Primary Source

Denunciation of a Woman Participant in the Uprising of May 1795


Once the uprising of May 1795 had been suppressed, the government set up a military tribunal, which gathered denunciations of presumed rioters. This one gives a good sense of the charges made and the kind of language used ("infernal sect of Jacobin terrorists, blood–drinkers, etc.").


Section de l'Indivisibilité Denunciation against Widow Barbau, 10 Prairial, Year III [29 May 1795].

Because any citizen who is a friend of order and justice and humanity must state what he saw and heard from the monsters composing the infernal sect of Jacobin terrorists, blood-drinkers, etc., . . . I declare that the Barbau woman from the Marché Saint-Jean, in the right-hand corner, is one of these furies to be guillotined, vomited up from Hell to destroy the French human race. The role she played during the reign of the Robespierrists will bring her into the public eye. She was the secret agent and confederate of Laine, Commissaire of the former Revolutionary Committee of this Section. Moreover, she was a sister tricoteuse [knitter] in the spectator galleries of the Jacobins, known from [these affiliations] to the Revolutionary Tribunal. She said to whoever was willing to listen to her, "I have had thirty-five of them guillotined by a simple declaration, and this will not be the sum total. It wouldn't matter if someone were my best friend, I would have him guillotined if he did not think like a true Jacobin. . . ." About five or six weeks ago, at the door of Citizen Patriarche, a baker on the rue de Culture-[Ste.] Catherine, I saw and heard her making the most revolting, seditious, and bloody remarks you could imagine. She incited citizens and citoyennes to revolt, to throw their bread in the face of the Commissaires, and from there to go and fall upon the people in power. According to her account, it was they who were responsible for people's dying of hunger as much as the egotistical merchants, the former aristocrats, the rich. All who were and still are priests will not be guillotined or finished off en masse; everything will not be okay, etc. . . . She said, "They really had it in for our poor Robespierre, but in his reign, at least, one ate. For humane reasons executions took place promptly, but these people, they make us die languishing because if that kind of thing goes on we will die mad; but good patriots will get the upper hand, and if they do not, the Republic is lost." On the days which preceded 1 Prairial, I noted in her appearance and on her sinister face an extraordinary contentment. She was seen appearing late in the morning and returning very late and very excited because she believed her triumph assured. She already pointed out those whom she would have guillotined. She was often at the door of the Convent Filles-Bleues and for secret business at the door of the former Hotel Carnavalet. . . . Whenever a so-called muscadin or other well-dressed persons passed before her, she cried out pretty loudly, "There goes yet another damned one for the guillotine." There is every reason to believe that she was paid off, since no one has seen her work. She contributed no small amount to bringing on the disastrous journées of 1, 2, and 3 Prairial. On the 5th, seeing that the battle was lost, she said good-bye and moved out that same day.

On my life, I will support everything stated above.



rue de Culture Ste. Catherine, no. 529

Note. On Saturday, the 4th of the month, she danced en ronde at the door of the convent. She held up a red handkerchief as a rallying sign, and she called it her favorite handkerchief, or her handkerchief of blood.


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, 292–293.

How to Cite This Source

"Denunciation of a Woman Participant in the Uprising of May 1795," in World History Commons, [accessed August 9, 2022]