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France: Women in the Revolution

Louise-Reine Audu

Pierre Gabriel Berthault, artist. Les dames de la Halle partant pour aller chercher le Roi a Versailles, le 5 Octobre 1789. 1798. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Louise-Reine Audu is one of the most notable women of the Revolution who comes from the working class streets of Paris. Due to her relatively low social status the date of her birth is unknown. She is believed to have died sometime in the year 1793. Reine Audu (also known as Louise-Renée Leduc) was a fruit seller who was present at each insurrectionist event, including the Women's March on Versailles and the storming of the Tuileries Palace. She was singled out to present her grievances to King Louis XVI along with a small delegation of other women and it is said she spoke very frankly with the King himself, pleading with him to come back to Paris and provide bread for the poor people of the city. Contemporary accounts suggest that she was uncommonly brave and feisty. She is said to have attacked and wounded or killed several Swiss Guards. She was honored by the Paris Commune and is depicted in several illustrations from the time, often on horseback and always in good form. Unfortunately, like many members of the lower classes there is not a great deal of research or documentation for specifics about her personal life. Some sources say she was given the nickname "La Reine des Halles" referring to les Halles, pronounced "ley all", the famous local food market and gathering place in Paris. Judging from petitions that were put forward in her favor, she was an inspiring woman who was capable of speaking her mind when the moment presented itself. On January 24, 1792 more than 300 citizens signed a petition vouching for her character in front of the National Assembly. During her imprisonment following the October days she was subjected to a long interrogation where she again distinguished herself among her peers. Despite her personal charisma, the numerous hardships and injustices that befell her took a toll. According to a work published in 1802 by Pierre Joseph Alexis Roussel, she began to lose her senses and she was committed to an institution where she died in relative anonymity in 1793.

For an overview of French women in history and the evolution of the French feminist movement, please see the research guide Feminism & French Women in History.

To find more works about Louise-Reine Audu: Women revolutionaries--France--History--18th century.

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