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"Woman is born free and lives equal to man in her rights," declared Olympe de Gouges in 1791. Throughout the French Revolution, women, inspired by a longing for liberty and equality, played a vital role in stoking the fervor and idealism of those years. In her compelling history of the Revolution, Lucy Moore paints a vivid portrait of six extraordinary women who risked eve "Woman is born free and lives equal to man in her rights," declared Olympe de Gouges in 1791. Throughout the French Revolution, women, inspired by a longing for liberty and equality, played a vital role in stoking the fervor and idealism of those years. In her compelling history of the Revolution, Lucy Moore paints a vivid portrait of six extraordinary women who risked everything for the chance to exercise their ambition and make their mark on history. At the heart of Paris's intellectual movement, Germaine de Staël was a figure like no other. Passionate, fiercely intelligent and as consumed by love affairs as she was by politics, she helped write the 1791 Constitution at the salon in which she entertained the great thinkers of the age. At the other end of the social scale, her working-class counterparts patrolled the streets of Paris with pistols in their belts. Théroigne de Méricourt was an unhappy courtesan when she fell in love with revolutionary ideals. Denied a political role because of her sex, she nevertheless campaigned tirelessly until a mob beating left her broken in both mind and body. Later came the glittering merveilleuses, whose glamour, beauty and propensity for revealing outfits propelled them to the top of post-revolutionary society. Exuberant, decadent Thérésia Tallien reportedly helped engineer Robespierre's downfall. In so doing, she and her fellow "sans-chemises" ushered in a new world that combined sexual license with the amorality of the new Republic.


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"Woman is born free and lives equal to man in her rights," declared Olympe de Gouges in 1791. Throughout the French Revolution, women, inspired by a longing for liberty and equality, played a vital role in stoking the fervor and idealism of those years. In her compelling history of the Revolution, Lucy Moore paints a vivid portrait of six extraordinary women who risked eve "Woman is born free and lives equal to man in her rights," declared Olympe de Gouges in 1791. Throughout the French Revolution, women, inspired by a longing for liberty and equality, played a vital role in stoking the fervor and idealism of those years. In her compelling history of the Revolution, Lucy Moore paints a vivid portrait of six extraordinary women who risked everything for the chance to exercise their ambition and make their mark on history. At the heart of Paris's intellectual movement, Germaine de Staël was a figure like no other. Passionate, fiercely intelligent and as consumed by love affairs as she was by politics, she helped write the 1791 Constitution at the salon in which she entertained the great thinkers of the age. At the other end of the social scale, her working-class counterparts patrolled the streets of Paris with pistols in their belts. Théroigne de Méricourt was an unhappy courtesan when she fell in love with revolutionary ideals. Denied a political role because of her sex, she nevertheless campaigned tirelessly until a mob beating left her broken in both mind and body. Later came the glittering merveilleuses, whose glamour, beauty and propensity for revealing outfits propelled them to the top of post-revolutionary society. Exuberant, decadent Thérésia Tallien reportedly helped engineer Robespierre's downfall. In so doing, she and her fellow "sans-chemises" ushered in a new world that combined sexual license with the amorality of the new Republic.

30 review for Liberty: The Lives and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I have Hilary Mantel to thank for my fascination with the French Revolution. Before I read A Place of Greater Safety, I had only the sketchiest knowledge of this period in French history. I’m much better informed now, and even more so thanks to Lucy Moore’s account of the lives of six women who were intimately involved in the Revolution and its aftermath. Some of these women I knew a little about already: in particular, the formidable Manon Roland, who was one of the first victims of the Terror, I have Hilary Mantel to thank for my fascination with the French Revolution. Before I read A Place of Greater Safety, I had only the sketchiest knowledge of this period in French history. I’m much better informed now, and even more so thanks to Lucy Moore’s account of the lives of six women who were intimately involved in the Revolution and its aftermath. Some of these women I knew a little about already: in particular, the formidable Manon Roland, who was one of the first victims of the Terror, the sans culottes women’s group organizer Pauline Léon and the courtesan turned revolutionary Théroigne de Méricourt. I was familiar with the name of another, Germaine de Staël, although I knew nothing about her other than that she was a writer. The aristocratic Thérésia de Fontenay - who was responsible for saving the lives of countless people who would have otherwise been executed during the terror – I knew nothing about at all. And I thought that I knew nothing about the beautiful society leader Juliette Récamier, until I realised that I’ve seen her portrait by Jacques-Louis David in the Louvre Museum. Moore’s account of the lives of these women is fascinating. It is written in excellent, accessible prose and includes detailed notes, a comprehensive bibliography, a glossary of terms, information about persons mentioned in the book other than the six central figures and suggestions for further reading. It’s highly recommended for readers with an interest in the French Revolution. However, readers who don’t already have some knowledge about key figures and events of the period will probably find it less interesting than I did. I’m glad to have read the book with my good friend Jemidar, who shares my interest in this fascinating period. Mentioned frequently in this book is the song of the French Revolution, Ça Ira. Here it is, sung by Edith Piaf. For a translation, here's a link to Wikipedia.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jemidar

    More like 4.5 stars. Women's roles in revolution has interested me ever since I studied Modern European history at uni so I was very excited when I found this book. I was even more excited when I discovered it covered some territory I wasn't all that familiar with. This accessible bio covers the lives of six women (from all classes) who lived and were politically active (or as active as women were allowed to be) during the French Revolution and Napoleonic era. It refreshingly tells the 'other' sid More like 4.5 stars. Women's roles in revolution has interested me ever since I studied Modern European history at uni so I was very excited when I found this book. I was even more excited when I discovered it covered some territory I wasn't all that familiar with. This accessible bio covers the lives of six women (from all classes) who lived and were politically active (or as active as women were allowed to be) during the French Revolution and Napoleonic era. It refreshingly tells the 'other' side of the story, essentially how the various political ideologies and stages of this tumultuous time in France changed women's influence and positions in society. And while that may sound somewhat dry it wasn't at all. I found it very readable and at times almost gossipy (my favourite type of bio) although that's not to say it wasn't well researched with lots of notes, references, glossaries and gorgeous colour plates. Be warned though, it probably pays to know your French Rev. basics before reading as what the men did is mainly covered in reference to the women. Most enjoyable, as was reading it with my good friend Kim :-).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Velvetink

