A husky voice barked: “Entrez!”
Through a long, dim hallway, I followed the voice, until I reached a spare, curtained room. One empty chair stood near the entrance. Another, across the darkened space, was occupied by a slender, shadowed figure with erect posture, white hair long and flowing as in the fashion of the 1840s, in an elegant black suit, immaculate linens, a neckcloth of Persian design. A bright gaze set into a finely featured face pierced the gloom.
“Sit”, the figure commanded. As if under the influence of a powerful magnetizer, I sat without pause.
My host spoke sharply, gruffly. “Welcome, Mademoiselle. You have come to meet me, no? You wish to learn of my ideas, my thoughts. But should you not first know to whom you speak?” I nodded.
The figure straightened. “You wrote to Octave Obdurant. This is the name with which the person before you entered the Ecole Polytechnique. It is the name on my entrance papers to the Ecole de Ponts et Chaussées. It is the name with which I signed my first articles in geometry, my first statistical tables, as well as Free the Earth, which you were kind enough to notice.”
The voice was clear and occasionally guttural; there was a warmth beneath its unyielding syllables.
“But as you have certainly realized, this is not my true name.”
I felt my mind begin to spin. I was unsure of where I was, what I was doing here, in these isolated rooms. I stammered out:
“Excuse me, Monsieur. What, then, is your name?”
“I was baptized Tranchot.” Despite the pause which followed, the name meant nothing to me until it was repeated, with its prenames before it.
“Marie Violette Tranchot.”
I was moved by an emotion of shock and recognition at once. Some part of me had already realized that I was not in the presence of a great man, but rather a great woman — no wizened brother of the struggle, but a sister. Instantly, I felt myself uncannily at home, safe at last in a place I’d never been — truly at home, perhaps, for the first time in my life. This hero, epitome of the courage and intelligence the world saw as masculine, was a woman like myself.
Fascinating reading, from Louise Michel, in Le Libertaire, iii, 1895. She writes about the Scoundrel Laws, and the paucity of an overly-praised history, and her meeting with Octave Obdurant.
You can read the whole thing at The Public Domain. Highly recommended.