Begun by Louis XIII in 1623, the château began as a hunting lodge in brick and stone. It was expanded into a royal palace by Louis XIV. Life at Versailles was intrinsically determined by position, favor and above all one’s birth. The Chateau was a sprawling cluster of lodgings for which courtiers vied and manipulated. The court of Versailles was the center of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris, until the royal family was forced to return to the capital in October 1789 after the beginning of the French Revolution. Versailles is therefore famous not only as a building, but as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy of the Ancien Régime. [x]
On the morning of October 6, 1789 a mob of angry Parisians, mostly women, marched to the Palace demanding bread. They stormed the Palace, ran up the Queen’s Staircase and broke into the Guard’s Room, then into the antechamber. Marie Antoinette ran from her bedchamber into her private apartments towards the King’s Suite to find her husband and son.
Finally, a post with more women, but much lesser information of them. This is because many of them are not even known by their real name. Often, these women would occur during an event of the Revolution, or lead a single, isolated protest some time, be noted by police officers who recorded their names, as they understood it upon hearing, and their offense, and then dissappear entirely. Arguably, this was the case for male one-time-rebels, too. Only relatively few sansculotte women and men gained a fame that lasted over several events and years, but even in their case, many would disappear into obscurity after the revolutionary period. Maybe, with the revolutionary government and/or the self-administration of the sections gone, they would loose their benefits granted to them for revolutionary engagement and fall into poverty again. However, in the most cases, we only know the names of these women, and the case in which they became known for something revolutionary (or counter-revolutionary) they were accused of.
The list, despite its shortness, shows that it was very usual for women to be employed or run an own small business even after marriage. Several of the women were “liberated” from their husbands through death (being a widow was quite a good way of living these days) or separation. Others shared common ideas with their husbands and rather “worked together” in different fields of action, according to their respective social roles. Finally, many women fought together with their sisters and mothers, sometimes fathers, too. Also, female neighbours and friends played an important role in women’s political action. All in all, the women of the people were networkers and often acted in concert, and in the majority of cases they acted not inside the house, but publicly on the streets. The idea of women completely destitute of rights and acting capacity thus is somewhat indifferent towards the nuances of the limitations and liberties of popular women, and applies arguably better to the situation of bourgeois women, who - surprise - were those to criticise the corseted state they lived in, the only criticism of the female condition we have now, for popular women often were illiterate or semi-literate (able to sign with their name and do every-day scribbeling, but little more).
This part owes much to the really worthy book by Dominique Godineau: Citoyennes Tricoteuses. I have most information from this book. However, it covers only sansculotte women in Paris. The actions of women in the provinces are even less known, and will be treated in a following part. Also, the women which operated mainly as members of political clubs, or which became known predominantly through their membership to clubs, will be presented in a following part.
Louise-Reine Audu, orig. Louise-Renée Leduc, also „Reine des
Halles“, fruit seller, one of the leaders of the journée on 5th/6th
October 1789; later employee at the Commune de Paris, where she was responsible
for the food supply. Here is her Wikipedia entry.
Marie-Louise Adbin, veuve Monnard (born
1748), Babouvist, accused in the trial of Babouvists but acquitted.
Jeanne Ansiot-Breton, Babouvist, accused
in the trial of Babouvists
Nicole Pognon-Martin, Babouvist, accused
in the trial of Babouvists
Marie-Adelaide Lambert, Babouvist,
accused in the trial of Babouvists
Anne Victoire Langlet-Babeuf (1757– after 1840), wife of Gracchus Babeuf, she served as a bearer of his pamphlets.
Hardon, signed a petition to the legislative to punish all the
Louise-Catherine Vignot “La
Charbonnière”, coal loader, took part in the insurrection in Prairial III (May
1795), in which she led a battaillon of about 400 women to the Convention, dressed and armed as a Republican national guard.
Mme Marquet, laundress; laundresses were
supporters of the Babouvists.
