Amazons of the Revolution! /Les femmes dans la tourmente de 1789: new exhibit opening Nov. 5. With thanks to Martial Poirson for bringing militant women’s history to Versailles!


Amazons of the Revolution: Women in the Turmoil of 1789

A special exhibit at Musée Lambinet, Versailles

from November 5, 2016 until February 28, 2017

 Fish-wife, soldier-girl, rioter, fire-starter, criminal, madwoman… these are some of the pejorative labels used to describe the women who joined the revolutionary struggle in 1789. Cloaked in suspicions regarding their lack of femininity, the so-called Amazons of the Revolution have long been used as a scapegoat for things that went wrong. This exhibit brings together a unique group of objects, art-works, and rare writings from the archives to reveal the dark fantasies projected onto revolutionary women, from the 1790s to our day. In a time when categories of gender are finally being understood as a confining cultural construct, this exhibit is particularly useful, for it demonstrates without a doubt that the “national novel” behind the French State has always relied on the contributions of women—either as victims, unwelcome meddlers, or even murderers—to justify the revolutionary past.

In history books as in the popular media, the gendering of revolutionary violence has helped rationalize brutality, and keep it out of sight, so that the pantheon of national heroes and narratives remains untarnished. This exhibit pays homage to the extraordinary women whose political efforts led to the guillotine–Charlotte Corday, Olympe de Gouges, Théroigne de Méricourt, and Manon Roland—but it also highlights the contributions of the unsung heroines behind famous events as well as those women who fought to restore the rule of Crown and Church. The women of this exhibit performed all kinds of duties–from reporting on Tribunal proceedings in coded messages knitted to their confederates (as in the terrifying tricoteuses of Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities)–to meekly submitting to the gallows, as martyrs of their faith—yet all are worthy of our time and attention. With a collection spanning the centuries as well as the gamut of visual media (engravings, sculptures, paintings, video games, cartoons, and mangas), this exhibit has something to offer all ages.

Curated by Professor Martial Poirson

(for whom we were delighted to translate and publicize this announcement)

Amazones de la Révolution : Les femmes dans la tourmente de 1789

Musée Lambinet de Versailles

5 novembre 2016-28 février 2017

Poissardefemme-soldat, émeutière, incendiaire, criminelle, aliénée… Ces stéréotypes esquissent le portrait à charge de la combattante révolutionnaire, usurpant attributs de la masculinité et codes de la virilité. Ils occultent les sévices exercés sur des femmes désignées comme bouc émissaires et contribuent à les évincer de la sphère publique. Objets, œuvres et archives qui en attestent font apparaître les fantasmes engendrés par la violence des femmes, tout en soulignant leurs échos contemporains.

Dans un contexte où les considérations de genre font retour, cette exposition explore les zones d’ombre de l’historiographie et les présupposés du « roman national », mettant en lumière l’implication des femmes − victimes ou bourreaux − dans la brutalité des événements. Tout en faisant place aux femmes d’exception telles que Charlotte Corday, Olympe de Gouges, Théroigne de Méricourt ou Manon Roland, elle met en perspective les figures collectives de la Révolution aussi bien que de la Contre-Révolution. Des Tricoteuses aux Merveilleuses, des insurgées aux suppliciées, des allégories aux caricatures, toutes ont imprégné la culture à travers les siècles, tant dans la gravure, la peinture, la sculpture ou les arts décoratifs que le cinéma, le jeu vidéo, la bande dessinée ou la publicité.

Martial Poirson, professeur des Universités, commissaire de l’exposition

Note by the editor: If you like this topic, you will enjoy Chapter one of Douthwaite, The Frankenstein of 1790 “From Fish Seller to Suffragist: The Women’s March on Versailles,” or in the 2016 French translation, Le Frankenstein français, « Des poissardes aux suffragistes : La marche des femmes sur Versailles ».

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