Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Michael Keene

Committee Members

Jenn Fishman, Nancy Goslee


This study examines the fluid definitions of citizenship during the French Revolution, especially citizenship’s relationship to exile. I assert that citizenship was always defined by who could not be citizens. Furthermore, this study focuses upon women’s experience of citizenship and exile for their especial vulnerability to exclusion from public and political affairs. In particular, I address the political actions of Parisian common women, and the political actions and writings of the English exiles Helen Maria Williams and Mary Wollstonecraft. Essentially, this study has three distinct parts that demonstrate the development of women’s citizenship during the Revolution and the causes of their official exile from active citizenship. First, I examine the historical situation of the October Days, when Parisian market-women drew upon traditional female political action to perform a militant citizenship in the new régime. Next, I move from the physical to the mediated experiences of revolution as I examine the initial responses of Edmund Burke, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Helen Maria Williams, and their different definitions of citizenship based upon a bourgeois English identity. Lastly, I examine Williams and Wollstonecraft’s experiences as exiles in France leading up to and during the Terror, the ways in which both English women negotiated the ever-restricting and nationalistic definitions of citizenship of the Jacobin régime while maintaining their cosmopolitan ideals. Furthermore, Williams and Wollstonecraft’s definition of bourgeois cosmopolitan citizenship was diametrically opposed to the popular sovereignty promoted by the Parisian common women. In the end, I seek to demonstrate that women, whatever their class or nationality, were always acting or attempting to define citizenship from a position of exile.

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