Mme Vignon, arrested for having
distributed insurrectional brochures and newspapers (in March 1795)
Mme and Mlle Mazurier
Mme Dubouy/Dubuis “Mère Duchesne”, cook without employment, known
at the Jacobins, assisted at every meeting of the revolutionary assemblies. After Thermidor, she was accused of being a “satellite” to Robespierre, keeping him informed about “suspects”. She was also accused to have been present at the revolutionary tribunal, the Commune or the Jacobins regularly and having voiced her opinion loudly and aggressively. She had defendes Robespierre around Thermidor, and later Collot, barére and Billaud. (The name of Mère Duchesne was granted to her - and many other radical women - in police reports.)
Marie-Jeanne Trumeau-Bertin, fish
seller, condamned to be hanged for initiating pillage in the name of the Third
Estate during an economic uprising in April 1789
Léon, mother of Pauline Léon, chocolate manufacturer, took part in the Journée
on 17th July 1791
Audibert-Sergent, born before 1766, chamber maid, later rented rooms,
especially to prostitutes. Was linked to Hébert and acquainted with his wife.
Was present at the Jacobins every evening with the women of her quarter.
Stirred the people and especially women in Prairial III, incarcerated
afterwards. Later, she was close to the babouvists.
Saint-Prix, producer of tools for miniature painters. Associated with the
uprising in Spring III, arrested, but later released.
Duchesne”, anonymous cake seller, constantly present at the Tuileries during
the crisis in Mai 1793, where she stirred anti-Girondin sentiments. (The
sobriquet was given to her by the author of a police report.)
Monge and her three daughters, signed in 1793 a petition of radical republicans
demanding the compulsory wearing of cocards.
Janisson, defender of Hébert in spring 1794, arrested in Prairial.
Lecreps, Cordelière, voiced her indignation about the Hébertists’ arrest and
execution; arrested in Prairial.
Gaillot-Dubois, present at the Jacobins on 8th Thermidor an 2, took
part in the uprising on 9th Thermidor
Marie Françoise Victoire Guillomet-Lance(widow Castel), (born 1731/32), worker, but in possession of a house. She was a reknown follower of the Jacobins, for which she was arrested in Prairial III.
Lebrun, proposed to attack the Convention on 9th Thermidor an 2
Geneviève Antoinette Julie Gauthier, pastry manufacturer in her family’s business, defended, together with her father, Robespierre and his friends on 9
Thermidor, headed a group of women marching to the Convention on 1st Prairial III. Upon the decree of her arrest, her (ailing) mother, who had sometimes participated in her daughter’s and husband’s calls for revolt, is to have advised her to go into hiding, which Geneviève did.
Marie Marguerite and Marie Elisabeth Barbot/Barbeau, signed several petitions,
either together or single, e.g. in favour of women’s armament, defended
Robespierre and his friends on 9 Thermidor, took part in the uprisings in
Spring 1795, were arrested afterwards. Their sister Marie Anastasie was present
at the Champ-de-Mars massacre, but otherwise less politically active.
Marie Pierre Deffaut-Périot, (born around 1755), shopkeeper, suscriber to the Ami du Peuple (revived and edited by Lebois in 1794), which she discussed publicly. She visited the Jacobins sometimes together with her (female) neighbours accused for having stirred the people on 9 Thermidor, arrested in
Prairial an III.
Dembreville, accused for having dragged a canon for the Commune on 9 Thermidor.
Butikere, criticised the Thermidorian reaction.
Dupont, femme Barbant/Barbaux/Barbaut, born 1768, laundress; took an active
part in the section meetings, accused of being a “terroriste”, political
conspirator in 1795, she was part of the illegal circle that organised aids for the families of incarcered sansculottes.
Marthe Pingot-Chaladon, (born in 1760), signed a petition for womens’ right to bear arms. Was arrested after Paririal III and accused of influencing the revolutionary committee’s deliberations, being vexed about the fact that women were denied access to the general assembly, being a terroriste and the donation of the biens nationaux to the people instead of selling them.
Françoise Borne-Grimont, (born 1741), unemployed and living on public welfare, handed in a complaint for being discriminated against by her landlords for her jacobin convictions. Declared herself that she was “very often” at the Convention. After Prairial, she was arrested for voicing criticism about social injustice.
