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Women's Activism in the Revolution of 1848/49: Statutes of the Viennese Democratic Women's Association (1848); Report on their Activities (1850); Petition to the Austrian Constituent Assembly (October 16, 1848)

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III. Petition to call out the militia (October 16, 1848)

In the session of the Reichstag on October 17, the following petition was presented by four ladies and was very favorably received, although, as is known, the decision of the Reichstag regarding the militia was negative.

Venerable Reichstag!

The liberty of the fatherland is in danger! A cry of pain penetrates all hearts, an emotion quickens every breast!

Filled with the great importance of the desperate conditions of our time, which calls us inescapably to battle to escape a military despotism, we consider it our duty to unite our wishes with those of our brothers in order to present the venerable Reichstag with the urgent request that it seize the reins of government with vigorous force before it is too late. The courage and determination of our freedom fighters – we can say, the entire nation, which is ready to fight to the last man for the good cause – is so great that we would truly be able to defeat the enemy on our own. But long hesitations always have a weakening effect especially on those people whose resolution is half-hearted. It would thus be of the utmost necessity that a venerable Reichstag should call out the militia, which – with tremendous strength – is merely waiting for its nod, and thus – the more imposing the power, the greater the military forces, the fewer the victims will be – to gain a victory which has already been bought dearly enough with so much unnecessary bloodshed.

Now is the time to act. Every minute of delay may cost many human lives – as far as we can see, we behold the murderous cannons drawing up before us – the destruction of the threat of military despotism shall be our rallying cry! We must no longer delay to preserve our precious achievements at every price. O, hear our warning, our cry for help, representatives of a free people! Do not heap upon your heads the reproach of your contemporaries and of posterity through timid hesitation and deliberation where the welfare of millions is at stake. Free men of the nation, prove that you are worthy of the trust of so great a nation, and erect for yourselves a memorial in the annals of history that is indestructible. Citizen! We place our trust in your proven sense of duty.

Vienna, 16 October 1848
On behalf of the First Democratic Viennese Women’s Association, Karoline Perin, Chairwoman
(and about 1,000 signatures).

Original German texts reprinted in Gerlinde Hummel-Haasis, Schwestern zerreißt eure Ketten: Zeugnisse zur Geschichte der Frauen in der Revolution von 1848/49. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag, 1982, pp. 247-53.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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