Unruly Women of Paris, the Historian and Term Paper

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Unruly Women of Paris, the historian and author Gay L. Gullickson clarifies a common misperception of history through unfolding a historical narrative and contrasting popular illustrations and images with historical documentation. She makes a contrast between the different images presented in contemporary culture between the behaviors of the women of Paris during the Paris Commune of 1871, and the actual role played by the women of the commune in the history of the period. Gullickson strikes a contrast between the image commonly presented of these revolutionary Parisian women with what she determines from historical documentation to be the reality of their struggle. She shows how the media of the day used false images of these women to condemn the Paris Commune. She also makes an attempt, from the point-of-view of an historian to explain the differences in the two representations of these women. She shows how this misrepresentation of the character of the women of the commune became accepted not only as contemporary fact, but also later, even by historians and academics as historical fact. Yes, the women of the commune were 'unruly' in that they challenged conventional conceptions of what it meant to be a woman in their behavior. But their unruliness was for a purpose, not out of simple delight in madness or of saintliness.

The Paris Commune is one of the most famous revolutionary incidents in French history of the 19th century. The Paris Commune was a structure created within the city that was suppressed by the French army. Whether this was an appropriate action is still debated by historians today.
What is certain is that the ideals of the commune have formed the foundation for radical French throughout ever since its suppression. What is less certain and less debated is the nature of the crucial role that women played in the insurrection. The role of women in the struggle has either been ignored as sensationalist, or demonized, the women who played a role being characterized as both less than female and less than human. (Not unlike the characterization of the knitting, cackling Madame De Farge in Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities, a 19th century chronicle of the supposed excesses of the French Revolution.) The women who participated in the Paris Commune were blamed specifically by journalists of the period as the members of the commune who chose to burn the city down. In contrast to the men of the commune, the women were characterized in the conservative press as more brutal, less rational, even as possessed or insane. They were likened, not to political advocates, but to furies.

The struggle at the gates of the Paris Commune began, according to Gullickson, as a "male drama" from two to six o'clock. However, after six in the evening, women began to take to the streets. Nearly four thousand troops were dispensed to the streets to combat the uprising. (25) But simply….....

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