27 Sep Happy Birthday Blog: Pauline Léon
Born: September 28, 1768
Known for: Radical organizer in French Revolution
One of the things Dr. Kristen and I talk about all the time is the importance of understanding context. Though the story of French revolutionary Pauline Léon marks her as a radical woman for her time, she still fits within the context of gender norms of the late 18th century France.
Born to a family of chocolate makers, it is believed that she was radicalized by witnessing the execution of leaders for a bread riot. Coming of age during the height of revolution, Léon addressed the Legislative Assembly in 1792 asking for the formation of a female militia for defense purposes.
Though many would argue this makes her a feminist, Léon did not believe all women should have an active role in revolutionary politics. Not placing herself in the same box, Léon was involved in many organizations and founded the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women. She stormed the Bastille with a pike. She also thought and wrote about the changing social and political role for women in a post-monarch France.
Not much is known about Léon’s later life. If you want to learn more about her context specific gender politics, you can find that discussion here.