The school prospectus had “an illustration of a woman wearing a Liberty Cap and lighting her lamp from the sun of Truth with one hand, while feeding children the fruits of knowledge with the other,” according to Edith Thomas in her book Louise Michel (Black Rose Books).
The caption read: “From each according to his capacity, to each according to his needs. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.”
The guiding committee included famous anarchists such as the Russian prince, Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921), and the Italian Errico Malatesta (1853-1932), and the English libertarian socialist William Morris (1834-1896).
They hoped to “keep the children out of the religiously oriented state schools which, consciously or unconsciously, teach that the people are to be sacrificed to the power of the State and the profit of the privileged classes.”
It was to be “based on the scientific development of reason, the development of personal diginity and independence rather than piety and obedience, on respect for truth and justice, and respect for humanity rather than adoration of a divinity.” The aim was to produce free people who respected the freedom of others.
It taught French, German, English, music, drawing, sewing, and engraving.
The school was closed when the police raided it in 1892 and found bombs in the basement.
It was suspected these were planted there by the school’s assistant Auguste Coulon, who was later unmasked as a police spy. He was expelled from the anarchist Autonomie Club at 6 Windmill Street, where Louise had first met him.
In a subsequent trial of several anarchists, who were given sentences of ten years’ hard labour for possessing explosives, they claimed these had been supplied them by Coulon.
One of these was an Italian shoemaker Jean Battola, who lived at 18 Fitzroy Square. In the dock he remained defiant, accusing the state and the ruling class of all the real crimes of the age, concluding with the question: “How many generals are imprisoned for using weapons of death?”
See also: The Paris Commune remembered