Police Reports on Women’s Discontent (Spring 1795)
Agitation over the shortage of bread reached a breaking point in the spring of 1795. Women played critical roles in these disturbances, as they had before the Revolution.
It has been established from various reports relative to yesterday that groups in the squares, in the streets, and in public places, as well as gatherings at bakers' doors, were as numerous as they were tumultuous and extremely agitated. The women, above all, seemed to be playing the principal role there; they were taunting the men, treating them as cowards, and seemed unwilling to be satisfied with the portion that was offered to them. A large number of them wanted to rush into insurrection; even the majority appeared to be determined to attack the constituted authorities, and notably the government Committees, which would have happened were it not for the prudence and firmness of the armed troops. One can easily convince oneself of what has just been reported by glancing attentively and impartially at several reports which bear witness [to this understanding of the situation].
1. In [the report] signed Marceau, who reports having heard it said, "That will make for civil war; that's all we're asking for; is it also possible to live with two ounces of bread? Aren't they doing this on purpose?" he adds that in other gatherings they all said, "The Convention had better put some order into all that; it's about time." He sums up by saying that heads are dangerously inflamed.
2. In [the report] signed Bouillon, here are the phrases, verbatim: "Yesterday a multitude of women from the Section des Piques, after having refused the portion of bread being offered to them, went to the Committee of the Section and from there to the Convention. They stopped all the women they met on their way and forced them to join up with them."
3. Citizen Compere, in his report, confirms the above assertion and adds more alarming occurrences. . . . Surveillance. . . . [sic] Bellier reports that at the horse market last night some women were saying that they must go en masse to the Convention to demand a king in order to have bread; the same report states that at 9 P.M., near the Pont Notre Dame, there was a group of two hundred people who were speaking the same language. This inspector was called before the Convention to be reprimanded for his apathy or his carelessness in not having followed the individuals who were making these remarks. A special watch has been set up for this purpose [sic].
Signed Beurlier, Duret
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, 287–288.