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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Théroigne de Mericourt

b. 1762, Marcourt, Luxembourg; d. 1817, Paris

An influential figure during the French Revolution (1789–99), Anne-Josèphe Théroigne de Méricourt was born in Marcourt, a small town in Luxembourg. Well educated, charming, and attractive, she left home after a quarrel with her stepmother and traveled around Europe as a courtesan, settling in Paris on the eve of the Revolution. Contrary to popular legend, Méricourt did not lead the storming of the Bastille, nor the march of the women (backed by the National Guard) on Versailles on October 5, 1789, the ultimate result of which was the removal of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to Paris. However, she did advocate the membership of women in Revolutionary clubs and developed into an eloquent speaker, delivering fiery orations in clubs, before the National Assembly, and in the streets. Aligned with the moderate Girondist faction, she became a target of the radical Jacobins. When the Girondists lost power to the Jacobins in 1793, Méricourt was stripped and publicly flogged by a group of Jacobin women. She soon descended into mental illness and was institutionalized for the remainder of her life.