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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Charlotte Corday

b. 1768, Saint-Saturnin, France; d. 1793, Paris

The assassin of French Revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat, Charlotte Corday came from a family of impoverished aristocrats. Corday was committed to the Revolution from its early stages and joined the Girondist faction of moderate republicans. The opposing, radical Jacobin faction, which included Robespierre and with which Marat was associated (though not a member), initiated the Reign of Terror (1793–94), a brutally repressive period of the Revolution during which thousands of people were executed. Believing that a republic was no longer possible and that Marat, who called for more and more bloodshed, was largely responsible for the hardships that had befallen the French people, Corday gained permission to speak with him. She found him in his bath—where he spent a great deal of time due to a debilitating skin condition—and stabbed him to death. At trial, Corday revealed her idealistic ambition, allegedly proclaiming, “I killed one man to save 100,000.” She was executed under the guillotine just four days after Marat’s murder, on July 17, 1793.