    It may have taken until the late 1960s for the expression ‘the personal is political’ to condense an important truth, but — as Lucy Moore’s fascinating new book shows — that truth is not a new one. Liberty tells the story of the French Revolution through the lives of the great salonnière Germaine de Staël, the passionate middle-class ideologue Manon Roland, the kind-hearted flibbertigibbet Thérésia de Fontenay, the feisty former courtesan Théroigne de Méricourt and the much younger Juliette Réca It may have taken until the late 1960s for the expression ‘the personal is political’ to condense an important truth, but — as Lucy Moore’s fascinating new book shows — that truth is not a new one. Liberty tells the story of the French Revolution through the lives of the great salonnière Germaine de Staël, the passionate middle-class ideologue Manon Roland, the kind-hearted flibbertigibbet Thérésia de Fontenay, the feisty former courtesan Théroigne de Méricourt and the much younger Juliette Récamier — whose beauty and chasity (a very rare thing, to judge by this book) caused her to become an icon of the Republic, not to mention the intimate life of Josephine Bonaparte. This book takes them, jointly and severally, through exile, intrigue, imprisonment in rat-infested jails, multiple lovers, bloodbaths and reversals, not to mention some fabulous parties.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    It's nicely written - clear and well-structured - and the focus on the poissardes really brought home both the economic as well as political drivers of the Revolution, and how it failed to deliver for ordinary people. While Thérèse Tallien is forever MY GIRL, and my heart breaks for Anne Théroigne, it was a delight to be introduced to Germaine de Staël and her complicated relationship with Benjamin Constant, and a pleasure to see Manon Roland portrayed in such a thoughtful and balanced light. Sh It's nicely written - clear and well-structured - and the focus on the poissardes really brought home both the economic as well as political drivers of the Revolution, and how it failed to deliver for ordinary people. While Thérèse Tallien is forever MY GIRL, and my heart breaks for Anne Théroigne, it was a delight to be introduced to Germaine de Staël and her complicated relationship with Benjamin Constant, and a pleasure to see Manon Roland portrayed in such a thoughtful and balanced light. She's not an easy person to like, but difficult to truly dislike either. However, I've given it two stars because of its old-fashioned historiography; Moore is firmly on the side of initially the constitutional monarchists and then the Girondins. She has nothing positive to say about either Robespierre or Napoleon, and no attempt is made to understand the Jacobin perspective. When it comes to the enragés, the actions of the Societé des Républicaines-Révolutionnaires are portrayed without comment but without real empathy either, something which weakens the sections about Pauline Léon. Of course the Terror is to be condemned, but it surely came about for reasons other than an innate bloodthirstiness on the part of the Jacobins. This book is worth reading for the sections about Tallien and de Staël, but follow it up with something from the other side so you don't get caught up in its viewpoints.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Vicki Kondelik

