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Complete Equality for Women

September 26, 1868 — Second Congress of the League for Peace and Freedom, Brussels, Belgium


Ladies and Gentlemen! Our program is, as you know, to spread, in addressing mothers, the elevated ideas of the League for Peace and Liberty. But there we find an insurmountable obstacle, the position of women in regard to the law.

These laws, decree in times past by the pride, egotism and inhumanity of our ancestors, have now turned back against men themselves, to whom they have given companions completely unprepared for the intellectual struggle to which they are called . . . .

To remedy this evil we need to make a rational change. This change consists of an act of justice: the abolition of all laws that subject woman to man, the rehabilitation of woman as a human being, responsible for her her own acts and her fate.

Up until the present woman has not had the right to work, except for that which is prescribed or accepted by men, and this limited choice of professions has made young women of means disgusted by work, and has created competition among the poor that renders their gain illusory and causes this deplorable immorality whose wave rises higher and higher, threatening to overtake society if aa prompt remedy is not found. Furthermore, education for women has been regarded as, I don’t want to say useless, but at any rate secondary, so much so that there have been but few among them who have enjoyed the precious advantages of knowledge, and while they have watched as their brothers pass form one class to the next, and attain the highest levels of study, they, poor oppressed creatures, are reduced to being considered as imperfect beings forced to turn to books or to throw themselves into the arms of the priest who murmurs into their ears the word “resignation,” showing them heaven as the price of their tears!

Today, it is true, in each country, men who are the most enlightened are concerned with the questions I have just named, that is: the right to work and education . . . but, Ladies and Gentlemen, the result cannot be effective unless inspired by the true spirit of freedom and this is why I address these words to you, the apostles of humanity assembled within these walls, so that not only will you demand for women equality in work and education, but also that you will call for her complete equality before the law.

The position of women in the Middle Ages and in times past can be understood by the life led by men in this era. Their only sentiment was one of domination, their first care was naturally to dominate over those weaker [than they] . . . their only occupation was war . . . it was natural that women, who did not share their passions or their battles be treated by them as inferior beings; — the education of men was almost null . . the education of women was even less and I am not surprised by the restrictive laws made in their regards by men imbued only with the principle of the law of the strongest. But today, confronted with the boundless progress resulting form the intellectual development of society, the position of woman is an anomaly, a non-sense, a tyranny that, like all tyranny, brings unhappiness to the tyrant if allowed to continue! . . .

If among those who listen to me there are some who are not yet convinced of the justice of our cause, I ask them to permit me to remind them that their own interest is at stake. If they desire  real progress, it is with the help of enlightened women that they will attain it, because it is women who are responsible for the education of children and it is [women] who awake I the latter the sentiments that will influence them throughout their lives. . . .

Let us put behind us, then, all reticence with regard to women. Just as men who are the best educated and the most intelligent are, with the aid of reasons, the best husbands and the best fathers, so woman, by the exercise of all her faculties, will become a fare more superior creature than she is presently, will be more attached to family life, and will understand and better fulfill her duties as wife and mother.



Source: Deux Discours de Mme Marie Goegg, 26 septembre 1868 — 27 mars 1870 [réedité pour les besoins de la propagande, (Genève: Imprimerie Coopérative) 1878, pp. 4-5.