Who were the Dames des Halles of Paris? They seem indelibly associated with the October Days: when, on October 5, 1789, the formidable market women of Paris marched to Versailles to demand bread. They ended up bringing the royal family back to Paris. After this pivotal moment in the early French Revolution, however, historians often relegate the Dames to discussions of subsistence. This is true even in gender studies of the French Revolution, which tend to concentrate on the political activism of the women of the Société des Citoyennes Républicaines révolutionnaires. Unlike the Républicaines révolutionnaires, the Dames never militated for the right to bear arms or to vote.

Katie Jarvis’s thought-provoking new study Politics in the Marketplace challenges this traditional view of the market women of Paris. She deftly interweaves socioeconomic history, archival research, and a gendered analysis to contend that...

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