Interrogation of a Suspected Rioter (June 1795)

The police interrogated those accused of participating in the May 1795 riots. This interrogation gives a good idea of the police’s concerns.


Q. Why isn't she wearing the clothes appropriate for her sex?

A. The trade she is in does not allow it, as women's clothes would constrain her in working.

Q. On 1 Prairial [20 May 1795], wasn't she leading some women, and didn't she have an open saber in her hand?

A. No.

Q. On 2 Prairial, wasn't she also leading some women who went to the Convention?

A. As she was going to work around 6 A.M. the day in question, she was taken there by force by some women from Faubourg Marceau. She was obliged to march with them, and she left them near the Champs-Elysées.

Q. Hadn't she gone with the women to the doors of the Convention?

A. No.

Q. When she left the Faubourg with these women, didn't she have an unsheathed saber in her hand?

A. She had a saber in her hand, but it was in its scabbard.

Q. On the way, had she not drawn the saber from its scabbard?

A. No.

Q. At what time did she leave the women?

A. She left them around 1 P.M.

Q. Where did she go after she left them?

A. She went to drink a pint of wine in the cabaret at the waterfront near Pont-Marie. She was with a young woman and a single girl.

Q. Does she know the names of the two women?

A. She doesn't.

Q. Does she know where they live?

A. One of them lives near the Vincennes gate. She does not know the number of the house or the Section and the other told her, while they were drinking, that she lived near the Porte-Antoine, but she doesn't know anything else about it.

Q. At what time did she return to the Faubourg?

A. She returned there around 5 P.M.

Q. Did the women come back with her to the Faubourg?

A. The married woman accompanied her to the rue de Reuilly and it was there that she left her; the other went off after they left the cabaret, and then she, the declarant, returned to her place, where she remained until the next morning.

Q. Where was she on 4 Prairial?

A. She left her place at 5 A.M. to go to work above the rue Montmartre, where she unloaded a wagonload of charcoal at a restaurant owner's place.

Q. At what time did she return to the Faubourg?

A. At 10 A.M.

Q. Had she not been among the women who wanted to stir up citizens to keep the troops in the Faubourg from leaving?

A. She was on the boulevard then, and she met the troops at the Porte-Denis.

Q. Was she in the Faubourg at the time of the proclamation of the Convention ordering the return of the cannon, and did she not stir people up in an attempt to prevent them from being returned?

A. She was walking on the Grande Rue du Faubourg, but she said nothing.

Her interrogation was read back to her. She said her answers were truthful. When she was asked to sign, in accordance with the law, she stated that she didn't know how.

Then we, the above-named Commissaire [Louis Gille], suspecting that the above-named Vigniot was not telling us the truth, asked Citizen Gamier, chef de brigade, residing at Grande Rue, no. 109, to come to our office so we could find out from him whether he had some information to give us concerning the above-named Vigniot. Citizen Gamier, having arrived, stated that on 1 Prairial, a citoyenne dressed as a man and whom he recognized as the one who was now in our office was at the head of the first mob of women, at least four-hundred in number, which set out for the Convention. The above-named woman, dressed as a man, marched at the front of the above-mentioned women with an open saber in her hand and was leading them. She was also wearing a three-cornered hat with a red and blue plume, and she was next to the drummer, who was beating double-time. He, the declarant, went to the head of this crowd and asked this woman dressed as a man on whose order she was marching to drumbeat. Then she, as well as the other women, shouted to him to let them pass. He does not know how she comported herself at the Convention, but he, the declarant, having been degraded by the furies that morning and dragged along, nonetheless was at the guard post at the gate of La Place d'Armes at the stated time of 7 P.M. Seeing the above-named disguised woman coming back, he ordered her arrested and brought to the guard post. He upbraided her in the sharpest tones concerning her comportment and principally about how, through her instigation, she had exposed many mothers with families and had imperiled them. After that, he, the declarant, dismissed her. . . .

[Extract from the minutes of the meeting of the General Assembly of Section Montreuil on 5 Prairial:]
Several members denounced a woman usually dressed as a man who worked as a charcoal carrier for being one of these [women] who incited rebellion by going into houses and, through sheer force, dragging away respectable citoyennes content to stay in their households and mistreating those who refused to march against the National Convention. The assembly decreed that the Committee of General Security be notified, and in the event that the charcoal carrier has any arms, they will be taken from her.

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, 299–301.