Table of Contributors   Table of Contents   Return to Encyclopedia Home Page

Jeanne Deroin

Jeanne Deroin Born Jeanne-Françoise Deroin December 31, 1805 in Paris; emigrated to England August 1852; died in England April 2, 1894; marr ied M. Desroches; embroiderer, schoolteacher, journalist, activist for the rights of women and workers.

Born into a working-class family, Jeanne Deroin spent her youth in poverty, earning her living as an embroiderer. An avid reader and an ardent then disillusioned republican, by 1831 articles in the Globe had drawn her to the Saint Simonians. While skeptical of their religious tenets, she agreed with their views on the emancipation of women. By the end of 1831, she was atten ding their meetings and later made a profession of faith that stopped short of her complete conversion. After the women members of the sect received their apostolic mission of helping the working class, under the name Jeanne Victoire she contributed articles to the Saint Simonian working women's journal, the Femme libre. Insisting upon a union of equality, and perhaps chastity, she married a fellow Saint Simonian, M. Desroches, in a civil ceremony. They had three children. After sev eral failures due to poor handwriting, she earned a certificate and in the 1840s opened a school for working-class children.

The revolution of 1848 returned her to public life. Using her own family name so as not to implicate her husband, Deroin promoted the rights of women and the organization of work. She also opposed the exploitation of children and the harsh treatment of convicts. She wrote petitions and articles, founded clubs, journals, and economic associations, and attempted t o run for legislative office. In March 1848, she joined the staff of Eugenie Niboyet's Voix des femmes and contributed articles arguing for women's equality. With Desirée Gay she founded the working women's Société d'éducation mutuelle des femmes that published the short-lived Politique des femmes (June and August 1848), gave free courses to workingwomen, and printed her own course on social law. When the Politique des femme s could not raise a government-imposed security bond, Deroin replaced it with the Opinion des femmes, but published only one issue.

In late 1848 she attended democratic-socialist banquets that toasted women's rights. Assisted by Hortense Wild and Olinde Rodrigues, she refounded the Opinion des femmes as a monthly journal devoted to the rights of women and the organization of work (January-August, 1849). As the major contributor to the journal, she pub lished articles defining "woman's mission," appealing for women's solidarity, rebutting Proudhon's relegation of women to the home, and proposing self-governing economic associations. She announced her candidacy for the May 1849 elections to the legislative assembly, but failed to get support from the democratic socialists groups. In the last issue of the journal, she published a revolutionary plan for the organization of work, the Association Fraternelle et Solidaire de toutes les Associati ons. The union was Deroin's vehicle for both sexual equality and economic reform, since it gave women full rights and reorganized work in the unified associations to eliminate wages, control distribution, consumption, and production, and raise credit. The government reacted to the article with a high security bond and Deroin ceased publication.

By the end of 1849, some associations had accepted a modified version of the general union and elected Deroin to the central committee. In May 1850, the group was arrested and Deroin sentenced to six-months in prison for political conspiracy. During that time she wrote an article on credit, an appeal to the government to allow women's right to petition, and, with her co-prisoner Pauline Roland, a letter to the Women's Rights Convention in Massachusetts urging women to join the ranks of the workers.

Released from prison in July 1851, Deroin began work on a women's almanac that was published the following year. After the D ecember 2, 1851 coup, she assisted the proscripts and their families until she fled to England in August 1852. Her husband's death in France left her with the care of her two younger children. In 1853 and 1854, she published two more women's almanacs. Her attempts to establish a mutual aid society for other exiles and a school for their children failed. She supported herself and her family by giving lessons and doing embroidery and later received a small pension granted to the proscripts by the Third Republic. In the early 1880s, Deroin briefly returned to writing. Correspondence with her old friend Hortense Wild reveals her continued condemnation of marriage as slavery and an unshaken faith in association as the only means to attain peace. Leon Richer published her exchange of letters on the problems of illegitimate children in his Le Droit des femmes. When she died in 1894, she had spent almost half her life in forced, and then voluntary exile. In his eulogy, William Mo rris praised her courage and devotion to socialist principles.
S. Joan Moon


Riot-Sarcey, Michèle "le Parcours de femmes dans l'apprentissage de la démocratie : Désirée Gay, Jeanne Deroin, Eugénie Niboyet, 1830 - 1870" Paris, Univ., Diss., 1990.

_______. La démocratie à l'épreuve des femmes : trois figures critiques du pouvoir, 1830-1848 Paris : A. Michel, 1994.

Table of Contributors   Table of Contents   Return to Encyclopedia Home Page

JGC revised this file ( on September 28, 2004.

Please E-mail comments or suggestions to

© 1998, 2004 James Chastain.