Victor Hugo Central
The internet research hub for Victor Hugo enthusiasts

How to support this site

Cafe Press

Victor Hugo on Women's Rights

New York Times - April 18, 1875

The Society for the Improvement of the Condition of Women have sent an address to Victor Hugo appealing to him in the name of right, to lend the aid of his valuable voice. The poet replies in the following characteristic letter:

MESDAMES: I have received your address, which does me honor. I am aware of your noble and legitimate demands. In our society, such as it has been made woman suffers. She is right to claim a better fate. I myself am only a conscience, but I understand your rights, and to obtain them is one of the duties of my life. You are, therefore, not wrong to rely on my good-will and assistance. Man was the problem of the eighteenth century; woman is the problem of the nineteenth. And who says woman, says child -- that is, the future. The question thus put appears in all its profundity, and on its solution depends the fate of the supreme social battle. What a strange and anomalous situation! In reality, man depends on you, for woman holds the heart of man. Before the law she is a minor, incapable, without civil action, without political right -- in short, she is nothing; before the family altar she is everything, because she is the mother. The domestic hearth is what she makes it; at home she is the mistress of good and ill. Sovereignty complicated by oppression; woman can do all against man, but nothing for herself. It is imprudent of the law to make her so weak when she is so strong. Let us recognize that weakness and protect it; let us recognize that strength and counsel it. There lies the duty of man, and there is also his interest. No, I shall never cease to say it, the problem is laid down, and it must be solved. She who bears half the burden ought to have half the right. Half of the human race is deprived of equality; it must be given to them. This will be one of the grand glories of our grand century. Let the right of woman counterbalance the right of man -- that is to say, let the laws be placed in conformity with the morals and manners of the country. Accept, mesdames, my respects.