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Open Access Dissertation

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First Advisor

Dr. Christopher H. Johnson


Etienne Cabet's utopian novel, Voyage en Icarie (1840), depicted a country organized according to the French Revolutionary principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity that he equated with Christ's tutelages. Its National Assembly of citizens exercised the reason that Cabet deemed Nature had given men to pass beneficial laws which provided for the lifetime needs of all. This research began with an exploration of the background sources Cabet used in his utopia, especially those related to women. Icarians boasted that they had female doctors, surgeons, and priestesses. Everyone was able to choose a marriage partner without a dowry and were permitted divorce. Children of both sexes were educated equally, albeit in separate schools. Many women readers joined their supportive voices to those of workers, artisans, and thoughtful intellectuals who praised Cabet's utopian society. A large Icarian movement developed during the 1840 decade. Soon after the novel's companion text, Vrai Christianisme, appeared in 1846, Cabet announced his plan to set up an Icarian community in Texas. However, he found it difficult to convince women to leave. His newspaper essays stressed that Icarians would be dedicated to women's affranchissement (liberation) and many were persuaded to join the emigration. The first Advance Guard departed for Texas three weeks before the 1848 Revolution. This upheaval disrupted the livelihood of countless Icarians. Of singular significance at that time however, was Cabet's support for Icarian women that he began calling citoyennes. They were linked with a feminist movement that advocated women's inclusion in France's 'universal' suffrage proposals. Consequently, some women who left for the Colony demanded political rights which were not present in Cabet's novel. Shortly after their arrival, Assembly men voted to place children over age two in boarding schools with parental visits limited to Sunday afternoons. Women's dissatisfaction with this and other laws that they lacked power to change caused many withdrawals. Cabet complained that 'ignorant' and 'obstinate' women led their 'weak-minded' husbands out. He reported that women caused 90% of his troubles each day. After six years, he believed that "all the mothers" were against him. A secret group of 'Mariannes' joined 'Red' party conspirators in an 1856 'war' that divided the colony. Cabet died shortly after the group separated. The two Icarian factions relocated but continued to be effected by women's pursuit of political rights. When another 'war' split their Iowa community in 1879, one branch wrote a Constitution granting women full electoral powers. Gender equity was not enough to overcome their economic problems and the colonies disbanded by 1898. This study of the multifarious incidents related to women's quest for equitable power for fifty years in seven Icarias expands the historical scholarship. It concluded that the Icarians attempt to create an ideal society was seriously marred by Cabet's defective gender concepts.