Madame Maubuisson, regular visitor of the tribunes.
Widow Salignac, regular visitor of the tribunes, later accused of taking part in illegal political (democratic) gatherings.
regular visitor of the tribunes.
regular visitor of the tribunes, later accused of organising illegal democratic gatherings.
regular visitor of the tribunes.
Madame Pampelun, regular visitor of the tribunes.
Pommier, baker, was accused for defending Robespierre after Thermidor and denouncing the Girondin representatives who “had their money, maybe not in blood, but in assignats”.
political conspirator in 1795, she was part of the illegal circle that organised aids for the families of incarcered sansculottes.
Leblanc, helped prepare the Prairial insurrection by assembling combattants.
Madame Devaux, stirred the people into insurrection in Prairial III and forced, with other women, to be handed over the keys to the general assembly’s hall.
Joséphine Rouillère, took part in the Prairial insurrection.
Gonthier, took part in the Prairial insurrection.
Madame Houssel, took part in the Prairial insurrection.
LES LIAISONS DE MARIE ANTOINETTE | The door and passage through which Marie Antoinette escaped the parisian mob on the night of the 5th October 1789. The Queen’s State Bedroom, Versailles. Photo, MYM, Flickr
Women & Feminism in the
French Revolution (D. Godineau)
Women participated in the revolutionary events, but, not being a
distinct whole, some were revolutionaries and others counter-revolutionaries. An
important women’s movement, a component of the popular movement, stood out in
certain moments of the Revolution, and it was for example by their
manifestations that the journées of
October 1789 and the insurrections of spring of Year III (1795) began. Women,
who, by their role as nourishing mothers, paid special attention to the
alimentary problems, were particularly numerous in all food riots. But they
were not motivated by this question alone and their interventions in the
revolutionary process were not limited to this aspect. The militants took part
in events whose motives were political (17 July 1791, 20 June, 10 August 1792,
conflict between Gironde & Montagne and struggle against federalism
in 1793, 9 Thermidor Year II, etc.). One even notices feminine motions in sans-culotterie, against a background of
the crisis of supplies but relating to political subjects (spring and summer
1793, Ventôse Year II, winter of Year III). The citoyennes did not legally have the right to vote and were not
accepted as members in most revolutionary organisations. In order to overcome
these limits that were imposed on their engagement, the most active women
organized in Women’s Clubs (Citoyennes
Républicaines Révolutionnaires in Paris and around thirty others in the
provinces): they were forbidden on 30 October 1793. Women furthermore rushed
into the public tribunes of the societies, clubs or assemblies (Convention,
municipalities), where they educated themselves politically while working there
(hence the nickname of tricoteuses).
The place which was theirs in the Sovereign and their incomplete citizenship
were at the heart of certain aspects of their interventions in the Revolution as
of a certain feminist expression.
From the beginnings of the Revolution onwards, women expected an
improvement of their condition in social, familial and economical outlooks.
