Part 4: Ça ira: popular women
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.