Friday, September 16, 2011


Eugénie Niboyet

Born 10 September 1796
Died 6 January 1883 (age 87)
Nationality French
Other names Eugénie Niboyet
Occupation Writer, journalist, translator, and political activist
Spouse Paul Louis Niboyet
Children Jean Alexandre Paulin Niboyet

Eugénie Mouchon-Niboyet (September 10, 1796 – January 6, 1883) was a French author and early feminist. She is best known for founding La Voix des Femmes (The Women's Voice), the first feminist daily newspaper in France.
Eugenie Niboyet, named Eugenie Mouchon at birth, was born on September 11, 1796, in Montpellier, France.1 Eugenie wrote about her own family background in the last part of her literary work, The Real Book of Women [Le vrai livre des femmes2]: “I come from a literate family with origins from Geneva, Switzerland," she wrote before emphasizing the importance of her grandfather Pierre Mouchon, an erudite pastor in Geneva and contributor to the Encyclopedia of Diderot and d’Alembert. Only afterward did she mention her father, who came to France to study at the Faculty of Medicine of Montpellier, and her mother by simply stating, "He married the daughter of a pastor from Gar," which indicated a Protestant origin. At the beginning of her book, Eugenie emphasized the importance of her family’s origins in Geneva, the importance of her father relative to new ideas from the French Revolution but also relative to moderation, and his "refusal of excess," which led to him having to take refuge in the Cevennes to avoid execution.
Eugenie had two sisters, Aline and Elisa, to whom she later wrote: "We do not write for the narrow minds who want to confine women to the household. Women no longer have to buy their freedom, but to exercise it."

Debut as a Female Writer
Arriving in Paris on November 4, 1829, she began to make a living as a writer. In 1830, she participated in a writing contest of Société de la morale chrétienne (The Society of Christian Morality). She focused on the theme of The blind and their education, her writing received favorable notices, and she ultimately shared the contest prize with M. Duffaut.
Debut of Women’s Journalism
With the Saint-Simonian proletarians, she was part of the group of women who participated in the first periodical written entirely by women: The Free Woman La Femme libre, created by Marie-Reine Guindorf and Desiree Veret.
Like the two founders and participants in the first issues of The Free Woman, she drew closer to the movement of the philosopher Charles Fourier, who presented the treatment of women as the truest measure of social progress. In particular, she went to meet with Flora Tristan.
Female Publisher
Back in Lyon in 1833, Eugenie founded the first feminist periodical outside the Paris region with a publication titled The Women's Advisor [Le Conseiller des femmes], a weekly without illustrations printed by Boitel, followed for a few months by The Lyon Mosaic [La Mosaïque Lyonnaise]. Then she participated in the creation of The Peace of Both Worlds [La Paix des deux mondes], and in 1834 of The Athenaeum of Women [L’Athénée des femmes].
In July 1836, back in Paris, Eugenie founded The Gazette of Women [La Gazette des Femmes] with the help of friends such as Charles Fredric Herbinot de Mauchamps. A sort of club, bringing together editors and subscribers, met to support and manage the newspaper, but also to discuss particular issues including the struggle for political and civil rights of women. Eugenie gathered many women during these weekly meetings on Thursdays at 27 Rue Lafite. There one could meet Flora Tristan, Hortense Allart, Anais Segalas and many other feminists.

Militant Feminist Politics
The revolution of 1848 gave new hope to feminism, including the lifting of restrictions on meetings, thereby allowing the development of groups that advocated for women's rights.

In March 1848, Eugenie Niboyet founded and ran a newspaper dealing only with women’s issues. The Voice of Women [La Voix des femmes], subtitled “a socialist and political newspaper representing all women’s interests,” was the first French feminist daily newspaper. Following the model of the club of The Gazette of Women [La Gazette des Femmes],
The Voice of Women soon joined a political club which included many feminists already involved with small pre-existing publications. Eugenie managed to assemble many women already involved in the feminist struggle such as Jeanne Deroin, Desiree Gay, Suzanne Voilquin, Elisa Lemonnier, and Anais Segalas, but also popular authors such as Gabrielle Soumet, Amelie Prai, and Adele Esquiros. This movement was no longer reserved only for women as men also contributed, such as Jean Mace and Paulin Niboyet, Eugenie’s son.
The club promoted a very large catalog of reforms favorable to women, as much in the domestic realm as in the political. Extending the right to vote to all men provoked a resounding initiative when, on April 6, The Voice of Women nominated the candidacy of George Sand to the French Constituent Assembly. Sand disavowed this initiative and harshly judged these women whom she claimed not to know. Satirical cartoonists lampooned Eugenie and the journalists of The Voice of Women. The brouhaha created by this matter was overwhelming, such that people turned against the promoters of this initiative, and the government decided to end women's clubs. On June 20, Eugenie Niboyet, discouraged and hurt, ceased publication of The Voice of Women, and the feminists dispersed to avoid repression.

End of Life
Eugenie Niboyet retired from public life and went into exile in Geneva, where she lived with difficulty doing translations of Charles Dickens and children's books published by Lydia Maria and Maria Edgeworth. Nevertheless, she took up the pen again after the "Paris Commune" to support requests for pardons of convicts.

In 1860, Eugenie Niboyet returned to France, where she published The True Book of Women [Le Vrai livre des femmes] in 1863.6 Her letters to Leon Richer, the editor of The Rights of Women [Le Droit des femmes], attest to the fact that she always remained interested in the feminist movement. In 1878, at the age of 82 years, she was honored at the feminist congress in Paris.

Eugenie Niboyet died in Paris on January 6, 1883.

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