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The French Guillotine and Women

Updated on November 1, 2015

The Beginning

I was surprised to find out recently how large a part in the revolution French women actually played. I found out that in quite a few of the attacks on different places that women were actually there and ready to participate. The other way that they were involved, was in also getting accused of crimes against the state. They probably could have done without that happening to them. There were women on both sides of the war in the revolution. It was difficult for both sides and for different reasons. It is too bad that it had to end up like that. There was a chance in the beginning when all could have done well.

The king had tried to do something to work with the problem. There was a problem going on with there being not enough money for bread for the peasants. I have seen that the peasants were paying up to 80% of their pay for bread. That just does not make sense. They were being over taxed. The king tried but everything that he did seemed to just make it worse. He tried to let things stay as they were and it just did not work out well that well. In the meantime, the upper classes and the priestly class paid next to no taxes.

There is another woman that was involved in this. That was of course, Marie Antoinette. She was married to the king. The French population had just not taken to her. They saw her as being a foreigner, which she was. It was a problem from the very beginning.

I am seeing in some places people saying that she never said the line about letting the peasants eat cake then. It said that it was never really said by her. Some people still seem to think that she said it. But people do try to stand up for her. They say that she just meant that they could have cake instead. There was a kind of cake that was available in France that she was suggesting that she thought would do instead of the bread. She had no idea really what was happening obviously. If she had known, maybe she would have used her head better before something worse did happen. She could not have wanted her son to have to die in the prison like that. I have read also that the boy was not cared for right in prison.

Some people had said that her son died of illness in prison and some just said that he was really poisoned. Her daughter had gone on and went into hiding for awhile. She seemed to not have been interested in trying to get the crown afterwards. Because afterwards they had been interested in setting the royal family back up.

But this is not meant to take the place of a book on the revolution. I cannot write it all down and one can look it up. I know I am not a historian.

The French Revolution the Beginning

Storming the Bastille and More

I found out that it was mainly women that were involved in storming the Bastille. They were interested in getting weapons by that time. That is what they were looking for. Then they had much of the French guard on their side. There were still the king's forces that were protecting the Bastille. Many were killed in the run on the prison. But after that when they had it torn down, things changed. They were a force then that could not be stopped. People knew that it had all changed.

The revolution went on to them even killing priests. It was because of them supporting the king and the upper classes.

I read that the French had decided to abandon the religion. They saw it as being a part of the bad part of the system that let the king rule over them. Then there was a big thunderstorm. It was said that they all became frightened and ran back to the church. Eventually it stopped.

Napoleon had decided to stop the connection with the Catholic church but then he put it back.

Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette | Source

The Guillotine

Later members of the upper classes were taken out and killed by means of the guillotine for crimes against the state. They had to have a trial first. They would most always be found guilty.

It was rumored that if one of the guard liked one of the female prisoners, he would be allowed to let her free without any harm coming to her. He would perhaps just leave her alone then without asking for anything more. If he did something else, I don't think it would have been looked on as a nice thing for gossip then. It is probably a little difficult to tell what did happen. I am sure some people have done a lot more research into the revolution. It is something that really I used to stay away from. They may have decided to save males from the punishment also. It seems also that a woman who knew someone in power could also save someone.

President Monroe was able to get the French to release the wife of Lafayette. Americans knew the name. It would not have been a really good idea for the French to execute her. Lafayette himself was not there at all.

Charlotte Corday managed to destroy Marat with a dagger for hurting her friends and getting rid of them. She then had to calmly go to the guillotine herself.

Marie Antoinette was said to have gone to her death with great dignity. She had a lot of bad things said about her. She was accused of stealing some diamonds that was not supposed to be true that made a lot of trouble. Everything was taken to be her fault that happened. Her husband the king tried to help straighten the politics out but it did not work. Things had gone too far and the mob rule would not stop.

The women's role in it was played down by the authorities of the revolution. They did not want it to get out of hand. They were allowed to sit by the guillotine. They had been called the knitting women. That is they would knit while it was all going on. Later the revolution decided to stop the women's clubs that they had formed. It is mentioned in the link that I added below.

There were women that were just killed by a mob. It was not all death by the guillotine.

I remember the Dickens book, "A Tale of Two Cities" and how sad it was for that man to have to go to the guillotine. It really made you think about it.

I really don't like the idea of the guillotine. It is so steely, hard and cruel. It would not be a good way to go. I know that many had the courage to go there without a lot of trouble.

I had an American girlfriend that was part French. Her grandmother she said, had a little guillotine. I have heard that many others have those. I don't know if they still make them or not.


It may seem as if I am sympathetic to the queen and other royalty that were put to death. I am, but I also understand the position of the peasants. I am mainly of peasant stock I think. I would probably be on the side of the peasants. I just look at both sides of it.

The Guillotine

Going to the guillotine
Going to the guillotine | Source
The Guillotine
The Guillotine | Source
Murder of Princess De Lamballe a friend of Marie Antoinette
Murder of Princess De Lamballe a friend of Marie Antoinette | Source

My French Temp Secretary Assignment

In New York City when I was working as a temp secretary I was sent to the French office building in New York. They had the whole building on Fifth Avenue. It is the one with a statue of Paris on it. I was in one of the offices there working for a couple of weeks. The agency sent me because they had sent someone home that knew French and they decided to take someone that did not speak French. The man in charge there was a major in the French army but he was wearing street clothes in the office. He asked me if I thought they were barbarians. I thought that was strange then. But the French did come from a barbarian tribe called the Francs.

Do you think it was right to send people to the guillotine in the French Revolution?

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Marie Antoinette


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