Some, like Olympe de Gouges, Etta Palm d'Aelders or Théroigne de Méricourt,
appeared rather radical, others were obviously more moderate. Two texts
dominate a production of writings that were often very different: On the admission of women to the rights of citizenship
by Concordet (July 1790) and Thedeclaration of the rights of woman and the female
citizen by Olympe de Gouges (September 1791). Both of them thought that, as
beings of reason, women belong to the human community and are therefore born
with the same natural rights as men ; to forbid them to « contribute
to the law » is a violation of the « principle of the equality of rights » and
an « act of tyranny », wrote Concordet. These two essential texts present a
theoretical feminism ; but the reflections on women’s rights were not
particular to the debates of the Revolution and, based on the philosophy of
natural rights, were revived with new vigour in 1793 while feminine sans-culotterie asserted itself with
force within the popular movement. Women, thinking and social beings, have the
right to take part in political life, assured the militants who added: « the
declaration of rights is common in the one and in the other sex » ; and « since
the Constitution is based on the rights of man », some demanded its « whole
exercise » (the right to vote). Some rejected the image of passive and
unimportant women which they linked to
the condition of a people that is submitted to despotism and opposed to it the
one of « free women », members of a free people, who participate by their
action in the conquest of the liberty of mankind. The masculine oppression was
compared to the former royal despotism: in a Republic, the « marital despotism »,
« just as despotic towards women as was the one of aristocracy towards the
peoples », has to disappear because « everywhere where women will be enslaved,
men will be bent under despotism », these women wrote. The feminism of Olympe
de Gouges, Concordet, Etta Palm d'Aelders, Théroigne de Méricourt or of the
militants of 1793 was considered in a general perception of society: to restore their natural rights to women was regarded as one of the conditions that are
necessary in order to arrive at a truly free society. Alongside these texts,
certain approaches of women have, if one examines them in the light of the
concepts acting under the Revolution, a feminist character: the ceaseless
demands since the beginning of the Revolution of the militants of the right to
bear arms (an inherent attribute of popular sovereignty, one of the foundations
of citizenship), the solemn approval of the Constitution of 1793 by groups of
women who, by this gesture, asserted themselves as members of the sovereign and
reacquired a right (sanction of laws by voting) which they did not enjoy. When
it comes to questions of mentalités,
the majority of the revolutionaries were hostile to this feminism ; the report
of Amar (30 October 1793) which prohibited the Women’s clubs and the exercise
of political rights by women largely put an end to the feminist reflections. If
the revolutionaries legally refused the political rights to them, they
nonetheless took a certain number of measures which improved their condition:
civil acknowledgement, successional equality, divorce (by mutual consent, if it
took place). But, after the Revolution, the Napoleonic Civil Code would place
women under the domination of the chef de
famille for many years.
Some of the accusations made against Marie Antoinette in the Act of
Accusation for her trial, drawn up by Antoine Quentin Fouquier-Tinville:
That she drained the French treasury in order to ‘satisfy inordinate
pleasures and to pay the agents of her criminal intrigues,’ and that
she sent millions to her brothers in Austria.
That she organized
the ‘orgy of October 1st, 1789,’ and encouraged the soldiers to trample
the national cockade and engage in ‘counter-revolutionary excesses.’
she, along with Louis XVI, ordered both counter-revolutionary and
anti-monarchy pamphlets to be distributed throughout France in order to
instigate foreign powers to go to war with France.
That she organized a famine in October 1789 in order to weaken the revolution.
she opened and locked the door of the Tuileries through which she, the
king and the royal family passed through during the flight to Montmedy.
she conspired with the marquis de Lafayette to forbid anyone without
permission to leave or enter the palace, in order to prevent people from
knowing about 'midnight orgies’ against liberty. That she, along with her secret midnight councils, planned and ordered the Champs de Mars massacre.
it was her advice (and that of her Austrian council) which persuaded
Louis XVI to use his veto, particularly on the laws regarding priests
That she plotted 'with her perfidious agents’ the
violence on August 10th, 1792, plied the Swiss Guards with drink to keep
them 'in a state of drunkenness,’ and personally bit gun cartridges to
'excite those in her interest’ the night of August 9th.
That she 'prostituted herself’ with her son, Louis Charles.
Details of Marie Antoinette’s children in a family portrait painted by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun in 1787. The queen’s youngest child, Sophie, died before the portrait was finished and her cradle was repainted empty.
Marie Thérèse Charlotte (19 December 1778 - 19 October 1851) Louis Joseph Xavier François (22 October 1781 - 4 June 1789) Louis Charles (27 March 1785 - 8 June 1795) Sophie Hélène Béatrice (9 July 1786 - 19 June 1787)
Lemme tell you about the badassery of the Women’s March to Versailles
France was in debt and even though it had no money Louis XVI was shelling out mad cash to help the American Revolution in order to fulfill some petty revenge to smite England. France had no money but was spending it anyway but instead of using money they didn’t have to help the poor the King used it to do stupid stuff.
Flour was like all anyone could eat
The average french person ate 2 pounds of bread per day
So when the price of flour went up, everyone was fucked.
The Enlightenment was sweeping France at this point. But ideas are pointless without action.
