You might be wondering where I am right now… Well, I can’t tell you. A lot has happened since 1792, which is why I am hiding in a place like this…
In 1793, Pauline Léon and I co-founded the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women. my dear friend Pauline is, of course, our leader. I am very proud of this organization, because we women get to gather, share concerns and problems, and participate in events that will eventually make a change in France. We mainly associated with the most militant sans-culottes and enragés. We stood among the market women of Paris, and plotted tactics to root out anti-revolutionaries. My years in this organization were very blissful. The group was beginning to feel like a family for me. The Society of Revolutionary Republican Women was a very successful organization… It was a little late when we realized that perhaps it was too successful. Under the Reign of Terror, our group got suppressed on October the 30th. Many say the reason why the National Convention banned women’s organizations was because we had become too notorious. That’s a joke! Pauline and I were very upset. With Robespierre “ruling” France (I hate the method he uses to solve problems), he may deem us to be a threat and execute us. Barred from any political activity, we spent the next few months just hanging around each other, not knowing what to do. I considered going back into acting, because I am running out of resources to support my life. This seemed like the best choice for me now, so eventually, I parted my friend Pauline with tears, and resumed being an actress (I am still trying to stay close to Paris).
In April, 1794, I was just preparing to leave for a theater in Dunkirk. As I stepped out the door, two people came out from no where and arrested me. They wouldn’t explain what my crime was, which angered and confused me greatly. I suspect it has something to do with the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women though. I wonder if Pauline is alright (I heard she was recently married to Théophile Leclerc, a man who supported us while our organization was still running). I got thrown into prison, where I spent my next year in darkness. Being in prison did not stop the amount of information I hear from the guards, even if I am uncertain whether the information is certain or not. The moving also helped me gather a lot of information (They think I might gather the prisoners and plan an escape). I heard that just a few days before my arrest, on March the 30th, Robespierre sent his friends Danton and Desmoulins to the guillotine. I must say, I am surprised. As mentioned, I certainly do not agree with the way Robespierre executes things, frequently slaughtering innocent people, but I am shocked that he would kill his own friends. People are starting to be suspicious of Robespierre, and many say he is a heartless tyrant.
On July 28th, 1794, Robespierre and his followers were guillotined. That is when the Reign of terror ended.
To be honest, I was happy and for a moment, I forgot I was in prison. The guards would looked at me strangely because, well, they probably think a prisoner smiling like an idiot is crazy. This happiness, however, did not last long. News spread that my friend Pauline got arrested… I’m sorry, I’d rather not talk about this topic. Lets fast forward to 1795, August the 18th, the day I was released. France in still very much poor and hungry. I figured that this place is no longer safe for me. I must leave. This is why I can’t tell you where I am, because I am in hiding. I would disguise myself and sneak in to town, which is how I keep up with all that is happening. Since then, France has been in many wars with many different countries. Newspapers say the most successful army is lead by a fellow named Napoleon. I am hesitant in judging his character, because as of now, he seems like a responsible and reasonable person. Whether or not he will become another King Louis or Robespierre is unknown. I don’t completely trust him, but then again, after all that’s happened, how can I trust anyone?
I worry for the future France will have. It is clear the result is that the greed and immorality of our leaders quickly destroys all of France. I certainly want people to remember me as “Red Rosa”, the “Heroine of August Tenth”, the woman who fought for other women’s rights, and a proud founder of the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women. I hope no one repeats the mistakes our political leaders have made in the future.
As Napoleon takes over the Directory, I knew that the revolution had come to an end. He is a great leader so far, but I am a little afraid of all that power he carries… What will France be like 5 years from now? My health is slowly failing, though I am happy to have made a change in this revolution. Now I can live in this tiny sliver of peace, even though I don’t know what the future may hold.
Claire Lacombe of France