On this day in labor history, the year was 1803.
That was the day Utopian Socialist and women’s rights activist Flora Tristan was born.
She is also remembered as the grandmother of painter, Paul Gauguin. Mario Vargas Llosa most recently popularized her life in the 2003 novel, The Way to Paradise.
Her family was aristocratic but she grew up in poverty outside Paris.
The young Flora found work in an engraving shop and married the shop artisan, Andre Chazal.
Together they had three children.
When the marriage became violent, she left him, though divorce was impossible.
By some accounts, she became a maid for the wealthy and traveled Europe.
It was through her travels that she became a socialist.
She witnessed abject poverty and inequality in too many countries and was drawn to the works of the Utopian Socialists.
Tristan campaigned for the right of divorce and wrote at length of workers struggles on the cusp of industrialization.
Her novels, which confronted women’s inequality and workers rights, appeared in the late 1830s.
She regularly visited feminist and socialist salons in Paris where ideas linking social transformation and women’s rights were popular.
Her most well known work of non-fiction is The Workers’ Union, which appeared in 1843.
In it, Tristan argues that craft guilds could no longer adequately represent workers in an era of industrialization.
She envisioned an international union of workers that organized regardless of skill level, a union that took on broader issues of social justice.
Tristan also tied the advancement of women to the advancement of workers.
She believed that discrimination against women only strengthened anti-worker forces.
Workers and women had to take up each other’s causes in order to win true justice.