contains short essays by Rosa Luxembourg, Clara Zetkin, Emma Goldman, Louise Michel, and various Latin American women including Margarita Ortega, a Mexican revolutionary, María López from Buenos Aires, and Rosalina Gutiérrez from Montevideo. The editorial note introducing the authors states, "These voices of liberation are a call to women by their own compañeras to think more and act together with men in the struggle for human emancipation."
- Norma Valle-Ferrer, Luisa Capetillo, Pioneer Puerto Rican Feminist