O.K, not really for palimony, but for pensions for mistresses and women's rights.
I have been planning to write about the subject for quite some time, but the sheer gruesomeness of this story prevented me. It all started when someone gave me the Short Version of World History by one J.W. Pik, the edition of 1934. It was there that I read about Paris Commune and its demise.
Now, of course, I heard about Paris Commune before, but it was long ago and I never gave much thought to it. It was just a historical fact. This time I became interested and checked Wikipedia, which as usual, supplied me with many details of the story absent in the book. Naturally, I was especially interested in the feminist angle of the famous uprising.
So first the short summary of the facts: Paris Commune events happened during and after the Franco-Prussian war, after the Second Empire collapsed and the National Assembly proclaimed the new French Republic. At that time, the population of France was sharply divided between conservative Catholics who chiefly lived in the countryside and various radicals and socialists living in big cities such as Paris. A lot of them supported First International and wanted to make France socialist.
As the war progressed and Germans surrounded Paris, the discontent among the radicals grew and there were several small uprisings. When the armistice was signed, the country held general elections where Catholic candidates won, except in Paris, where socialist took the majority of seats. The rift between the conservatives in the Assembly and the radicals was quickly growing and turned violent as the Paris National Guard refused to return some old-fashioned cannons to the regular army, despite the demands of the lawfully elected national Parliament.
On the 19th of March, 1871, National Guard took power and proclaimed new elections for a city council, which were supported only by 48% of registered voters. For the Central Committee of the National Guard it was enough though and thus Paris Commune came into being.
It started with introducing the old Republican Calendar and the red flag and establishing progressive democracy, which included: taking away the property of the Church as a part of separating Church and State, pensions for mistresses of National Guardsmen killed in action and struggle against Western patriarchy (represented by Western capitalism).
To get rid of patriarchy, the following was proposed:
right of divorce
professional (secular) education for girls
erasing of the distinction in status between wives and mistresses, and consequently, their children
While the feminist movement consisted chiefly of women, some of whom even joined men on the barricades, it's obvious that they wouldn't go anywhere far, were it not for men, and all the Commune leaders were male.
The French government sent the troops to suppress the uprising. It's interesting that while the Commune leaders stated that they were against death penalty, when the situation deteriorated they quickly took the law allowing execution of hostages (among whom were many priests). In fact, the law stated that if one person who was on the side of the Commune gets executed by the lawful government, the Commune will execute "a triple number of hostages" in retaliation. The National Assembly reacted by establishing military tribunals.
Among the notable achievements of the Commune was the destruction of the Vendome Column erected to celebrate Napoleonic Victories. The Column was accused of being a symbol of "brute force" and barbarism (and was probably oppressive to women, too, taking into account its shape). The idea came from the painter Mr Courbet.
The Commune was also against military conscription but forced every able-bodied man to become a member of the National Guard, thus creating an army of 200,000. The officers were elected though, and not always according to their capability. As the result, the army lacked discipline and necessary skills. They were hardly a match for the regular army. When it entered the city, the situation quickly became desperate for its defenders who lacked all the organisational skills and distrusted their commanders.
After the uprising was suppressed, the reprisals started. The Wiki article mentions that several women who manned the barricades were executed alongside with men, however, as usual, men bore the brunt of it. Till this day, it's not known how many exactly were killed after short show trials (which mostly included examining their hands for the traces of the gun powder), however the number of casualties during the "Bloody Week" most commonly named is ten thousand.
The leaders of Commune were tried separately, including the feminist leader Louise Michel. Evil French Males refused to give her a death sentence though and sent her to New Caledonia instead where she had to work as a schoolteacher. 9 years later she returned to France and resumed her career in fighting patriarchy by inciting the people to pillage the bakery. She was imprisoned again, then pardoned, then arrested again etc etc, until her death in 1905.
It's interesting that already in those times, men (or some men at least) were much inclined to admire the ferociousness of women who supposedly fought alongside men like tigresses and set fire to many buildings. Though nowadays the historians believe it to be a myth (why men tend to get obsessed with female warriors is beyond my comprehension), at that time the myth cost some unlucky women dearly as they were accused of arson and murdered.
What conclusion can we draw from the story above? I'll leave it to you, dear reader. For me, it shows how feminism would never take root so to say, without men who aided and abetted it and were ready to fight and die for among other things, women's rights.