    In Liberty: The Life and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France, author Lucy Moore tells the story of six remarkable women and the turbulent times in which they lived. Although the book is nonfiction, it reads very well and holds the reader’s interest as well as a novel. Moore’s six protagonists come from various levels on the social scale, from aristocrats to working-class women, and each has a compelling story. Germaine de Staël was the daughter of Jacques Necker, Louis XVI’s popular financ In Liberty: The Life and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France, author Lucy Moore tells the story of six remarkable women and the turbulent times in which they lived. Although the book is nonfiction, it reads very well and holds the reader’s interest as well as a novel. Moore’s six protagonists come from various levels on the social scale, from aristocrats to working-class women, and each has a compelling story. Germaine de Staël was the daughter of Jacques Necker, Louis XVI’s popular finance minister. His dismissal was one of the events that led to the storming of the Bastille. Germaine was married to the Swedish ambassador, but it was a marriage of convenience, and she had many lovers over the years, but would not divorce her husband even when divorce became legal, because of the diplomatic immunity her marriage gave her. She was highly intelligent and sociable, and in 1789, at the beginning of the French Revolution, she was France’s leading salon hostess. Many liberal intellectuals came to Mme de Staël’s salon to discuss philosophy and the politics of the day. Mme de Staël and the people (usually men) who frequented her salon supported the idealistic early stage of the revolution, but they thought France should have a king, with his powers limited by a constitution. As the revolution became increasingly radical, Mme de Staël became disillusioned with it, and in 1792, as she attempted to flee from Paris, her carriage was surrounded by a mob and dragged to the city hall, where, luckily for her, an old friend was in charge, and she was eventually given permission to leave the country. She settled in her father’s native Switzerland, but wanted to join her lover Louis de Narbonne, who was rumored to be the illegitimate son of a member of the royal family, in England, and was devastated to learn he no longer loved her. Mme de Staël returned to France after the Terror, and once again became a leader in society. She became well-known as a novelist, drawing thinly-disguised portraits of herself and the people in her circle, and was a prolific letter-writer. When Napoleon came to power, she supported him at first, but became disillusioned after he declared himself consul for life, and then emperor, and also because he seemed immune to her charms. She left the country once again, became one of Napoleon’s most severe critics, and lived to survive his rule. Manon Roland was more than a decade older than Germaine de Staël, but was also a leading salon hostess. She came from a middle-class background, and was a prolific reader from an early age. After being educated in a convent, she married a man much older than herself. Their marriage was one of intellects, and there was never much passion on either side. During the early phase of the revolution, Mme Roland’s political beliefs were similar to Germaine de Staël’s, but she eventually moved farther to the left, and supported the fall of the monarchy. At her salon, she hosted a group of politicians known as the Girondins, who were moderate revolutionaries. She fell in love with one of them, François Buzot, but never acted on her feelings, even though her husband became jealous. Mme Roland kept her feelings hidden from the outside world and, even in her memoir which she wrote from prison, she never mentioned the man she loved by name. It was only many years later that people found out who he was, when some of her letters to him were discovered. Robespierre was originally a friend of Mme Roland, but as he became more radical, there was a split between them, and he engineered the downfall of Mme Roland’s friends, the Girondins. Mme Roland herself was imprisoned. Although, unlike Mme de Staël, she never intended to be an author, she wrote her memoirs in prison. After several months in prison, she was guillotined, as were many of her friends. Her husband and the man she loved both committed suicide to avoid the guillotine. Mme Roland was a woman of many contradictions, whose words often said one thing while her actions said another. She often said women should not have the vote, and they should be subordinate to their husbands. In this she was influenced by Rousseau, who believed women should be confined to the domestic sphere. But on the other hand, she had a passion for politics, and she spoke before the National Convention and wrote her husband’s speeches. If she had lived today, she might have become a politician herself. Thérésia de Fontenay was the daughter of a wealthy family, and educated at a convent. She was married off at fourteen to an aristocrat who was much older. Her husband lived a dissolute life, and from the beginning her marriage was very unhappy. Only fifteen in 1789, she embraced the revolution early on, even though she was married to an aristocrat. Thérésia became the lover of Jean-Lambert Tallien, a young deputy in the National Convention who was, at least at the beginning, an ally of Robespierre. Always kind-hearted, Thérésia used her influence with Tallien to save many people from the guillotine. Eventually Tallien turned against Robespierre and was one of the leaders of the coup that resulted in his downfall and execution. Thérésia became one of the stars of society under the new government, the Directory. This was a decadent society, with extravagant balls and parties, and Thérésia thrived in that atmosphere. She was known for wearing very revealing clothes, with bare arms and even bare breasts. She married Tallien after Robespierre’s fall, but their marriage was not happy, and she had many lovers. Thérésia became the best friend of the future Empress Josephine, but they had a major falling-out after the coup d’état against the Directory that brought Napoleon to power, because Thérésia continued to support the members of the former government, especially Barras, one of the Directors, who had been her lover. Also, she rejected Napoleon’s advances, and he never forgave her for it. She eventually married an aristocrat and was content in her last marriage. In contrast to the upper-class women, Moore also writes about two lower-class women, Théroigne de Méricourt and Pauline Léon. Not as much is known about their lives, since the lives of the lower classes in general are more sparsely documented. But what Moore tells us about these women is fascinating. Théroigne was born just outside the French border, in what was then part of the Austrian Empire, and fell in love early on with a British soldier, who promised to marry her, but instead seduced and abandoned her. Because she was considered a “fallen woman,” she was not welcomed back into the society into which she was born, and she became a courtesan. Théroigne was an enthusiastic supporter of the revolution, and from the beginning argued for political rights for women. She frequently took to the streets in various riots and protests. In 1792, Théroigne participated in the attack on the royal palace that led to the fall of the monarchy, and she attacked a royalist journalist who had often reviled her because of her past as a courtesan. In spite of the efforts of Théroigne and others to gain political rights for women, Robespierre and many of the other leading revolutionaries, who were influenced by Rousseau, believed the revolution should be only for men. Théroigne wanted women to be able to join the Jacobin Club, but Robespierre and other leading Jacobins turned down her request. Théroigne eventually became disillusioned with the revolution and returned to her home in the Austrian Empire, where she was interrogated because of her revolutionary activities. She then returned to France, where she opposed the Terror. At one time she was almost killed by a mob and was lucky to escape with her life. Tragically, she suffered from mental illness, which probably started during the Terror, and she spent the last part of her life in an insane asylum. Pauline Léon was the daughter of a working-class family in Paris, and had to support her widowed mother and younger siblings from an early age. She was an enthusiastic supporter of the revolution from the beginning and, like Théroigne, participated in many riots and protests, although it has been debated whether she actually participated in the women’s march to Versailles in 1789, where the market women of Paris, demanding bread to feed their families, brought the king back to Paris. Together with other working-class women who shared her views, she formed a women’s revolutionary society, which demanded political rights, including the vote, for women, and often took to the streets in protest. Originally, Léon and her group were allies of Robespierre and the Jacobins, but when they refused to extend voting rights to women, they joined forces with a political faction called the enragés, who were politically to the left of Robespierre and were more sympathetic to the possibility of rights for women. But Robespierre sent many of the leaders of the enragés to the guillotine, and Léon’s group eventually faded from the scene. Léon married a journalist, Théophile Leclerc, and settled down into her married life. The youngest protagonist of Moore’s book, introduced relatively late in the book, is Juliette Récamier, who was married very young to a banker who had been her mother’s lover. In fact, there were rumors that her husband was actually her father. It was probably a marriage in name only. Juliette was only a child at the beginning of the revolution, but she became a leading salon hostess during the Directory and under Napoleon’s rule. Initially, she and Thérésia Tallien were friends, but they became rivals, and their lifestyles were opposites: Thérésia was sexually promiscuous and wore revealing clothes, but Juliette was modest in her clothing and chaste in her lifestyle. Modesty and chastity were considered ideals for women under Napoleon’s rule, and so Juliette supplanted Thérésia as the leading lady of Parisian society. Interestingly, Juliette became close friends with Germaine de Staël, even though their lifestyles were so different, and Juliette was the model for a character in one of Germaine’s novels. As well as telling the story of these fascinating women, Moore writes about the role of women in the French Revolution in general. Women participated in all the major events of the revolution, including the storming of the Bastille, the women’s march to Versailles, and the fall of the monarchy. Of course, Moore writes of the women who knitted at the foot of the guillotine—the basis for Dickens’ Mme Defarge in A Tale of Two Cities. But, as Moore points out, even though women played a vital role in all the events of the revolution, they never gained political and voting rights, which were reserved for men. They did gain some important civil rights: they could marry without their parents’ permission once they reached a certain age, they could own property independently of their husbands, and they could initiate a divorce. But the rights they gained under the revolution were taken away by Napoleon. And, as Moore says, men and women were equal before the guillotine. Women, as well as men, were guillotined during the Terror, even though they did not make the political gains that men did. I highly recommend Moore’s book. In these difficult times, it is fascinating to read about people who lived through another difficult time. The book is relatively long, but it reads quickly, and is a very rewarding experience.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Marguerite Kaye

