Women’s Activities during the Prairial Uprising

Popular radical activity continued throughout the period of the Terror (see Chapter 7) and did not end with 9 Thermidor. On 1–4 Prairial, Year III (20–23 May 1795), a large group composed largely of women surrounded the Convention Hall and massacred a deputy to force the legislature to satisfy its demand that the democratic constitution drafted by the Jacobins, but never put into effect, be implemented. This mobilization, as much as any earlier journée, demonstrated social stresses, pitting urban poor against a government they perceived to represent property owners. The sizable role of women in Prairial also demonstrates that social cleavages divided women as well as men throughout the Revolution. This letter was addressed to the president of this Section and was read to the General Assembly of the Section du Museum, 10 Prairial, Year III (30 May 1795).


Paris, 7 Prairial [26 May], 1795, Year 3 of the French Republic

Citizen:

Believing neither that the respect due our sex is an authorization to commit evil, directly or indirectly, nor that there can be exceptions to the law made for women without some principles being violated, it is time that these "furies" who for too long have dishonored a portion of their sex with immoral and criminal conduct should come under the arm of the law and that those who remain loyal to their duty should stop being forced to be witnesses of their crimes or victims of their oppression.

I sense the full importance of a denunciation stripped of all feelings of hate, vengeance, and even of spite. The voice of duty imperiously orders all ordinary individuals, above all in the crises we are in, to denounce enemies of the public interest, to make them known, and to establish a line of demarcation between them and respectable people.

Consequently, I declare that I saw the above-named Femme Periot, a merchant at one of the gates of the Louvre, residing on rue des Lavandières, at the hatter's house next to the baker's—I declare, I say, that I saw the above-named, long before the Prairial Days, constantly showing loyalty to the Jacobin system, preaching Marat's maxims to various groups, and repeatedly demanding that heads roll. I saw her at the trial of Carrier conspiring on behalf of the Jacobins at the Revolutionary Tribunal. She was always threatening the Convention with an imminent dissolution and merchants with certain pillage. Revolted by the conduct of this shrew, I have denounced her to the Committee of Police of the Convention.

At the time of the Triumvirate, this woman never stopped haranguing everyone with a human face. A person had to be marked with the stamp of an assassin or be tainted with blood to dare pass before her stall without being insulted. For without knowing you or speaking to you, she insulted you concerning your face and appearance. She always had the same refrain, "Patience, the brigands will not always have the upper hand. The Mountain will return. The time is not far off."

During the recent events (Prairial), I saw the above-named with all the scoundrels, exhorting them with all the gestures of a madwoman not to give in until the Constitution of 1793 was agreed to on the spot. They should ask for Billaud, Collet, and Barère and hold the Convention under siege until they [the three men] were delivered back to Paris. She screamed, "Yes, we must eliminate these marsh-toads. We have on our side the troops, the good gendarmes, and the faubourgs. The muscadin guillotine will be called out. We must have the traitors' blood." And I point out that I heard her several times over. I have followed her constantly in the vicinity of the Tuileries and the Convention. I have even seen her provoke men and defy them, and try to stir up a brawl.

For these reasons I have come to denounce her so that the constituted authorities will keep watch on such a shrew and put her out of the way of harming society.

Since it is correct that the constituted authorities check up on the morality of informants, I am ready to give full information on my conduct during the twelve years I have lived in Paris and to prove that since 1789–90 I have struggled continuously against the Jacobins and have become their victim several times.

But I affirm that no personal hate or vengeance has prompted my pen or my heart.

In this spirit I am, with fraternity, your fellow citoyenne,

Anne Marguerite Andelle, Widow Ruvet, rue des Fosses [Ste.] Germain [des près], no. 13, home of Citizen Allard.

Source: From Women in Revolutionary Paris, 1789–1795, edited and translated by Darline Gay Levy, Harriet Branson Applewhite, and Mary Durham Johnson. Copyright 1979 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Used with the permission of the University of Illinois Press.