Women’s March on Versailles

The Women’s March on Versailles was a women riot that took place during the first stages of the French Revolution. It was spontaneously organized by women in the marketplaces of Paris, on the morning of October 5, 1789. They complained over the high price and scant availability of bread, marching from Paris to Versailles. Their demonstrations quickly became intertwined with the purposes of revolutionaries who were seeking liberal political reforms and a constitution for France. The Women’s March on Versailles was triggered by the high price of bread, food scarcity, and by rumors that the tricolor cockade of the revolution had been trampled on and derided by the royalist troops and Louis XVI, on October 1 during a special reception for the King’s guards.

On October 5, 1789 crowds of women began to assemble at Parisian markets. The women first marched to the Hôtel de Ville (type of city council), demanding that city officials address their concerns. The crowd walked the distance from Paris to Versailles in about six hours. Among their makeshift weaponry they dragged along several cannon taken from the Hôtel de Ville. Boisterous and energetic, they recruited (or impressed into service) more and more followers as they surged out of Paris in the autumn rain. In their ambiguous but always aggressive poissard slang,d they chattered enthusiastically about bringing the King back home. Less affectionately, they spoke of the Queen, Marie Antoinette, whose appellations fell to the level of "bitch" and "whore"; many had no restraint in calling for her death.

The women were responding to the harsh economic situations they faced, especially bread shortages. They also demanded an end to royal efforts to block the National Assembly, and for the King and his administration to move to Paris as a sign of good faith in addressing the widespread poverty. Getting unsatisfactory responses from city officials, as many as 7,000 women joined the march to Versailles, bringing with them cannons and a variety of smaller weapons. Twenty thousand National Guardsmen under the command of La Fayette responded to keep order, and members of the mob stormed the palace, killing several guards. La Fayette ultimately convinced the king to accede to the demand of the crowd that the monarchy relocate to Paris. On October 6, 1789, the King and the royal family moved from Versailles to Paris under the "protection" of the National Guards, thus legitimizing the National Assembly.

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  1. [...] Breton deputies from the Third Estate attending the Estates General sessions in 1789. After the Women March on Versailles in October 1789, the club followed the National Assembly to Paris, where it rented the refectory of [...]