    I have mixed views about this book. For a start, I wouldn't recommend you read it if you know nothing about the French Revolution and the key characters, who are so intertwined with the women's lives in this book. Although Lucy Moore does try to put everything in context, if you've no idea about the general progress of the revolution, the detail of the different factions, allegiances and counter-factions that take up a lot of this book will be more confusing than helpful. I have read quite exten I have mixed views about this book. For a start, I wouldn't recommend you read it if you know nothing about the French Revolution and the key characters, who are so intertwined with the women's lives in this book. Although Lucy Moore does try to put everything in context, if you've no idea about the general progress of the revolution, the detail of the different factions, allegiances and counter-factions that take up a lot of this book will be more confusing than helpful. I have read quite extensively on the subject, and there were times where I was lost. The women studied in the book I also had mixed feelings about, I must admit. It seemed to me (though it is just a feeling, I could be totally wrong) that Lucy Moore was seeing them through slightly rose-coloured spectacles, glossing over some of their more opportunist traits to put them in a more positive light. Mind you, it is impossible for us to imagine what it must have been like to live through The Terror. I was reminded in places of some of the classic Vietnam War allegorical films such as Southern Comfort, where you've no idea who your enemies are and even if you have any friends. So who can blame some of these women for being opportunistic? For using their sex and their attractions and their connections to protect themselves and their families, as well as, in some cases, to promote themselves. Life during The Terror is unimaginable. I think my biggest issue with this book was that it didn't bring that home enough, and we didn't get enough of a view into how the women coped. Don't get me wrong. In places this was a fascinating read, and the scope of the research, the breadth of material presented, is seriously impressive. But for me, overall, this could have been shorter and sharper, and it would have had more impact if it had focused on one smaller group of women without straining to include all varieties and classes.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Keit Mõisavald

    Even if you don't speak French and have never been to France like me, don't be intimidated. This is an ingenious look into the French Revolution, something that you definitely did not get from your history class. You find yourself surrounded by people (from public women to aristocrats) who all believe in the revolution, it is really happening! The personal motives and thoughts of these women make it so much more real. Even if you don't speak French and have never been to France like me, don't be intimidated. This is an ingenious look into the French Revolution, something that you definitely did not get from your history class. You find yourself surrounded by people (from public women to aristocrats) who all believe in the revolution, it is really happening! The personal motives and thoughts of these women make it so much more real.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mabel

    I'll review later. I'll review later.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    Absolutely loved this book. Not only is on the beautiful side--great pictures, handsomely bound, it has an intellectual heft to it as well. You know after reading bunches of books about the French Revolution, which gets kicked off by angry women (poissardes--the fish market women) getting ticked off and marching to Versailles, armed with pikes, dragging some cannons behind them, I don't think I've ever read a full profile on one of these women before, or what actually their aims were (besides br Absolutely loved this book. Not only is on the beautiful side--great pictures, handsomely bound, it has an intellectual heft to it as well. You know after reading bunches of books about the French Revolution, which gets kicked off by angry women (poissardes--the fish market women) getting ticked off and marching to Versailles, armed with pikes, dragging some cannons behind them, I don't think I've ever read a full profile on one of these women before, or what actually their aims were (besides bread)--I didn't know that they had a 3 point platform: education for women, a mark of shame for prostitutes, and women's trades like dressmaking and embroidery be reserved only for women. Basically the 1790s goes from a time of women with great influence because of salons, romantic entanglement, or family ties, but no real power whatsoever, to a surge of female participation in the public and political life, to The Terror where anything feminine was suspect under the lizard like stare of Robespierre to extreme misogynistic set backs under Napoleon. So very little, to some, to lucky to escape with life, to no power at all, which is as depressing as the first feminist Olympe de Gouges' sigh at her death sentence, "I wanted so much to be someone." This book focuses on the lives of 6 women: Pauline Leon, a lower-class rabble-rouser; Theroigne de Mericourt, the Jacobin extremist; Theresia Tallien, the Outsider Rescuer; Madame de Stael, that Third Power of Europe; Madame Roland, the Roman/Girondist Politician; Juliette Recamier, the Unsullied Beauty. An assortment of other women flit through these pages too--Lucy de la Tour du Pin is here, Charlotte Corday, Josephine, de Genlis, Vigee le Brun, Mary Wollstonecraft, Helen Williams, etc. What these women were doing during the time of Revolution - Napoleon corresponds with most of the action, and it was very interesting seeing all the different perspectives. What's also interesting is the impact on pornographic, misogynist, and straight up libelous articles, pamphlets and newspapers and how that changed history to the degree that it did. Public opinion being whipped up against Marie Antoinette as incestuous mother-lesbian-whore to basically how ALL the women in the book were run through newspapers. Like what happened to Theresia Tallien, sometimes people get lifted up as a celebrity, only so the media can bring them down again (her real "crime" was laughing when Napoleon propositioned her). Marat was killed by Corday to silence his articles. And in one of my favorite parts in this book, Theroigne, the ardent Jacobin meets up with "the most vicious misogynist amongst the royalist hacks" who has previously smeared her in newspaper articles: "Theroigne fought besides the Marseille regiment, and was at the head of a gang which confronted the royalist journalist Francois Suleau...She recognized Suleau, or at least recognized the name, and leapt at his throat." His head promptly goes up on a pike and she gets a civic crown for all the street fighting she did. And then wound up in a mental hospital, smeared with feces, manacled to a wall, thinking she's still before the Revolutionary Tribunal--so pretty bad ending but I guess for a while it was perfect for her. Which is another good thing this book does--brings you to a close view of each person with a clear understanding of their goals or aims. Madame Roland I've always found a bit off-putting before, perhaps because of her earnest but sort of dour primness, so it can be hard to get really excited about her--she gets lost in all the turbans and see-through chiffons or Amazon outfits--but I actually found myself tearing up in her final chapters. And I did notice something across EVERY woman's platform, no matter where they stood ideologically or faction wise--women's education. And probably each one would have agreed with the de Stael aphorism of "Resist, keep resisting, and find the center of your support in yourself." Minor grumble though about some of the typos I saw heir instead of their and some personal pronouns were incorrect, which is an odd error to see, but minor typos aside everything else I found perfect. A fantastic book and one of the cornerstones of my collection.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    This was incredibly good. I think one of my favorites I have read this year for non-fiction. It was detailed and informative, and with the perfect amount of a feminist perspective. At first I was a little overwhelmed trying to keep track of the different names and people, but eventually I got them straight in my head and that made them much more enjoyable. As I summarized on tumblr previously, this book was about 75% me being amazed at these clever, determined women, 10% me being grossed out and This was incredibly good. I think one of my favorites I have read this year for non-fiction. It was detailed and informative, and with the perfect amount of a feminist perspective. At first I was a little overwhelmed trying to keep track of the different names and people, but eventually I got them straight in my head and that made them much more enjoyable. As I summarized on tumblr previously, this book was about 75% me being amazed at these clever, determined women, 10% me being grossed out and shuddering over the things that happened to them and all the other women, and 15% angry/irritated/etc about the rampant sexism and misogyny of the times detailed within. (Seriously though.) It was equal parts fascinating and horrifying to realize that the way our male-dominated society treats women who stepped out of their proscribed gender roles has pretty much not changed from then to now. (Men are forever fixated on women's purity and sexuality, basically. Show intelligence or step out of your acceptable roles and you were [and still are] derided as a slut, whore, etc.) ANYWAY a fascinating read, without a doubt.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Strange

