Place Blanche

Arrondissement 18

A bustling square on the 1791-1860 northern boundary of Paris at the old tax gate into Paris to the south of the Montmartre hill. Its barricade in May 1871 involved fighter from the Women’s Union. Today it is home to Le Moulin Rouge that opened in 1889 and dozens of tacky strip bars and sex shops.

A century ago the Place Blanche already looked something like it does today

The Place Blanche (White Square) was named after a café called the ‘White Cross’. It got its name from the showers of white flour and gypsum whose mills and quarries often covered those working on and near the Montmartre hill.

A 1785 painting of the customs post at the Place Blanche gate in the recently-built Tax Farmers’ wall around Paris

The tax collectors’ building in the Farmers-General Wall at the Place Blanche was burnt down here on 11 July 1789 in a protest by quarry workers against the taxes on the carts they had to pay to enter neighbouring inner Paris. It was one of the many sparks that ignited in Paris three days later on July 14 1789.

The Farmers-General Wall of the Ancien Regime was built to tax Paris not to defend it as were the 13th and 14th century walls

The tax wall was first abolished by the Constituent Assembly in 1791 and in November 1793 32 of its wealthy tax collectors were arrested and 28 guillotined. After the tax wall’s reintroduction by the Directorate in 1798, it and its gates survived until 1860, when Montmartre was incorporated into Paris.

The Place Blanche tax gate photographed in 1855 before tax collections at the wall finally stopped in 1860

The halfmoon-shaped square was laid out in 1803 as La Place de la Barrière Blanche, and only became La Place Blanche in 1864.

The barricade with women defending the Commune at the Place Blanche in May 1871

On the morning of 23 May 1871 it was the site of a major battle at the barricade across the southern end of Rue Lepic. The barricade was defended by Elizabeth Dmitrieff, Nathalie Le Mel, Louise Michel and between fifty and 120 fighters from the Women’s Union for the Defence and Care of the Wounded of Paris.

The women fighters had already retreated from the Batignolles barricade, and after the Versaillais took this barricade they were then forced to retreat again to the next barricade at the Place Pigalle.

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Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine

Arrondissements 11, 12

Numbers: 1, 2, 63, 151, 157, 185

The word faubourg derives from old French meaning ‘outside the village/town/abbey). Saint-Antoine was the name of the hamlet built outside the 13th century Saint-Antoine-des-Champs abbey walls, on whose site stands the Saint-Antoine Hospital.

The abbey brought in the carpenters, varnishers, tapestry-makers, glass makers (Saint-Gobain started here in 1665 thanks to Colbert) that made the area the most populated in Paris in the 18th century.

The Caplain factory employed many women workers manufacturing gas masks during the First World War

It was also the most revolutionary, with its workers forming the biggest contingent among those who attacked the Bastille prison and armoury in 1789. On July 30 1792, when the Marseillais volunteers marched into Paris along the road singing the Chant de marche pour l’armée du Rhin, they had no idea that this song by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle would become the French national anthem for the first time in 1795.

At an address in the road that is unknown, Pierre-Jean Beranger lived with his grandfather in the 1780s, before being taken by him to see the storming of the Bastille in 1789. This influence, and that of an uncle, mitigated against that of his father, and put Beranger on the side of ordinary people for most of his life.

One of the few barricades in the insurrection of June 6 1832 that followed the funeral of the republican sympathiser General Lamarque was outside No. 2. This short-lived insurrection was made famous by Victor Hugo in Les Misérables in his description of the barricade in the Rue Saint- Martin.

On June 25 1848 some 29 barricades were erected in the Sainte-Antoine district. The one across the road between No. 1 and No. 2 was where the Archbishop of Paris, Denys Affre, was mortally wounded by Cavaignac‘s soldiers when he tried to persuade both sides to stop fighting. The barricade fell shortly afterwards.

In 1871 the road was once more barricaded by the citizen-soldiers of the National Guard, called the fédérés. One of the most important again was built on March 18 1871 to block the road between No. 1 and No. 2 and prevent access to the Bastille square. Over 100 Communards were killed in the battle before it was taken by the Versaillais army on May 26 1871.

A barricade across Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine in May 1871 defended by the National Guard. It is photographed from the Eastern side from where the Versaillais troops were expected to come.

Another barricade in the road in May 1871 ran across the Rue de Charonne from No. 63. This was where Marx’s personal envoy to the Commune, Elisabeth Dmitrieff, helped the Hungarian member of the First International, Léo Fränkel who was wounded on the barricade there on May 25 1871.

On December 3 1851 it was at a barricade crossing from what is now the Rue Trousseau at No. 151 that Victor Schoelcher joined the protest against the seizure of power by Louis-Napoleon and tried to raise a revolt in a working class area. He saw his fellow deputy, Alphonse Baudin, shot dead. The 20 deputies who had come to the barricade had met first at the Café des Peuples at No. 157.

On the second floor of 151 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine this plaque is all that records the location of the young deputy’s death defending democracy in 1851

A later use of No. 157 was made by the publication the Cooperation of Ideas there in 1899. It had then become the venue of the Theatre of the People

This was also where the Club of the Faubourg (Club du Faubourg) used to meet in 1919 and 1920. One of the regular visitors to the Club at No. 157 in 1919 was Nguyên Tat Thanh, alias Nguyên Ai Quôc, Ho Chi Minh.

