French revolutionary, anarchist,
and freethinker (1830-1905)
She was the daughter of a nobleman's concubine. As a schoolteacher, she refused to take the oath of allegiance to the emperor. She became a political activist and writer, and became well known for her courage on the barricades in the Paris Commune of 1870.
The government imprisoned and then deported her to New Caledonia, a French colony in the southwest Pacific, where she took up the cause of the indigenous Kanak. She made so much trouble for the colonial government there that she was returned to France.
Michel returned to Paris to a tumultuous welcome by the working classes and hateful attacks by the press, which attacked her for being mannish ("homasse"). She became a major speaker at popular meetings and international anarchist conferences. She founded a libertarian school in London in the 1890s, but continued to speak and travel until her death.