Women and barricades

Woman on a barricade in Prague during the Revolution of 1848, author unknown.


A great many images and narratives surrounding barricades during the nineteenth century  present women carrying flags, treating the wounded, and more rarely bearing a rifle. While the figure of the young girl or the prostitute is often glorified or condemned, it was more often within the context of the family unit that women participated in combat. Barricades were consequently a mixed-gender place, as well as a place of fantasies, as demonstrated by the women’s barricade during the Commune in 1871. This ubiquitous presence receded during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, even though there is evidence of women’s role from Petrograd to  Maidan, from Madrid and Budapest to Prague and Paris. This decline is also the result of transformations in urban guerilla warfare, and the pre-eminence of emblematic female representation in demonstrations. While the action of women in combat is no longer seen as an extreme excess of violence, it is nevertheless marked by the assignment of gendered roles.