"I know that I am the slave and you the lord. The law of the land has made you my master....you have the right of the stronger party, and society confirms you in it; but over my will, sir, you are powerless."
"What moral sense can a woman have if she cannot call her soul her own, possesses nothing in her own name, and has been accustomed all her life to use her guile and charm as a means to escape from tyranny and constraint?"
--From Flora Tristan's Promenades dans Londres(Cross, 52)
Something in Common:
In 19th century France arose two women who symbolized women's rights and freedom. They were born a year apart, Flora Tristan in 1803 and Aurore Dupin in 1804. Both women were primarily raised by the women in their houses as both of their fathers died when they were young. Each married in an attempt to improve their lives: Aurore, to escape her mother and Tristan, to escape poverty. It is to the failure of both of their marriages that we can attribute their fame. Both found marriage as a male dominant system that enslaved women and as a result, they both tried to escape it. Aurore Dupin left her marriage, taking her children along with her, and began writing novels as a means of providing her family with income. Flora Tristan left her marriage and became involved in the woman's movement and soon also involved herself in the civil rights of all working class Parisians. Though similar circumstances brought these two women into the writing world, their views on women's roles and rights were not the same. In fact, though they both acknowledged each other's contributions to the women's movement they criticized each other's motives and styles.
George Sand was a novelist whose female characters were educated, intelligent individuals, unafraid to speak their minds and admired by men. Flora Tristan was a political activist who wrote newspaper articles and books to inspire the workers of France to form unions together and fight for their rights. George Sand once described Tristan as "sincere, active and courageous but also as overly proud, condescending and even ridiculous." (Newman) George Sand was not a supporter of female activists, who she believed only damaging women's liberation. For her, Flora Tristan had committed the biggest mistake: leaving her daughter behind when she separated from her husband. To Sand, Tristan was only encouraging the public's association between women's freedom and child abandonment. Having taken her own children with her when she left her husband, George Sand could not understand Tristan's neglect of her own daughter. "Did her mother [i.e., Tristan] love her? Why were they separated?" This misunderstanding only further established the class distinction between these two women. Sand was a Bourgeoisie and so could not relate to Tristan's financial explanation for leaving her child. (Dijkstra, 184)
At the same time, Flora Tristan could not understand or accept George Sand's form of activism. George Sand felt that women's demands for equality only alienated feminists from the public, as they would equate political equality with "freedom of passion."(Walton, 1001) Instead, she chose to write fiction, in the hopes of creating inspiring characters that would slowly help to redefine the roles of women. Tristan had two major problems with Sand: #1 that Sand wrote under a male pseudo name and #2 that Sand expressed her feminism through fiction. Tristan saw both of these aspects as "veils" that Sand timidly hid behind. By writing as a man, Tristan felt that Sand was doing an injustice to women, even though Sand never made a pretense to actually be a man. As for the use of fiction, Tristan felt that it only weakened Sand's political argument. "How effective can accusations be when they are disguised by fiction?" (Beik) In other words, how effective were Sand's political views if she did not claim them as her own but only as the hopes and desires of a made up character? Sand of course had done it intentionally, sticking to her belief that women were not ready for political action until they were liberated from marital oppression. Tristan, on the other hand, argued that it was only through political action that womencould be liberated from marriage.