Part 5: Sociétés patriotiques et Révolutionnaires: clubbist women
Although clubs had not been very common in pre-revolutionary France, political associations formed and multiplied fast after 1789. They were not only a means to gather in circles with like-minded persons or networking - important for “junior” politicians in the emerging democratic political society. They also served as arenas for debate and the exertion of influence of citizens that were still deprived of institutionalised politics: passive citizens generally, workers - and of course, women. Most political associations were men-only, but the majority of clubs allowed women in the stand, and women took advantage of this (and were noted for their presence in reports and minutes). Only about ten clubs in Paris and about 20 clubs in the provinces were mixed-gender. Women were allowed to be member, to vote and to be elected to certain offices, but never as a president. The best-known and most egalitarian mixed association was the “Société fraternelle des patriotes de l'un et l'autre sexe”, founded in 1790 and dedicated to the (political) education of the people. The fees were really small, and many of the radical democrats attended this association. Although women were not allowed to become president, the club had usually two female and two male secretaries. It is not clear, to what extend the Cordeliers can be seen as a mixed club. Women certainly had no deliberative or voting rights, but several women claimed to be “members”. Apart from that, women began to found their own all-female clubs since 1790, the most famous being the “Société patriotique et de bienfaisance des amies de la vérité”, initiated by Etta Palm in 1791, and the “Société des citoyennes républicaines révolutionnaires”, commonly dubbed “Femmes Républicaines Révolutionnaires”, in 1793. Compared to men’s clubs, there were only few women’s clubs, with relatively few members. However, some of them deployed a vast activity, challenging national politics. The most famous example for that are the Femmes Républicaines Révolutionnaires who, alongside the Enragés (Jacques Roux, Théophlie Leclerc) with whom they were linked, succeeded in pushing through many political claims and were a driving force in the petty bourgeois/sansculotte radicalisation of the Revolution (which is generally often attributed to the Jacobins who were, however, rather moderate themselves). The prohibition of female clubs in autumn 1793 needs to be interpreted in this context, for the struggle between the factions had just begun and the Convention seeked to regain the political control and thus be less vulnerable towards popular uprisings, in which radical women played a crucial role. In 1794, mixed clubs (which were, too, rather popular and more radical then the Convention wished for) were prohibited, too. But it was only in 1795, alongside the ultimate defeat of the Jacobins, that political activities of women were banned generally.
Note: There were many political clubs in the provinces in which women organised themselves. In this section, these provincial clubbists are ignored. You find them in the section on women outside Paris.
Anne-Félicité Colombe, editor, owner of the press „Henri IV“, where Marat and Fréron printed their Newspapers and because of which she was the target of counterrevolutionary attacks several times; prominent member of the Femmes Républicaines Révolutionnaires (FRR).
Claire Lacombe, also „Red Rosa“, (born in1765), actress, enragée; a militant since 1791, she participated in several journées, and often in a leading position. Regular visitor at the Jacobins and member of the Société fraternelle, she became the co-founder of the FRR in 1793 and was its most prominent member, adressing speeches at the Jacobins 8and being attacked by them). Arrested in 1794, she was liberated in Summer 1795 and resumed her acting career. Her Wikipedia entry can be found here, and her presumable picturehere.
Anne-Pauline Léon, (1768 – 1838), chocolate manufacturer in her family’s business, enragée; she was an active militant from the early days on, participating in rallies, journées and section meetings. She was a member at the Cordeliers (?), the Société fraternelle and the popular association of the Luxembourg (a mixed society), when in 1793 she became the co-founder of the FRR. She retired from politcs after the prohibition of the FRR, her marriage to Leclerc and the adoption of her mother’s chocolate factory. Her Wikipedia entry can be found here.
Marie Marguerite Barbot, haberdasher, member of the FRR, active in Prairial III.
Constance Evrard, (born in 1768), a militant alongside her neighbour Pauline Léon, she became a member of the FRRand took part in the anti-Girondist journées.
Marie Madelein Solende/Solande/Solandre/Solange, “Lablonde”, cake seller, member of the FRR, active against the reactionary Convention in spring III.
Marie Louise Vitecoque/Vildecoque/Vaudecoque, cake seller, member the FRR, active against the reactionary Convention in spring III.
Lecouvreur, member of the FRR, excluded from this club because of her criticism towards Rose Lacombe who was at odds with the Jacobin movement.
Colinger, member of the FRR, and its president in July 1793, excluded in October because of her criticism towards Rose Lacombe.
Mme Monic, haberdasher; is said to have declared: “Les femmes sont dignes de gouverner, je dirais presque mieux que les hommes. Je demande que la société [FRR], dans sa sagesse, examine le rang que toutes les femmes doivent tenir en République, et s'il faut continuer à les exclure de toutes les places et administrations.”
Madame Dubreuil, secreatry of the FRR, criticised the exclusion of women from political ranks, suppposed that those men who favoured this exclusion were “attached to their marital despotism”; later, she criticised Robespierre from a leftist perspective.
Madame Boudray/Baudrais, Lemonade seller, “mother of 27 children”; militant woman, she signed the Champ-de Mars petition in July 1791; in 1793 she was secretary of the Société Fraternelle des Patriotes des Deux Sexes; on 8th Thermidor an 2 present at the Jacobins; her café was the meeting place of the Babouvists.
Mme Timbal, member of the Société Fraternelle des Deux Sexes.
Mme Wafflard, president of the Assemblée des Républicaines (spring 1793), an ideological predecessor of the FRR.
Anne Rose Berjot, tailor, member of the mixed société de l'Harmonie Sociale, militant Jacobin woman during summer 1793; during Thermidorean reaction, she was chased for being a Jacobine.
Marie Martin-Despaveau(x), (born in 1736), laundress; assisted at the Jacobins daily and was a member of the FRR.
Bébiant, member of the Cordliers (?) since its foundation, claimed to be dubbed the Cordeliers’ “aunt”.
Mme Metrasse, member and regular visitor of the Cordeliers (?).