From the Male to the Female Outcast: A Gendered History of French Political Exile in the British Isles and the Americas under the Empire

By Sylvie Aprile

The lives of political women outcasts under the French Second Empire have not attracted much historical attention. This article explores three types of female outcasts who challenge the traditional stereotype of a unchanging «eternal feminine» given over to domesticity. The first figure is the wife who « stays behind » the male political exile. She is not passive inasmuch as she assumes, at least in part, the responsibilities of her husband as well as the shame attached to his name. The second type is the woman who follows her husband into exile. She also plays an active role inasmuch as she helps to build and maintain family relations and political connections. If we look beyond the cliché of the wife who sacrifices her comfort and happiness for the sake of her husband, we find that these women had a variety of professional experiences and very ably adjusted to foreign circumstances. The last figure is the single woman outcast, who either is expelled from France or leaves by her own free will. In the case of such women outcasts as Jenny d’Héricourt and Jeanne Deroin, the exile experience transformed their militant behavior and the nature of their political activism.


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