1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Théroigne de Méricourt, Anne Josèphe

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THÉROIGNE DE MERICOURT, ANNE JOSÊPHE (1762-1817), a Frenchwoman who was a striking figure in the Revolution, was born at Marcourt (from a corruption of which name she took her usual designation), a small town in Luxembourg, on the banks of the Ourthe, on the 13th of August 1762. She was the daughter of a Well-to-do farmer, Peter Théroigne. She appears to have been well educated, having been brought up in the convent of Robermont; she was quick-witted, strikingly handsome in appearance and intensely passionate in temper; and she had a vigorous eloquence, which she used with great effect upon the mobs of Paris during that short space of her life (1789–93) which alone is of historical interest. The story of her having been betrayed by a. young seigneur, and having in consequence devoted her life to avenge her wrongs upon aristocrats, a story which is told by Lamartine and others, is unfounded, the truth being that she left her home on account of a quarrel with her stepmother. In her career as courtesan she visited London in 1782, was back in Paris in 1785, and in Genoa in 1788, where she was a concert singer. In 1789 she returned to Paris. On the outbreak of the Revolution, she was surrounded by a coterie of well-known men, chief of whom were Pétion and Desmoulins; but she did not play the role which legend has assigned her. She took no part in the taking of the Bastille nor in the days of the 5th and 6th of October, when the women of Paris brought the king and queen from Versailles. In 1790 she had a political salon and spoke once at the club of the Cordeliers. The same year she left Paris for Marcourt, whence after a short stay she proceeded to Liége, in which town she was seized by warrant of the Austrian Government, and conveyed first to Tirol and thereafter to Vienna, accused of having been engaged in a plot against the life of the queen of France. After an interview, however, with the emperor Leopold II., she was released; and she returned to Paris in January 1792, crowned of course with fresh laurels because of her captivity, and resumed her influence. In the clubs of Paris her voice was often heard, and even in the National Assembly she would violently interrupt the expression of any moderatist views. Known henceforth as “la belle Liégoise,” she appeared in public dressed in a riding habit, a plume in her hat, a pistol in her belt and a sword dangling at her side, and excited the mob by violent harangues. Associated with the Girondists and the enemies of Robespierre, she became in fact the “ Fury of the Gironde.” She commanded in person the 3rd corps of the so-called army of the faubourgs on the 20th of June 1792, and again won the gratitude of the people. She shares a heavy responsibility for her Connexion with the riots of the 10th of August. A certain contributor to the journal, the Acts of the Apostles, Suleau by name, earned her savage hatred by associating her name, for the sake of the play upon the word, with a deputy named Populus, whom she had never seen. On the 10th of August, just after she had watched approvingly the massacre of certain of the national guard in the Place Vendome, Suleau was pointed out to her. She sprang at him, dragged him among the infuriated mob, and, he was stabbed to death in an instant. She took no part in the massacres of September, and, moderating her conduct, became less popular from 1793. Towards the end of May the Jacobin women seized her, stripped her naked, and flogged her in the public garden of the Tuileries. The following year she became mad, a fate not surprising when one considers her career. She was removed to a private house, thence in 1800 to La Salpetriére for a month, and thence to a place of confinement called the Petites Maisons, where she remained-a raving maniac-till 1807. She was then again removed to La Salpetriére, where she died, never having recovered her reason, on the 9th of June 1817.

See M. Pellet, Étude historique el biographique sur Théroigne de Méricourt (1886) ; L. Lacour, Les Origines du féminisme contemporain. Trois femmes de la Révolution (Paris, 1900); Vicomte de Reiset, La Vraie Théroigne de Méricourt (Paris, 1903); E. and J. de Goncourt, Portraits intimes du XVIIIᵉ. siècle (2 vols., 1857-58); and the play Théroigne de Méricourt of M. Paul Hervieu, produced at the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt in 1902.