Marie-Jeanne Phlippon Roland (17 March 1754 – 8 November 1793), better known simply as Madame Roland, was known for her salon, political articles, and support of the French Revolution which resulted in her death by guillotine.
Jeanne was well-educated. Her early education in literature, music, and drawing was followed by a year in the convent school of the Sisterhood of the Congregation in Paris. After this she continued her education independently, devouring many different types of writings. Her biographer John Abbott states that “Heraldry and books of romance, lives of the saints and fairy legends, biography, travels, history, political philosophy, poetry, and treatises upon morals, were all read and meditated upon by this young child.” (Abbott, John (2010). Madame Roland, Makers of History) Her views were influenced by Voltaire, Montesquieu, Plutarch, and Rousseau.
In 1780, Jeanne married Jean-Marie Roland de la Platière, a philosopher. She collaborated on many of his works. When her husband was elected to represent Lyon in Paris, she went with him and began her famous salon at the Hotel Britannique. This became the meeting place of many in the popular movement, including Robespierre. It grew in importance and popularity to the point that an invitation from Madame Rolland represented entrance into the inner circle of the Gironde.
Inevitably there are factions in a political party. In 1793, the Rolands defected from the Jacobins and with Brissot formed the more moderate Girondin Party. They opposed the monarchy, but also the more radical ideas of some of the Jacobins. Eventually, during the Reign of Terror, Madame Roland, her husband, and the rest of the Girodins fell completely out of favor. On June 1, 1793, they were arrested for treason.
Madame Roland has always resisted the idea of writing in her own name, although many of her husband’s papers and speeches showed her mark. While in prison, she was treated well by the guards and allowed to have paper, pen, and frequent visitors. With these she wrote and smuggled out her memoirs.
On November 8, 1793, she was brought to the guillotine and uttered her famous remark: O Liberté, que de crimes on commet en ton nom! (Oh Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name!) Her husband who had escaped prison, committed suicide 2 days after her execution. (Originally posted on SSS News & Notes)
Find out what else happened on March 17 in Women’s History.