Claire Lacombe

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Claire Lacombe (4 August 1765-?) was a French actress and revolutionary. She is best known for her contributions during the French Revolution. Though it was only for a few years, Lacombe was a revolutionary and a founding member of the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women.

French Revolution Revolution in France, 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

The Society of Revolutionary and Republican Women were two most famous political clubs during the French Revolution formed May 10, 1793, lasting less than five months. In this short span, however, the two Societies managed to create quite a stir in the national political scene, and brought to light some controversial points about women and political and sexual equality.

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Early life

Lacombe was born in the provincial town of Pamiers in southwestern France. She became an actress at a young age and appeared in theatrical productions in the provinces before arriving in Paris in 1792. [1] She was not an outstanding success in the theater, and she was not entirely happy with her life. The acting company that Lacombe worked for moved from town to town and sometimes went to castles and the country houses of aristocrats. This probably had an influence in her decision to quit the company to become a revolutionary.

Pamiers Subprefecture and commune in Occitanie, France

Pamiers is a commune in the Ariège department in the Occitanie region in southwestern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department. Although Pamiers is the largest city in Ariège, the capital is the smaller town of Foix. The seat of the Bishop of Pamiers is at the Pamiers Cathedral.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.0 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Revolutionary career

In Paris during the insurrection of 10 August 1792, Lacombe fought with the rebels during the storming of the Tuileries. She was shot through the arm but kept fighting on, earning herself the lifelong sobriquet, "Heroine of August Tenth. " For her bravery, she was awarded a civic crown by the victorious fédérés. [2]

<i>Fédéré</i>

The term "fédérés" most commonly refers to the troops who volunteered for the French National Guard in the summer of 1792 during the French Revolution. The fédérés of 1792 effected a transformation of the Guard from a constitutional monarchist force into a republican revolutionary force.

Lacombe became a frequent attendee at meetings of the Cordeliers Club through which she became involved with the most radical elements of the Revolution. In February, 1793, Lacombe and another female revolutionary, Pauline Léon, founded the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women. [3] [4] [5] Composed chiefly of working-class women, the Society associated with the most militant sans-culottes and enragés . [3] They functioned partly as a fighting force among the market women of Paris, and employed violent tactics to root out anti-revolutionaries. [6]

Cordeliers Political group during the French Revolution (1790-1794)

The Society of the Friends of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, mainly known as Cordeliers Club, was a populist club during the French Revolution from 1790 to 1794, when the Reign of Terror ended and the Thermidorian Reaction began.

Pauline Léon, was a radical organizer and feminist during the French Revolution.

<i>Sans-culottes</i> radical left-wing partisans of the lower classes during French Revolution

The sans-culottes were the common people of the lower classes in late 18th century France, a great many of whom became radical and militant partisans of the French Revolution in response to their poor quality of life under the Ancien Régime. The word sans-culotte, which is opposed to that of the aristocrat, came in vogue in 1792, during the demonstration of 20 June 1792. The name sans-culottes refers to their clothing, and through that to their lower-class status: culottes were the fashionable silk knee-breeches of the 18th-century nobility and bourgeoisie, and the working class sans-culottes wore pantaloons, or trousers, instead. The sans-culottes, most of them urban labourers, served as the driving popular force behind the revolution. They were judged by the other revolutionaries as "radicals" because they advocated a direct democracy, that is to say, without intermediaries such as members of parliament. Though ill-clad people and ill-equipped, with little or no support from the upper class, they made up the bulk of the Revolutionary army during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars.

Despite the deeply entrenched chauvinism of the time, Lacombe met a few revolutionary men who fought for women's rights. One of these was Théophile Leclerc, with whom she lived for a while, until he left her to marry Pauline Léon. [7]

Jean Théophile Victor Leclerc, a.k.a. Jean-Theophilus Leclerc and Theophilus Leclerc d'Oze, was a radical French revolutionist and publicist. After Jean-Paul Marat was assassinated, Leclerc assumed his mantle.

Under the Reign of Terror, the enragés were suppressed along with most other extremist groups, including the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women. On September 16, 1793, Lacombe, then president of the Society, was publicly denounced by the Jacobins to the Committee of General Security. The Jacobins accused her of "making counterrevolutionary statements" and having associated and aided a "notorious counterrevolutionary, the énrage Leclerc". [8]

Reign of Terror Period during the French Revolution

The Reign of Terror, or The Terror, refers to a period during the French Revolution after the First French Republic was established.

Committee of General Security

The Committee of General Security was a French parliamentary committee which acted as police agency during the French Revolution that, along with the Committee of Public Safety, oversaw the Reign of Terror.

Lacombe did her best to defend herself, but it was too late. She was briefly detained and then set free. The seed of distrust had been planted. The Society tried in vain to continue to petition the Convention. Most of the issues that they now dealt with were more trivial and less radical than their previous campaigns. The group had ostensibly been so notorious that the National Convention specifically banned women's organizations on 30 October 1793. [6] However, Chaumette's subsequent comments about men's having a right to having women care for the family, and how that was the only civic dutyy women had, reveals other reasons for the ban taking place. [9]

Barred from any political activity, Lacombe considered returning to her acting career. In April 1794, she was arrested as she prepared to leave for a theater in Dunkirk. [7] Lacombe was finally released from prison on 20 August 1795 (by order of 18 August 1795 signed by the Committee of General Security). [10] She went back to the theater but quit again after three months, and settled into a life of unrecorded obscurity. [7]

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References

  1. Kelly, p. 89.
  2. Godineau, p. 111.
  3. 1 2 Fremont-Barnes, p. 385.
  4. Kelly, p. 102–103.
  5. Sokolnikova, pp. 145ff.
  6. 1 2 Doyle, p. 420.
  7. 1 2 3 Uglow, p. 309.
  8. Godineau, Dominique: Translated by Katherine Streip. The Women of Paris and Their French Revolution. United States of America: University of California Press, 1998. Print.
  9. Hufton, Olwen. "Women in Revolution 1789-1796". Past & Present 53 (1971): 90-108. JSTOR. Web. 21 Nov. 2009.
  10. Léopold Lacour, Les origines du féminisme contemporain: Olympe de Gouges, Théroigne de Méricourt, Rose Lacombe, Paris: Plon, 1900, pp. 413-414.
Bibliography

Further reading