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Women As Spectators And Participants In The French Revolution

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Women’s experiences of the French Revolution varied greatly. There were three main classes of women: noble women from Versailles, middle class educated women, and workers such as peasant women, silk weavers, market women. They participated by marching/protesting, participating in debates, and writing pamphlets. They earned the right to equal inheritance and to divorce on equal terms with men. Could not be deputies in the assemblies, or hold official roles so they could be honest in their opinions. Women of the lower classes were often the ones who attended crowd protests. Seven thousand women participated in the march on Versailles, mostly poor, demanding bread. Later men arrived to provide the women support.

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Madame Roland played a role in revolutionary politics. She first founded a salon as a meeting place for the radical Jacobins and later as a salon for the Girondins. She was imprisoned as a conspirator by Girondins eventually executed in 1793Wrote many letters and Memoirs in secret during while she was imprisoned. She provided the venue, sociability, refreshments, and allowed the men to talk politics. Because of her involvement in politics, she was considered an aristocrat by her enemies In the beginning of the Revolution, there was a lot common ground and friendship between the people who later chose opposing sides. Roland’s views on Robespierre changed due to her imprisonment, and because he had tried to have her husband murdered. She defended her friends, denied that they were his enemies.

Other women such as Madame de Chalabre and Madame Jullien, Jacobins, saw Robespierre very differently, as an example of virtue and thus was an integral politician. Robespierre lived in Maurice Duplay’s house, whose family was devoted to Robespierre. They gave him comfort and meals. Robespierre joined the family in many daily activities.

Elizabeth Le Bas was one of the four daughters of Maurice. Elizabeth Le Bas recalled the overthrow and execution of Robespierre and his supporters. Her family suffered cruelly for their loyalty to Robespierre. She lost both her mother and husband and she and her baby were placed in prison. Even as an old lady she considered the Robespierrists as “men of virtue”. She had a lot of faith in Robespierre and thought of him like a “good brother”.

Despite being half of the population and often underestimated by historians, to a somewhat large extent, women initiated the French Revolution by fighting to gain more rights and protesting the king withholding basic rights such as food.

15 April 2020

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