Marx, Jenny - obituary by Frederick Engels

Engels' biography and obituary of Jenny Marx, Karl Marx's eldest daughter.

Submitted by libcom on August 5, 2005

Jenny Longuet, Nee Marx

by Frederick Engels

Jenny, the eldest daughter of Karl Marx, died at Argenteuil near Paris on January 11. About eight years ago she married Charles Longuet a former member of the Paris Commune and at present co-editor of the Justice.

Jenny Marx was born on May 1, 1844, grew up in the midst of the international proletarian movement and most closely together with it. Despite a reticence that could almost be taken for shyness, she displayed when necessary a presence of mind and energy which could be envied by many a man.

When the Irish press disclosed the infamous treatment that the Fenians sentenced in 1866 and later had to suffer in jail, and the English papers stubbornly ignored the atrocities; and when the Gladstone Government, despite the promises it made during the election campaign, refused to amnesty them or even to ameliorate their conditions, Jenny Marx found a means to make the pious Mr. Gladstone take immediate steps. She wrote two articles for Rochefort's Marseillaise vividly describing how political prisoners are treated in free England. This had an effect. The disclosures in a big Paris newspaper could not be endured. A few weeks later O'Donovan Rosa and most of the others were free and on their way to America.

In the summer of 1871 Jenny, together with her youngest sister, visited their brother -in-law Lafargue at Bordeaux. Lafargue, his wife, their sick child and the two girls went from there to Bagn?res-de-Luchon, a spa in the Pyrenees. Early one morning a gentleman came to Lafargue and said: "I am a police officer, but a Republican; an order for your arrest has been received; it is known that you were in charge of communications between Bordeaux and the Paris Commune. You have one hour to cross the border."

Lafargue with his wife and child succeeded in getting over the pass into Spain, for which the police took revenge by arresting the two girls. Jenny had a letter in her pocket from Gustave Flourens, the leader of the Commune who was killed near Paris; had the letter been discovered, a journey to New Caledonia was sure to follow for the two sisters. When she was left alone in the office for a moment, Jenny opened a dusty old account book, put the letter inside and closed the book again. Perhaps the letter is still there. When the two girls were brought to his office, the prefect, the noble Count of Keratry, well remembered as a Bonapartist, closely questioned them. But the cunning of the former diplomat and the brutality of the former cavalry officer were of no avail when faced with Jenny's calm circumspection. He left the room in a fit of rage about "the energy that seems peculiar to the women of this family". After the dispatch of numerous cables to and from Paris, he finally had to release the two girls, who had been treated in a truly Prussian way during their detention.

These two incidents are characteristic of Jenny. The proletariat has lost a valiant fighter in her. But her mourning father has at least the consolation that hundreds of thousands of workers in Europe and America share his sorrow.

London, January 13, 1883 Fr. Engels

Der Sozialdemokrat No. 4, January 18, 1883