Élie Reclus was the oldest of five brothers, born to a Protestant minister and his wife. His middle three brothers, including the well known anarchist Élisée Reclus, all became geographers. In 1866 a feminist group called the Société pour la Revendication du Droit des Femmes began to meet at the house of André Léo. Members included Paule Minck, Louise Michel, Eliska Vincent, Élie Reclus and his wife Néomie, Mme Jules Simon and Caroline de Barrau. Maria Deraismes also participated. Because of the broad range of opinions, the group decided to focus on the subject of improving girls' education.
Élie Reclus served as director of the Bibliotheque National in Paris during the Commune de Paris. Condemned par contumace, he went to the United States, then to England, until the French government amnesty in March 1879. While exiled in London, he presented to the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland his first article against circumcision, Circumcision, signification, origins and other similar rituals, in January 1879.
Reclus also taught Charles Fairfield, who was the father of Rebecca West.
He is also known for his anarchist writings.
- Many articles in French or foreign journals or magazines, among which:
- 1864: Introduction to the Dictionnaire des communes de France, in collaboration with Élisée Reclus, Hachette
- 1885: Les Primitifs, Chamerot.
- 1894: Les Primitifs d’Australie, Dentu.
- 1896: Renouveau d’une cité, in collaboration with Élisée Reclus, La Société nouvelle
- 1894–1904: conferences at the New University of Brussels on the evolution of religions
- 1904–1910, posthumes:
- Le Mariage tel qu’il fut et tel qu’il est, Imprimerie nouvelle, Mons
- La Commune de Paris au jour le jour, Schleicher, reedited in 2011 by the Association Théolib;
- Les Croyances populaires, lessons at the New University
- Le Pain. La Doctrine de Luther, la Société nouvelle
- Les Physionomies végétales, Costes
- Revue internationale des sciences (Tome III, 1879, Paris)
- McMillan 2002, p. 130.
- "...late in her life, she [West] referred frequently to the anarchist Reclus brothers, one of whom (Elisée Reclus) had been a famous geographer in his time, while the other (Elie Reclus) had been the private tutor of West's father, Charles Fairfield..." Bernard Schweizer, Rebecca West: Heroism, Rebellion, and the Female Epic.Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2002. ISBN 0313323607.
- Élie Reclus. "Élie Reclus. La Commune de Paris au jour le jour".
- McMillan, James F. (2002-01-08). France and Women, 1789-1914: Gender, Society and Politics. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-58957-9. Retrieved 2014-10-23.