    If you have any interest in the French Revolution and how it affected real people, this book will captivate you. Tracing six women, all direct participants in the Revolution, from intellectual Mme de Stael and aristocratic, young Juliette Recamier to lower class demonstrator and accuser Pauline de Leon, these women used what influence they had, whether much or little, to change France. The book traces the events and people, men and women, of France from the beginning of the Revolution through th If you have any interest in the French Revolution and how it affected real people, this book will captivate you. Tracing six women, all direct participants in the Revolution, from intellectual Mme de Stael and aristocratic, young Juliette Recamier to lower class demonstrator and accuser Pauline de Leon, these women used what influence they had, whether much or little, to change France. The book traces the events and people, men and women, of France from the beginning of the Revolution through the rise of Napoleon, focusing specifically on the fortunes of women through the hope for women's rights at the beginning of the revolt, through the misogyny of the Jacobin, the license of society, lead by prominent women, after the fall of Robespierre, then the triumph of those who would suppress and subjugate women, lead by another misogynist, Napoleon. The book presents the sexual freedom of some of these women, tastefully, without judgment of their behavior, so it does deal with adult behavior.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Doug Dalglish

    The French Revolution may be familiar territory, but it seems very different when seen from the perspective of women. “It was becoming clear to her (Thérésia de Fontenay) that her fellow-revolutionaries were campaigning for the rights of men, not the rights of humanity; her struggle was unimportant to them.” P. 62 “It was Michelet who first attributed to women a prominent role in the revolution. He argued that the daily deprivations suffered by ordinary women–hunger, disease, the sight of their h The French Revolution may be familiar territory, but it seems very different when seen from the perspective of women. “It was becoming clear to her (Thérésia de Fontenay) that her fellow-revolutionaries were campaigning for the rights of men, not the rights of humanity; her struggle was unimportant to them.” P. 62 “It was Michelet who first attributed to women a prominent role in the revolution. He argued that the daily deprivations suffered by ordinary women–hunger, disease, the sight of their husbands and sons going off to war–made them overcome their traditional political passivity to become bold instigators of change.” P. 387 Although women gained very little in the revolutionary period, they contributed much. “Napoléon was defeated by an alliance of British, Russian, Austrian and Prussian troops in 1814 and Germaine (de Stael) returned to Paris in triumph after a decade-long exile. Once again, her salon was the most important in Paris; once again, the circle she dominated drew up France’s constitution” p. 390

  13. 4 out of 5

    tony

    I've finally finished this goddamn book!!! I really don't know how I feel about it. It's informative and very interesting but I don't love the way it's formatted because it can be confusing and I feel as if the author repeats herself a lot. I had to read this book for academic team but I don't regret reading it and for the most part it was an easy, entertaining read. I think I'm a little put off by it just bc I've been reading it for months, always putting it off, and it's been a bit of a source I've finally finished this goddamn book!!! I really don't know how I feel about it. It's informative and very interesting but I don't love the way it's formatted because it can be confusing and I feel as if the author repeats herself a lot. I had to read this book for academic team but I don't regret reading it and for the most part it was an easy, entertaining read. I think I'm a little put off by it just bc I've been reading it for months, always putting it off, and it's been a bit of a source of stress in my life. Anyway, the state competition for academic team is tomorrow so hopefully reading this will have been for good cause.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda Breiser

