Online Encyclopedia

MICHEL

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V18, Page 362 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MICHEL, CL$MENCE LOUISE (1830-1905), French anarchist, called la Vierge rouge de Montmartre, was born at the chateau of Vroncourt (Haute-Marne) on the 29th of May 1830, the daughter of a serving-maid, Marianne Michel, and the son of the house, Etienne Charles Demahis. She was brought up by her father's parents, and received a liberal education. After her grandfather's death in 185o she was trained to teach, but her refusal to acknowledge Napoleon III. prevented her from serving in a state school. She found her way in 1866 to a school in the Montmartre quarter of Paris, where she threw herself ardently into works of charity and revolutionary politics. She became violently anti-Bonapartist, and is said to have meditated the assassination of Napoleon. During the siege of Paris she joined the ambulance service, and untiringly preached resistance to the Prussians. On the establishment of the Commune she joined the National Guard. She offered to shoot Thiers, and suggested the destruction of Paris by way of vengeance for its surrender. She was with the Communards who made their last stand in the cemetery of Montmartre, and was closely allied with Theodore Ferri', who was executed in November 1871. This ardent attachment was perhaps one of the sources of the exaltation which marked her career, and gave many handles to her enemies. When she was brought before the 6th council of war in December 1871 she defied her judges and defended the Commune. She was sent as a convict to New Caledonia, among her companions being Henri Rochefort, who remained her friend till the day of her death. The amnesty of 188o found her revolutionary ardour unchanged. She travelled throughout France, preaching revolution, and in 1883 she led a Paris mob which pillaged a baker's shop. For this she was condemned to six years' imprisonment, but was released in 1886, at the sametime as Prince Kropotkin and other prominent anarchists. After a short period of freedom she was again arrested for making inflammatory speeches. She was soon liberated, but, hearing that her enemies hoped to intern her in a lunatic asylum, she fled to England. She returned to France in 1895, and in 1902 was back in London. She was touring France and lecturing on behalf of anarchist propaganda when she died at Marseilles on the loth of January 1905. Her Memoires (Paris, 1886) contain accounts of her trials. See also La Bonne Louise (Paris, 1906), by E. Girault.
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