The Original Knitting Nannas - Les Tricoteuses

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Tricoteuse (French pronunciation: ​[tʁikɔtøz]) is French for a knitting woman. The term is most often used in its historical sense as a nickname for the women who sat beside the guillotine during public executions in Paris in the French Revolution, supposedly continuing to knit in between executions. Amongst the items they knitted was the famous Liberty Cap or Phrygian cap.

One of the earliest outbreaks of insurrection in the revolutionary era was the Women's March on Versailles on 5 October 1789. Irate over high food prices and chronic shortages, working class women from the markets of Paris spontaneously marched to the royal residence at Versailles to protest. Numbering in the thousands, the crowd of women commanded a unique respect: their demands for bread were met and King Louis XVI was forced to leave his luxurious palace of Versailles and return, most unwillingly, to Paris to preside "from the national home".

The unexpected success of the march bestowed a near-mythic status upon the previously unheralded market women. Though lacking any central figures who could be ascribed leadership, the group identity of the revolutionary women became highly celebrated. The working "Mothers of the Nation" were praised and solicited by successive governments for years after the march.

Eventually the persistent rowdy behavior of the market women became a liability to the increasingly authoritarian revolutionary government. When the Reign of Terror began in 1793, the dangerously unpredictable market women were made unwelcome: in May they were excluded from their traditional seats in the spectator galleries of the National Convention, and only days later they were officially prohibited from any form of political assembly whatsoever.

The veterans of the march, and their numerous successors and hangers-on, gathered thereafter at the guillotine in the Place de la Révolution, as sullen onlookers to the daily public executions. The women became regular attenders, who alternated between bellowing rage and disturbing impassivity. During their quieter moments between decapitations, the women sat morbidly calm, knitting and watching as the executioner prepared the next victim.


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