In protest of the King’s irresponsible spending and to protest their starving families, the fisherwomen of Paris took to the streets with pitchforks and fishing spears.
These women were buff from skinning fish and using spear hooks, strong as all hell and most importantly they were ANGRY.
On October 5th 1789 this hoard of fisherwomen walked 35 miles towards Paris. The military was following them. As they walked people joined them, they grew to a mob of thousands.
These women broke into the palace KIDNAPPED THE KING OF FRANCE and dragged him back to Paris so he could see how his people were suffering.
The Queen’s bedchamber. There is a barely discernible hidden door in the corner near the jewel cabinet by Schwerdfeger (1787) through which Marie Antoinette escaped the night of 5/6 October 1789 when the Paris mob stormed Versailles.
Reference : Verlet, Pierre (1985). Le château de Versailles. Paris: Librairie Arthème Fayard.
The hidden door in Marie Antoinette’s bedroom at Versailles, located beside her bed. She used it to escape from the mob that stormed the palace and were aiming to kill her during the evening of October 4th/morning of October 5th, 1789.
There has been an outrcry of frustration by gamers about the decision Ubisoft has appeared to make regarding female models in the multiplayer co-op of the next Assassin’s Creed game. While there are a myriad of objectionable reasons for this, one of the things I keep hearing in defense of the decision is in regards to historical accuracy. Rather than replying in anger, I am choosing to use this as a teaching point for just how involved women were in the various facets of the French Revolution, and hope that through education we can all understand this chaotic period in history far better. While I find this decision shameful for many reasons, as a historian I feel that the most important thing we can do is clear the air of this particular objection and all walk away with knowledge rather than frustration.
For starters, on the most basic level the most famed assassination of the period was at the impetus of a woman. Charlotte Corday, disgusted by the direction of the Revolution which had become increasingly a modus of terror rather than liberation, stabbed the demagogue Jean-Paul Marat in his bathtub. She believed that the Revolution was being hijacked by extremists, and hoped that by eliminating the fear mongering leader of the press, she could help correct its course. Naturally, this wasn’t successful and she was guillotined almost immediately, but her actions became a touchstone for those who opposed Jacobin hegemony and a sort of cult of martyrdom surrounded her image for years. At her trial, she claimed that she ‘killed one man to save 100,000,’ which was a direct challenge to the doctrine of terror espoused by Robespierre himself. If you’re interested in learning more about this incredible woman, her wikipedia entry actually (for once) has some great resources on her. Trust me, she’s well worth the read.
Furthermore, there are historians, yours truly among them, who believe that during the French Revolution the foundations of feminism began to develop. Unlike the American Revolution, where rather than a popular uprising there was a dedicated military offensive from the first, females participated in the major events of the Revolution in equal or greater numbers than the male population. On 1 October 1789, one of these critical events took place in the form of the Women’s March on Versailles, where women who were frustrated by the deteriorating economic climate demanded that the King act. While later commentators would blame the insurrection upon the Duc d'Orleans dressed in drag stirring up resentment, this is an anachronistic explanation designed to blacken the Duc’s reputation. The women of Paris were in a better position than virtually anyone in the kingdom to understand the economic realities of the time, and dragged cannons to the gates of Versailles to demand action. Through their display, Lafayette was able to persuade Louis XVI to agree to the crowd’s demands to return to Paris, putting the Royal Family in the middle of the Revolution, and undoubtedly contributing to the course of events following. While it is tempting to judge these women for acting in anger, it is important to consider that the climate was desperate, people were dying in the streets from hunger, and that rather than waiting for someone else to make a decision, the women of Paris took their own agency to force a solution. The King’s move to Paris did temporarily help the raising grain prices as well, and while obviously things didn’t end so well for Louis and his family, the actions of the uprising should not be seen as the baying mob of the later Terror but a people rising to demand fair pricing and economic policy. Yes, they got violent, but the life of the Third Estate during that period was far more violent than our own, and to write off their actions as terror by mob rule is to ignore the motivations in play, and female involvement means that this event in particular sheds light upon what was important enough for these women to die for.
