Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Pétroleuses in Paris

21 May 1871
BG A 9/644

The last week of the Paris Commune began on May 21, 1871. During this 'Semaine Sanglante' [bloody week] many people were killed and some government buildings were burned. During these events, women - often accompanied by their children - were seen carrying cans of petroleum.It is not certain if she really existed, but the female arsonist, the pétroleuse, was to become the embodiment of what was evil in women. Hence, all women participating in the Commune were labeled pétroleuses.
Eventually, only a mere handful of women were charged with committing arson, and they all denied the charge. These women - and many others awaiting their court case in a jail in Versailles - were immortalized by a photographer called Eugène Appert. His photo collection is at the IISH.