    This turned out to be one of the few books I did not finish. It was very promising, and the writing style was very approachable, however, I agree with some other reviews of this book. You really would do best to know about the French Revolution before reading this. I got about a third through it and felt like I was reading a telephone directory. So many people were mentioned I could not keep up. So I returned it to my library. I will keep it on my TBR list but will read some history of the Frenc This turned out to be one of the few books I did not finish. It was very promising, and the writing style was very approachable, however, I agree with some other reviews of this book. You really would do best to know about the French Revolution before reading this. I got about a third through it and felt like I was reading a telephone directory. So many people were mentioned I could not keep up. So I returned it to my library. I will keep it on my TBR list but will read some history of the French Revolution before attempting it again.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Luci

    This book was a deep dive into the lives of six women during the French Revolution. The women were interesting and provocative, but I feel that the book suffered because of the juggling act Moore had to do. Any one of these women deserve a book of their own but at times I felt the narrative jumped around a little too much. Extraordinarily interesting characters but it was just had to keep up in parts.

  16. 4 out of 5

    BOOK BOOKS

    YOU MIGHT HAVE READ THESE, BUT HAVE YOU TRIED OUTWITTING HISTORY BY AARON LANSKY, THE NAZI OFFICER'S WIFE BY EDITH HAHN BEER, LIBERTY BY LUCY MOORE (FRANCH REVOLUTION), OR ELEMENTS OF POISON BY JOHN EMSLEY? ALSO, VICTORIAN MURDERESSES BY MARY HARTMAN WAS FUN, AND THERE WAS A LOT OF POISONING IN IT. IT'S NONFICTION, BUT LIBERTY BY LUCY MOORE WAS ABOUT THE LADIES AND REALLY ENJOYABLE. IL'D THAT BOOK. YOU MIGHT HAVE READ THESE, BUT HAVE YOU TRIED OUTWITTING HISTORY BY AARON LANSKY, THE NAZI OFFICER'S WIFE BY EDITH HAHN BEER, LIBERTY BY LUCY MOORE (FRANCH REVOLUTION), OR ELEMENTS OF POISON BY JOHN EMSLEY? ALSO, VICTORIAN MURDERESSES BY MARY HARTMAN WAS FUN, AND THERE WAS A LOT OF POISONING IN IT. IT'S NONFICTION, BUT LIBERTY BY LUCY MOORE WAS ABOUT THE LADIES AND REALLY ENJOYABLE. IL'D THAT BOOK.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Abbey

    POPSUGAR 2018: a book that takes place in a country that fascinates you

  18. 5 out of 5

    Margo Lestz

    It's a good non-fiction reference book. Through the lives of these six women we can get a glimpse of life for the upper class women. It's a good non-fiction reference book. Through the lives of these six women we can get a glimpse of life for the upper class women.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chance Tolman

    Interesting. Wish it had a larger scope.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ava

    This is a fantastic overview of the French Revolution through the lens of women's roles and contributions, as well as a fascinating study on the vastly disparate bunch of women who shaped the decade. This is a fantastic overview of the French Revolution through the lens of women's roles and contributions, as well as a fascinating study on the vastly disparate bunch of women who shaped the decade.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Muckerheide

    Liberty was an informational book, and through reading it I got a deeper understanding of the more personal side of the Revolution. The transitions between the women is smooth, and they all play an important role in the Revolution. The book really shows the power they had, and did not have

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    Antoine de Cordorcet wrote in 1790, Page 61 (my book) “He who votes against the rights of another, whatever that person’s religion, colour or sex may be, has by the same token forsworn his own. Why should creatures subject to pregnancies and to passing indispositions not be able to exercise their rights.” Now if everything would have been as was written in this quote surely we would have had a wonderful France in the 1790’s. But sadly, the French Revolution did not live up to these ideals. Many wom Antoine de Cordorcet wrote in 1790, Page 61 (my book) “He who votes against the rights of another, whatever that person’s religion, colour or sex may be, has by the same token forsworn his own. Why should creatures subject to pregnancies and to passing indispositions not be able to exercise their rights.” Now if everything would have been as was written in this quote surely we would have had a wonderful France in the 1790’s. But sadly, the French Revolution did not live up to these ideals. Many women were able to speak out for their rights, as is well depicted by this book. They wanted the full rights of being a citizen – but citizen meant “citoyen”, not “citoyenne”. The French Revolution was in some part influenced by the ideals of Rousseau who was hardly for the emancipation of women. But many women read Rousseau and Voltaire, and came to differing conclusions. Rousseau wrote that “Men is born free, but is everywhere in chains.” In this case “men” was interpreted as encompassing both male and female. Voltaire was a skeptic and believed in the power of the intellect. The author points out that many in the revolution wanted women to return to their traditional role as nurturers. Marie Antoinette was seen as decadent, depraved and unnatural – and a part of the aristocracy which had to be obliterated. Robespierre was an extreme misogynist and never married, nevertheless many women admired him. The Revolution self-destructed in its quest for purity – and the military, under Napoleon took control. Napoleon was another misogynist who had traditional views on women. From a play, Delphine in 1802 “Women are the victims of all social institutions.’ Women were equally condemned for being over-sexed (Marie Antoinette) or under-sexed. There are many wonderful descriptions of several incidents during the revolution. One is of Charlotte Corday (under-sexed, apparently a virgin) who at the age of 25 murdered Marat, a fanatical writer for the “ideals” of the Revolution. Charlotte paid the ultimate price – she was guillotined. Theresa Cabarrus Tallien (over-sexed) was out-spoken, had many lovers and introduced new, and sometimes revealing, fashions. The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David Assasination of Marat by Paul Baudry Theresa Cabarrus Tallien (unknown painter) This book needed to be streamlined. There are just too many characters introduced on every page. It made reading confusing. It’s interesting because, how could the French Revolution, with all its ideas, characters and colliding events not be engaging. Sometimes I felt unsure of what the author was trying to convey. I think it would have been better to focus on how the French Revolution changed the role of women in society. With the attention given to aristocratic/bourgeois women we get little feel of how the masses of poor, illiterate women were faring.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mandie Ditchburn

