Part 3: Révolution et Providence: religious women
Again, this is a social group which was generally not very welcoming of the Revolution. Most (catholic) religious convents were very entangled with the Ancien Régime, its abbesses being of noble origin, or the entire convent being donated by nobles. Additionally, there was a big distrust towards the civil order of the clergy among female clerics. Last but not least, in the course of the dissolution of contemplative convents as a result from enlightenment sense of social utility (there was a similar movement in the Josephian countries some years before), only those convents were secure who provided necessary social services, like health care. On the other hand, the revolution saw the emergence of a multitude of civil or semi-civil, anthroposophic religions, in which (urban) women engaged a great deal. However, I could not find individual women I could present here. So, this is again a very short list.
Marie-Marguerite-Françoise Goupil-Hébert, (1756-1794), was a nun until about 1791, but being a patriot, she quit the convent. Despite keeping her Catholic beliefs, she sided with the more radical Republicans, marrying Hébert and presumably becoming the editor of his journal (in her accusation, she is treated as the owner of a printing house). According to Desgenettes, a former friend of Hébert and one-time visitor to Goupil, she was an ardent follower of Claude Fauchet (1744-1793), a constitutional bishop and advocate of social justice, but also a man of moderation and accomodation, later comprised in the struggle against the Brissotins and executed with them. According to Desgenettes, Goupil was impressed by his ideas and his eloquence, and spread his words to her “sisters” in the revolutionary clubs. She was arrested and executed as a “complice” of her husband. Her daughter Virginie later converted to protestantism, married a protestant pastor and became one of the promoters of evangelical protestantism in 1820s France. Her Wikipedia entry can be found here, and I wrote a piece about her here.
Sophie (Marie-Françoise?) Fournier-Momoro, wife of Antoine-François Momoro, acted as Goddess of Reason during the festival of Liberty on 10 november 1793.This fact is contested, for some historians claim that it was, in fact, the opera singer Mademoiselle Maillard who acted as Goddess of Reason. However, this may be a counter-revolutionary slender, for Mlle Maillard had a bad reputation, and the hostile historiography has it that the Goddess of Reason was, basically, a half-naked protitute. She was comprised in the struggle against the Enragés and sent to prison. However, she was released in Prairial an II, obviously to her great astonishment. It seems that she, from a family of printers herself, helped her husband in his work as an editor and printer. This was, by the way, fairly common at that time, and women were not yet kept outside their husbands’ business. After her husband’s death and her release from prison, she made a request for financial aid by the government, for she found herself without means and responsible for a child (a son, Jean-Antoine, with Momoro) and an ailing mother. Her request was refused. Three years later, she remarried and had a daughter. Apparently, she died in 1808.
Perrine Dugué (1777-1796), named « Sainte tricolore », « Sainte républicaine », « La Sainte bleue », or « la Sainte aux ailes tricolores », from a very republican family, she was murdered (probably after a failed attempt to rape her) by Chouans. Rumor has it that she was a saint who did miracles, and she was worshipped by many villagers. Here is her Wikipedia entry.
Cathérine Théot (1716-1794), had hallucinations from an early age. When, as a domestic in a convent, she declared in the 1770s to be the new Saint Virgin, or Eve, designed to give birth to the new Messiah, she was emprisoned in the Bastille, and then at the Salpêtrière hospital. Liberated in the early 1780s, she installed herself as a professional prophetesse and became modestly famous. During the Republic, she announced the coming of the Messiah, a consolator of the poor. It was understood by the present audience that she was talking of Robespierre. This rumour endowed Vadier to compromise her in an affair that was designed to ridicule Robespierre, although he was not mentioned directly. She was emprisoned, but protected through Robespierre’s influence, who did not want the affair to become broader known. After 9 Thermidor, she was accused for being in intelligence with Robespierre, but acquitted. Nevertheless she died in prison in September.
Clotilde-Suzanne Courcelle-Labrousse (1747-1821), medium and prophet, close to the Jacobins. Traveled to Rome to bring the ideas of liberty, equality and a civil constitution of the clergy to the papal state. Here is her Wikipedia entry.