The king’s guards became increasingly nervous as they watched nearly 7,000 individuals march on Versailles on October 5, 1789. The crowd approaching the king’s chateau was overwhelmingly composed of women who were determined to make their grievances known. Furious at the ever rising price and scarcity of bread, Parisian market women, known as Dames des Halles, joined with other revolutionaries to demand King Louis XVI distribute bread, address the suffering of his subjects, and approve revolutionary reforms. The king ultimately conceded to the market women’s demands. The success of the march symbolized commoners’ new power in politics, including their ability to influence the monarch himself. Although this was certainly watershed moment for the French Revolution, the impact of Dames des Halles went far beyond October 5. As Dr. Katie Jarvis
, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, argues in her new book, Politics in the Marketplace: Work, Gender, and Citizenship in Revolutionary France
(Oxford University Press, 2019) the Dames drew on their patriotic work as activists and their gendered work as republican mothers to compel the French state to provide practical solutions to the many economic, social, and political issues that children, families, and their customers faced in the marketplace daily. The Dames’ notion of citizenship portrayed their useful work, rather than gender, as a cornerstone of civic legitimacy. Although the Revolution has been told as a primarily masculine trajectory of citizenship, Politics in the Marketplace
challenges this assumption and reexamines work, gender, and citizenship at the cusp of modern democracy.
Dr. Julia M. Gossard is assistant professor of history and distinguished assistant professor of honor’s education at Utah State University. A historian of 18th-century France, Julia is finishing her manuscript, Coercing Children, that examines children as important actors in social reform, state-building, and imperial projects across the early modern French world. Dr. Gossard is active on Twitter. To learn more about her teaching, research, and experience in digital humanities, visit her website.