Discussion of Women’s Political Clubs and Their Suppression, October 29–30, 1793


Discussion of Women’s Political Clubs and Their Suppression, October 29–30, 1793


On 29 October 1793, a group of women appeared in the National Convention to complain that women militants had tried to force them to wear the red cap of liberty as a sign of their adherence to the Revolution, but they also presented a petition demanding the suppression of the women’s club behind these actions. Their appearance provided the occasion for a discussion of women’s political activity more generally. Philippe Fabre d’Eglantine (1755–94) gave a speech demanding freedom of dress and denouncing all women’s "coalitions."


The materials listed below appeared originally in The French Revolution and Human Rights: A Brief Documentary History, translated, edited, and with an introduction by Lynn Hunt (Bedford/St. Martin's: Boston/New York), 1996, 135–36.


October 29, 1793






There have already been troubles about the cockade [the tricolor ribbon decoration used to signify support of the Revolution]; you have decreed that women should wear it. Now they ask for the red cap [of liberty]. They will not rest there; they will soon demand a belt with pistols. These demands will coincide perfectly with the maneuvers behind the mobs clamoring for bread, and you will see lines of women going to get bread as if they were marching to the trenches. It is very adroit on the part of our enemies to attack the most powerful passion of women, that of their adornment, and on this pretext, arms will be put into their hands that they do not know how to use, but which bad subjects would be able to use all too well. This is not even the only source of division that is associated with this sex. Coalitions of women are forming under the name of revolutionary, fraternal, etc., institutions. I have already clearly observed that these societies are not at all composed of mothers, daughters, and sisters of families occupied with their younger brothers or sisters, but rather of adventuresses, female knights-errant, emancipated girls, and amazons. (Applause) I ask for two very urgent things because women in red caps are in the street. I ask that you decree that no individual, under whatever pretext, and on pain of being prosecuted as a disturber of the public peace, can force any citizen to dress other than in the manner that he wishes. I ask next that the Committee of General Security make a report on women's clubs. (Applause)


No person of either sex may constrain any citizen or citizeness to dress in a particular manner. Everyone is free to wear whatever clothing or adornment of his sex seems right to him, on pain of being considered and treated as a suspect and prosecuted as a disturber of public peace.


“Discussion of Women’s Political Clubs and Their Suppression, October 29–30, 1793,” LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY: EXPLORING THE FRENCH REVOUTION, accessed July 14, 2024, https://revolution.chnm.org/d/486.