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A fascinating account of the French Revolution from a female -- and often a feminist -- perspective. The author examines the lives of six very different women of the period, both as influential figures and often tragic human beings. Theroigne de Mericourt's descent into madness, and the brutal treatment she endured at insane asylums, makes for particularly tough reading. This richly detailed social and political history details the early idealism of the revolutionary period followed (almost inevi A fascinating account of the French Revolution from a female -- and often a feminist -- perspective. The author examines the lives of six very different women of the period, both as influential figures and often tragic human beings. Theroigne de Mericourt's descent into madness, and the brutal treatment she endured at insane asylums, makes for particularly tough reading. This richly detailed social and political history details the early idealism of the revolutionary period followed (almost inevitably) by disillusionment, opportunism and violence. Sans-culottes and poissardes share page space, if not social circles, with courtesans and femmes politiques. In the heady days of 1789-91, women are prominent. Germaine de Stael helps to create France's new constitution; Manon Roland runs a government department in her husband's name; Olympe de Gouges writes a declaration on women's rights; Pauline Leon leads riots and protest marches; Theroigne dresses as a man and speaks in front of the Convention. But all of these women chafe under the inherent misogyny of eighteenth-century Europe. The thought of women in politics terrifies the male revolutionary; it's a threat, a throwback to the power wielded by debauched kings' mistresses and frowned upon by the followers of Rousseau, who laud the purity of motherhood as woman's only vocation. As the revolution progresses, women's rights regress and their deeds are pigeonholed -- they may portray Liberty at a pageant with their breasts bared but any role of substance is frowned upon as unnatural. The socially conservative Jacobins laugh Olympe out of the Convention and their newspapers slur Theroigne's reputation by bringing up her past as a prostitute. If you're not a virgin or a virtuous mother, you're a whore. In this environment, women's influence return to its Enlightenment roots: the boudoir and the salon. Theresia Cabarrus saves many lives during the provincial purges by starting a love affair with the Jacobin Tallien; Germaine's friend Juliette Recamier is idolised for her beauty and virginity. Both women refuse Napoleon's advances and are later exiled from imperial society. Liberty is a lively, compelling read that chronicles the personal and public lives of these fascinating women, their deeds, lovers, friends and murderers. They are often strangely modern -- Germaine and Manon juggle their careers with relationships and motherhood; Theresia longs for fame; Olympe and Theroigne battle to break through glass ceilings -- which adds to their appeal. Understanding women's experiences adds another dimension to our understanding of this turbulent period in history.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anna C

    One of the greatest mysteries of history (and human nature) arose during the French Revolution. Equality was the central tenant of the revolution. No man is better than another. This principle inspired "Les Droit de l'Homme" and rewrote French society. Poor men made gains, but women's rights actually slipped backwards. How did this obsession with equality manage to overlook half of France? This is the starting point for Lucy Moore's "Liberty." The book attempts to tell the story of the French Rev One of the greatest mysteries of history (and human nature) arose during the French Revolution. Equality was the central tenant of the revolution. No man is better than another. This principle inspired "Les Droit de l'Homme" and rewrote French society. Poor men made gains, but women's rights actually slipped backwards. How did this obsession with equality manage to overlook half of France? This is the starting point for Lucy Moore's "Liberty." The book attempts to tell the story of the French Revolution through the point of view of six women. Within the first few chapters, the book's structure starts to work against it. In theory, every chapter is devoted to one of the Revolution's heroines. But since women were away from the center of power, Moore has to drop this point of view regularly. She spends roughly half of every chapter giving a SparkNotes style run through of the French Revolution. Since she is eager to return to the women themselves, these portions are rushed and don't give nearly enough context and explanation. I actually started this book last year, but had to abandon it. I returned only when I had learned enough about the Revolution to keep up with Moore's lightning fast summaries. I suspect that the book would have worked better if, rather than assign each chapter to one of the six women, Moore had just integrated them into a narrative about the Revolution. Since she has to focus all of her attention on one woman at a time, many of her heroines seem to disappear. The tragic rabble-rouser Theroigne de Mericourt is randomly abandoned half way through the book. Only in the epilogue does Moore casually mention that Mericourt spent the next few decades in a hellish aslyum. Moore also attempts to tell the story of lower-class women; a noble goal, but one made impossible by the lack of evidence. One of the six heroines is a peasant named Pauline Leon. Her chapters are filled with a great deal of expostulation based on tiny fragments of evidence. Leon disappears once she leaves the membership of a revolutionary organization. Personal quibble: why choose Juliette Recalmier as one of your six heroines? The girl only gets two chapters. Of those two, one is completely pointless, the other is dominated by Theresia de Fontenay. Moore really should have cut the angelic and boring Recalmier to focus on the doomed, romantic, intelligent, and downright awesome Lucille Desmoulins.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    It's amazing what a road trip and a day off can do for your reading stats! I need to do this at least once a month if I really want to finish this quest for 50 books by the end of the year. With this book, I'm again pushing my envelope a bit further, even if it's still European and Women's History. The French Revolution and I have never been close friends, and most of my reading has focused on Marie Antoinette and the royalist party. My knowledge of the other side is at best...limited. From what It's amazing what a road trip and a day off can do for your reading stats! I need to do this at least once a month if I really want to finish this quest for 50 books by the end of the year. With this book, I'm again pushing my envelope a bit further, even if it's still European and Women's History. The French Revolution and I have never been close friends, and most of my reading has focused on Marie Antoinette and the royalist party. My knowledge of the other side is at best...limited. From what I gather, there were a lot of heads cut off. After reading this book, I am now fully in awe of the American Revolution, if for no other reason than at no time did our capital city smell like rotting meat from all the executions. The French Revolution seems to have gone off the rails very quickly, and these 6 women came along for the ride. The six women covered in this book (in order of my ability to recall and my spelling is limited)) were Germaine De Stael, Pauline Leon, Théroigne de Méricourt, Theresa Tallien, Julie Recamier, and Manon Roland. Rather than having a series of mini biographies, Moore does each chapter in chronological order but focusing on the woman who's influence was at the height during that period. The method works exceptionally well, and adds to the readability. Through the lives of the six women, you see how women were at the forefront of the revolutionary movement only to be systematically relegated to the background, not only through laws but also through revolutionary iconography. This is an exceptional book and gave me the impetus to read more about the French Revolution. I'll just have to brace myself for all the blood.