Lastly, (since this is getting rather long) after the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen by the Revolution leaders, a large part of the population, male and female, began to ask why the concept of universal human rights did not apply to women as well. Just as slave uprising in the French Caribbean colonies were due to the understanding by minority populations that the nascent French government surely meant they were due the same rights as the white plantation owners, the women of France believed they were accorded the same. Olympe de Gouges (another fascinating woman from the period) penned the Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Female Citizen in dialogue, arguing that the essential differences between man and woman did not justify the division of power and freedom. In directly coping the initial statement that “Woman is born free and remains equal to man in rights. Social distinctions may only be based on common utility”, de Gouges postulated the essential thesis of feminism almost two centuries before the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s-70s. Nicolas de Condorcet, Théroigne de Méricourt, and Etta Palm d'Aelders joined her in questioning why political rights weren’t identical for the genders, and women such as Germaine de Stahl and Pauline Léon were critical to the intellectual movements of the Revolution as well.
I am not going to engage with the question of 'time’ with Ubisoft. I will however question, and very loudly at that, why when attempting to create a game centered around the French Revolution they choose this game to remove female involvement when it is neither historically accurate to the age nor in line with their previous efforts for inclusion. The French Revolution changed the course of history and is unquestionably fodder for this series. But to deny that female involvement at this time existed, both violently and intellectually as the world changed course once again is both poor scholarship and silliness. Put in the women, Ubisoft. They were flying around stabbing people in reality, so why deny us the pleasure of letting them parkour? ]
Do you really know who was Marie Antoinette? If you did, you wouldn't reblog an image of her. She just cared about her own luxury, and didn't care about people. While she had a large table laden with various types of food just for her (to pick just one in hundred percent of food), people of France were in awful misery, wanting a piece of bread, for once. When they showed their discontent, she just said "Let them eat cake". She was reckless, naive and deluded by her own vanity.
1) She didn’t say “let them eat cake” (Google, anyone and everyone, Google). She, in all likelihood, wasn’t even accused of saying it during her lifetime.
2) After the bread shortage of 1775/ the ‘Flour War’, she wrote: “It is quite certain that in seeing the people who treat us so well despite their own misfortune, we are more obliged than ever to work hard for their happiness.” After the 1789 October Days, she wrote: “If we forget where we are and how we arrived it would seem there is a movement in the people which should reassure us, especially this morning. I hope that if there could be sufficient bread, things will get better. I speak to the people, the fishwives, the police, all give me their hands and I give mine. One has difficulty in believing what happened yesterday…" And so on, there are many examples of her personal feelings regarding people who were less fortunate.
3) She was naive, she was privileged, she could be vain (who isn’t, to some extent?). That doesn’t make her awful or worthy of loathing, it makes her a woman born into privilege who was personally kind and charitable to others.
There are plenty of valid criticisms to be laid at any historical figure, including Marie Antoinette, but "she didn’t care about the poor and she wasn’t starving like they were, she said let them eat cake!” isn’t one.
I hope that if there is no lack of bread, many things will be righted. I am in touch with the people; militiamen, market women; they all hold out their hand to me, and I hold out mine to them … The people, this morning, asked us to stay. I told them on behalf of the king, who was at my side, that it depended on them whether we stayed or not; that we asked for nothing better; that all hatred must cease; that we would flee in horror from any bloodshed whatsoever. Those closest to me swore that it was all over. I told the market women to go tell others what we had just said to each other.
–Marie Antoinette to Ambassador Mercy, 7 October 1789
Mary Hudson, The Indomitable Marie Antoinette]
The terrified Queen threw herself out of bed; they put a petticoat upon her without tying it, and the two ladies conducted her towards the oile-de-boeuf. A door, which led from the Queen’s dressing-room to that apartment, had never before been fastened but on her side. What a dreadful moment! It was found to be secured on the other side. They knocked repeatedly with all their strength; a servant of one of the King’s valets de chambre came and opened it; the Queen entered the King’s chamber, but he was not there.
–the memoirs of Madame Campan, on the events of October 6th, 1789