Archives de Tag: Pétroleuses

Yet the specter of the witches continued to haunt the imagination of the ruling class. In 1871, the Parisian bourgeoisie instinctively returned to it to demonize the female Communards, accusing them of wanting to set Paris aflame. There can be Iittle doubt, in fact, that the models for the lurid tales and images used by the bourgeois
press to create the myth of the petroleuses were drawn from the repertoire of the witch-hunt. As described by Edith Thomas, the enemies of the Commune claimed that thousands of proletarian women roamed (like witches) the city, day and night, with pots full
of kerosene and stickers with the notation “B.P.B.” (“bon pour bruler,”“good for torching”), presumably following instructions given to them. as part of a great conspiracy to reduce Paris to ashes in front of the troops advancing from Versailles. Thomas writes that “petroleuses were to be found everywhere. In the areas occupied by the Versailles army it was enough that a woman be poor and ill-dressed, and that she be carrying a basket, box,
or milk-bottle” to be suspected”(Thomas 1966: 166-67). Hundreds of women were thus sumarily executed, while the press vilified them in the papers. Like the witch, the petroleuse was depicted as an older woman with a wild, savage look and uncombed hair.
In her hands was the container for the liquid she used to perpetrate her crimes.

Silvia FEDERICI, Caliban and the Witch, p. 206
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