Gender and Political Violence (19th-20th centuries)

The barricade at Place Blanche defended by women (May 1871). Lithography, France, nineteenth century. Source: Wikimedia Commons
The mug shot of Germaine Berton (1921). Source: Wikimedia Commons
An anti-Communard propaganda postcard, postmarked July 1871, a few weeks after the fall of the Paris Commune. Source: Wikimedia Commons


The recourse to violence for political reasons combines political engagement, political action, and penal transgression. In the case of women, these elements are accompanied by the transgression of gender norms during revolutionary outbreaks, whether or not they enjoy the same political rights as men. Bringing into tension penal and gendered norms, political violence enables the women who exercise it to assert themselves as political subjects. Revolutionaries, socialists, anarchists, communists or patriots, these women came up against the permanence of gender norms—regardless of the period or the causes that guided their political engagement—as well as the impact of the collective imagination which made the political violence of women into a genuine social enigma.