The life story of Marie-Madeleine Jodin opens an exciting new perspective on the world of 18th-century women, European court theatres, and, most strikingly, entails the remarkable discovery of a previously unknown French feminist. In 1790, Jodin, a protégée of Denis Diderot and a former actress, published a treatise entitled Vues législatives pour les femmes (Legislative Views for Women), which can lay claim to being the first signed, female-authored feminist manifesto of the French Revolutionary period, and which reveals Jodin's wide reading in women's history and feminist writing since ancient times. This new critical and contextual biography traces the turbulent life of an extraordinary woman, focusing particularly on her transformation from artisan's daughter, to tragic actress, to Enlightenment intellectual and feminist. The authors analyze the confrontations and scandals that beset her career, and read her feminist treatise-here reproduced, for the first time in English, in its entirety-as the summation of a chaotic but passionate existence. Also presented for the first time in English, fully set in their biographical and historical context, are the twenty-one letters that constitute Diderot's correspondence with Jodin. The varied and fascinating documentation concerning Jodin, which has only recently been discovered, provides a window on the world of 18th-century women. While memoirs and biographies of aristocratic women and upwardly mobile salonières such as Mme. Geoffrin and Mme. Roland are legion, chronicles of the lives of individual women lower down the social ladder are far fewer in number. A contemporary of Mary Wollstonecraft and Olympe de Gouges, Jodin argued for the social reform of working-class women, particularly prostitutes, to render them worthy to exercise the rights of citizenship.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction; ’This accursed child’; The debutante actress and her profession; The view from Warsaw - the Polish adventure; The view from Paris - Diderot’s letters; ’Une malheureuse passion?’; Bordeaux 1768-1769; London, Angers and the quieter years 1770-77; Vues législatives pour les femmes 1789-1790; Appendix ’Legislative views for women addressed to the National Assembly’, by Mademoiselle Jodin. ’Vers Ã¡ Mlle Jodin’; Index.
’Thanks to Felicia Gordon and P. N. Furbank for rescuing from the shadows the remarkable Mlle Marie Madeleine Jodin (1741-1790) - strong-willed adolescent, impetuous, high-handed and talented actress, and feisty feminist pamphleteer. Their beautifully-crafted and well-contextualized study of this daughter of a citizen of Geneva� is a triumph of successful pan-European archival detective work, tracing Jodin’s turbulent career from Paris to Warsaw, Dresden, Bordeaux, London, Angers, and back to Paris. An added bonus in an already very valuable book is their complete English translation of Mlle Jodin’s long revolutionary tract, Vues législatives pour les femmes.’ Karen Offen, Institute for Research on Women & Gender, Stanford University ’In Marie Madeleine Jodin, Felicia Gordon and P.N. Furbank have discovered a previously unknown pioneer of feminism in 18th-century France...[They] shed light on a variety of aspects of 18th-century social history, from the theatre to education, from the nature of platonic friendship in the Enlightenment to the rules of sexual intrigue in the minor courts of Europe...In exploring her history, Gordon and Furbank also explore the roots of feminist ideology in personal experience. They have...come up with a vivid and convincing picture of the life, loves and thoughts of a figure who deserves to come out of the wings of history and into the limelight.’ Richard J. Evans, Professor of Modern History, University of Cambridge 'It is a genuine contribution to scholarship, an interesting account of a life, and would, I suspect, make good material for a film.' British Journal of Eighteenth-Century Studies 'The appendix alone justifies the publication of this fascinating woman's biography... Gordon and Furbank are to be congratulated for translating and annotating these unique documents. They have enriched our understanding not only of 'Ranging from recently imported oriental religions, through Christian sects such as Qu