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Flora Tristan

FLORA TRISTAN, pen name of Flore-Celestine -Therèse-Henriette Tristan-Moscoso, Married name CHAZAL (legally changed to Tristan after separation in 1838), Born in Paris on April 7, 1803; died in Bordeaux on November 14, 1844. Even though Flora Tristan did not live to see 1848, her radical ideas and her personal involvement in French workers' struggles for social justice were a small but significant element in the groundswell of leftist criticism that undermined the legitimacy of the conservative Orleanist regime during the 1840s. Known to her contemporaries as the writer of travel memoirs, a utopian novel, and assorted social commentary, Tristan is now recognized as a thinker whose works bridged the gap between "utopian" and "scientific" socialism and helped lay the foundations for modern feminist theory. Tristan was heavily influenced by the utopian-socialist thinkers of her day, but she diverged from the Saint-Simonians and the Fourierists in important particulars. Rejecting the idea that class harmony could be effected through the good offices of an enlightened middle class, she posited the existence of a fundamental class antagonism and addressed herself directly to the workers, telling them that they alone could best represent their own interests. Tristan's feminism complemented her socialism. Whereas earlier French feminists had discussed sexual inequality in isolation, Tristan argued that the oppression of women was directly related to the oppression of the working class. Her attempts to analyze the relationship between the subordinate status of women and the economic inequalities of the class system led her to articulate what the American historian S. Joan Moon has called a "utopian synthesis" of feminism and socialism. Like the Fourierists, Tristan believed that social progress could be measured by the status of women, and that the emancipation of the workers went hand in hand with the emancipation of women. In 1843 Tristan left her home in Paris and embarked on a Tour de France intended to promote the ideas contained in her final work, L'Union Ouvrière (The Workers' Union). Travelling from city to city, Tristan met with groups of activist workers and attempted to interest them in her plan for a national Workers' Union. She urged these workers to break down the occupational, regional, and ideological barriers that divided them from other laboring men and women, and she encouraged them to seek strength in national, and international, worker solidarity. Tristan's sudden death in 1844 cut short her involvement in the social reform movement that culminated in 1848, but her writings and her personal contact with provincial artisans left their mark on subsequent developments. Immediately after her death, several of her followers, inspired by her vision of national worker solidarity, attempted to implement plans for a Workers' Union, with minimal success. However, the most dramatic expression of Tristan's lasting impact on the French labor movement was the 1845 strike at the Toulon arsenal. According to the French historian Maurice Agulhon, Tristan's visit to this city during her Tour de France radicalized its workers and helped to precipitate this important strike. Tristan's ideas and her personal dedication to the workers' cause were not forgotten in 1848. French workers' expressed their enduring gratitude by placing a monument on her tomb in October of 1848. In a show of solidarity that would have greatly pleased Tristan, almost eight thousand workers commemorated the occasion by marching to her grave singing a song from The Workers' Union. While early historians of French socialism sometimes focused more on Tristan's eventful personal life than on her intellectual efforts or activism, she has come to be more fully appreciated in recent years. A number of articles and books have analyzed her contribution to French feminism and social theory, while several of her own works have been reprinted in French and in translation.
Kathleen M. Nilan


Flora Tristan. Peregrinations d'une Paria (1833-1834). 2 vols. Paris: Arthus Bertrand, 1838.

Flora Tristan. Mephis. 2 vols. Paris: Ladvocat, 1838.

Flora Tristan. Promenades dans Londres. Paris: H.-L. Delloye, 1840; London: W. Jeffs, 1840; trans. Flora Tristan's London Journal, 1840. Dennis Palmer and Giselle Pincetl (trans.) Charlestown: Charles River Books,1980.]

Flora Tristan. L'Union ouvrière. Paris: Imprimerie Lacour et Maistrasse fils, 1843. [reprint Editions d'Histoire Sociale, 1967].

Flora Tristan. Le Tour de France: Etat actuel de la classe ouvrière sous l'aspect moral, intellectuel, materiel. Preface by Michel Collinet, notes by Jules-L. Puech. Paris: Editions Têtes de Feuilles, 1973.

Flora Tristan. Lettres de Flora Tristan. Stephane Michaud (ed.). Paris: Seuil, 1980.

Agulhon, Maurice. "1844-1845. Le Voyage de Flora Tristan et la grande grève de l'arsenal." In Une ville ouvrière au temps du socialisme utopique: Toulon de 1815 à 1851. Paris: Mouton La Haye, 1970, 154-177.

Czyba, Lucette. "Flora Tristan: De la revolte à l'apostolat du Tour de France." in La Femme au XIXe siècle: Litterature et ideologie, R. Bellet (ed.), Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 1972, 29-54.

Moon, S. Joan. "Feminism and Socialism: The Utopian Synthesis of Flora Tristan" in Socialist Wom en: European Socialist Feminism in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries Marilyn A. Boxer and Jean H. Quataert (eds) New York: Elsevier North-Holland, 1978. 19-50.

Puech, Jules-L. La vie et l'oeuvre de Flora Tristan. Paris: Marcel Riviere, 1925.

Strumingher, Laura S. The Odyssey of Flora Tristan. New York: Peter Lang, 1989.

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