The cooperative connection was continued further down the road in No. 185. In the ealry 20th century ‘The Family of the 11th Arrondissement’ cooperative shop was also a bulk distribution centre for socialist cooperatives.

The Family of the 11th Arrondissement socialist cooperative on the corner with the Rue Saint-Bernard photographed in the early 20th century

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Rue du Temple

Arrondissements 3, 4

Numbers: 63, 79, 106, 158, 191

From the junction of Rue-du Temple and Rue de Turbigo looking at the Place de la Republique

One of Paris’ oldest streets it now runs for 1.3 km from the Rue Rivoli up the the Place de la Republique, with the Square du Temple garden created in 1857 leading off it at No. 158.

The name Rue du Temple comes from the Templars district, a large area of land given to the Knights Templar military religious order around 1170. In 1240 the 50 metre high keep was built within a walled enclosure. It initially housed the king’s treasure, and then became a prison. Its most famous occupants from August 13 1792 were Louis XVI and his family.

On December 18 1795 Marie-Thérèse Charlotte de France, their daughter, was the only Bourbon to leave the Tower alive and without a trip to the guillotine. Louis XVI was guillotined on January 21 1793. Marie-Antoinette on October 16 1793. Elisabeth, the king’s sister, on May 10 1794. Louis, the king’s son, died from tuberculosis in the keep on June 8 1795.

On June 29 2017 the Square’s name was changed to Square du Temple – Elie-Wiesel in honour of the human rights campaigner and Holocaust survivor.

In 2007 the incumbent Socialist mayor from a Jewish Polish family erected a Stele in the Square to commemorate the 85 Jewish children of the Third Arrondissement who, under the age of six, had been arrested by the French police and deported to Auschwitz, never to return.

The Templar Tower was knocked down by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1808 partly to prevent Royalist pilgrimages to the site and partly, some argue, to spare his future wife, the sight of her aunt’s last address. The garden and Square was one of 24 laid down under Haussmann’s plan for giving Parisians a little more air.

On February 27 1871 the Square at No 158 was the meeting point of the National Guardsmen on their way to the Champs-Élysées to try and stop the Prussians from entering Paris. Every Saturday during the Commune the band of the National Guard played there to raise funds for the widows and children of men who had died in the war.

Former soldiers who had joined the Commune and foreigners were the first to be executed in the Square on May 25 1871.

The statue by Amadee Doublemard of the popular anti-monarchist poet Pierre-Jean de Béranger that was placed in the Square at its inception was melted down in 1942, but replaced by one in stone by Henri Lagriffioul in 1953.

Women Communards such as Elisabeth Dmitrieff and Nathalie Le Mel used to meet in a women’s club at the Grand café de la Nation  at No. 79, the 17th century Hotel de Montmor. On International Women’s Day March 8 2007 under the recently elected Socialist Paris mayor, a small triangular square at the meeting point of the Rue du Temple and the Rue de Turbigo was named the Place Elisabeth Dmitrieff. It is just outside the entrance to the Temple metro station.

In October 1870 Blanqui was in hiding at No. 191. The flat belonged to Eugène Cléray, a clockmaker and follower of Blanqui who was deputy mayor of the Third arrondissement during the Siege of Paris. Blanqui stayed in the flat on October 31 before going to the Hotel de Ville to see how the insurrection against the new republican government’s indifferent handling of the war with Prussia was going.

Despite 15,000 demonstrating outside the Hotel de Ville for the resignation of the government and then occupying it, by the early hours of the next day it had failed. Blanqui then returned to No. 191.

Where the rue Rambuteau crosses the Rue du Temple at No. 63 there was a restaurant where the Russian Nihilists met in the late 19th century. Trotsky and Lenin also met there early in 1903.

During the occupation of Paris the Central Telephone Archives at No. 106, built in 1927-1928, was taken over by the Germans, and was one of their remaining strong-holds in August 1944.

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Feminism

Women ready to fight at a barricade in the Rochechouart district in May 1871

From 1791 French feminists argued for their natural rights. In the 1830s and 1840s many women campaigned for equality and the vote. Many saw the 1871 Commune as a route to equality and fought on the barricades. In 1909 a French women’s suffrage movement was established. France’s senate rejects giving women the vote in 1922 , 1935 and 1936. The vote was finally given by the 1945 Fourth Republic constitution. In 1975 women win the right to have an abortion. In 2017 French women’s average wage was still 24% less than men’s, and their pensions are 42% lower.

Marthe Bigot

1878-1962, Montargis (Loiret)

Teacher, feminist, and anti-war activist during World War I. Founder member of the Communist Party, which she left in 1926. A campaigner for female suffrage, she organised women’s candidacies at elections, taking up a pre-war tradition, and in March 1922 presented her own “symbolic candidacy” in the Paris municipal elections; unable to hold her own meetings she demanded speaking rights at those of other candidates, and despite being ineligible as a woman came third in the vote.