  26. 5 out of 5

    S'hi

    Very comprehensive. A little difficult to follow with so many characters stories interwoven through each others' chapters. Some kind of chart of relationships between the segments of society, the salons where they met with each other, and other relationships which linked them would be of benefit. Perhaps too much was attempted in the one volume. And more accessible notes would also have helped. Although disappointed with the structure, this is an important perspective on historic events which st Very comprehensive. A little difficult to follow with so many characters stories interwoven through each others' chapters. Some kind of chart of relationships between the segments of society, the salons where they met with each other, and other relationships which linked them would be of benefit. Perhaps too much was attempted in the one volume. And more accessible notes would also have helped. Although disappointed with the structure, this is an important perspective on historic events which still underlie the experience of politics for many women. Role models are important for what they do behind the scenes as well as in the public domain. The mix of attitudes among these women are not that different than exist today. The fears and excuses we give as we consider a public contribution, are both to give ourselves time to digest and learn our own lessons, and to consider whether that is the most appropriate role for our own particular skills and their application. I find it particularly disturbing when the narrative jumps backwards and forwards in time and place. To be of real use the development through challenges as they arose, and the tension of 'not knowing' rather than the assumption that the reader already has some knowledge of these events and characters, would greatly aid the presentation and sequence.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Erika Hope Spencer

    This book humbled me because it so masterfully combined all these women and historical facts in a way that was easy to follow and absorb. I truly have no idea how she managed to do it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I'm always reading ads for history books in The New Yorker that say, "It's non-fiction but reads like a novel!" I don't read much non-fiction, but the idea of reading history appeals to me, so I decided to take a chance with this book. It is not one of those books that reads like a novel, or maybe all of those ads are just lying. As with most books that seem to come from an academic background, it was distracted by little details and random historical figures. It also seemed to assume a great de I'm always reading ads for history books in The New Yorker that say, "It's non-fiction but reads like a novel!" I don't read much non-fiction, but the idea of reading history appeals to me, so I decided to take a chance with this book. It is not one of those books that reads like a novel, or maybe all of those ads are just lying. As with most books that seem to come from an academic background, it was distracted by little details and random historical figures. It also seemed to assume a great deal of knowledge about the French Revolution, things that I barely remembered from high school classes. Still, despite the academic writing style, the characters of the six women do rise above the narrative. Their stories kept me reading. Little facts were inordinately fascinating, like the aristocratic women who farmed out their children to wet nurses at birth and didn't see their children again until they turned two. Or the affairs that married women carried on as a matter of course, with the full knowledge, and in some cases, approval of their husbands. I'm not sure if I recommend the book, although I'm glad I read it. Maybe seek out another book about the French Revolution. One that actually does read like a novel.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Josie

    My true rating would be 3.5 - due to its length (391 pages). A bit too dense and detailed in parts, cutting back to the more typical 250-300 page for history books would have made it an easier read. That being said, following six women's lives was a great way to get an overview of the French Revolution. Who knew that Tallien finally had the nerve to challenge Robespierre at the National Convention because his mistress (and future wife), Theresia Fontenay, was in jail and about to be guillotined? My true rating would be 3.5 - due to its length (391 pages). A bit too dense and detailed in parts, cutting back to the more typical 250-300 page for history books would have made it an easier read. That being said, following six women's lives was a great way to get an overview of the French Revolution. Who knew that Tallien finally had the nerve to challenge Robespierre at the National Convention because his mistress (and future wife), Theresia Fontenay, was in jail and about to be guillotined? Or that one of Theresia's future lovers would deflect the young, socially awkward Bonaparte's attention from Theresia by introducing him to her good friend, the socialite and future Empress Josephine? Moore describes the fashions, whose salon was hip and the party scene at various phases of the revolution. Like: it became de rigueur to claim to have been imprisoned and to have barely escaped death and macabre balls included women in simple white dresses with red ribbons around their necks to symbolize their escape from the guillotine. Overall a good read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Hollidae

    I'm glad I perservered and finished this book (I was kind of French Revolutioned out after the Josephine trilogy by Sandra Gulland and The Rose Grower). After reading all the fictional accounts of women in the Revolution, I was really curious to know more about the real women, and how accurate the fictional accounts were. I was really surprised to learn how oppresive the Robspierre-ists and following regimes were towards women, especially since Robspierre was idolized by so many women. The thing I'm glad I perservered and finished this book (I was kind of French Revolutioned out after the Josephine trilogy by Sandra Gulland and The Rose Grower). After reading all the fictional accounts of women in the Revolution, I was really curious to know more about the real women, and how accurate the fictional accounts were. I was really surprised to learn how oppresive the Robspierre-ists and following regimes were towards women, especially since Robspierre was idolized by so many women. The things I liked most about the book were the author's writing style which I found really accessible, the fact that it's not strictly biographies and deals with other historical and cultural details, and how the author intertwined all the featured women's lives. I did feel throughout that I should have previously read a good history of the Revolution so I would know who all the key players were better - things did get kind of confusing at times. Overall, I would highly recommend!

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