Claire Lacombe (4 August 1765-?) was an actress in her early life, but is best known for her contributions during the French Revolution. Though it was only for a few years, Lacombe was a revolutionary and a founding member of the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women.
Lacombe was born in the provincial town of Pamiers in southwestern France. She became an actress at a young age and appeared in theatrical productions in the provinces before arriving in Paris in 1792. She was not an outstanding success in the theater, and she was not entirely happy with her life. The acting company that Lacombe worked for moved from town to town and sometimes went to castles and the country houses of aristocrats. This probably had an influence in her decision to quit the company to become a revolutionary.
In Paris during the insurrection of 10 August 1792, Lacombe fought with the rebels during the storming of the Tuileries. She was shot through the arm but kept fighting on, earning herself the lifelong sobriquet, "Heroine of August Tenth. " For her bravery, she was awarded a civic crown by the victorious fédérés.
Lacombe became a frequent attendee at meetings of the Cordeliers Club through which she became involved with the most radical elements of the Revolution. In February, 1793, Lacombe and another female revolutionary, Pauline Léon, founded the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women. Composed chiefly of working-class women, the Society associated with the most militant sans-culottes and enragés. They functioned partly as a fighting force among the market women of Paris, and employed violent tactics to root out anti-revolutionaries.
Despite the deeply entrenched chauvinism of the time, Lacombe met a few revolutionary men who fought for women's rights. One of these was Théophile Leclerc, with whom she lived for a while, until he left her to marry Pauline Léon.
Under the Reign of Terror, the enragés were suppressed along with most other extremist groups, including the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women. Lacombe's group had been so notorious that the National Convention specifically banned women's organizations (30 October 1793).
Lacombe was finally released from prison on 20 August 1795 (by order of 18 August 1795 signed by the Committee of General Security). She went back to the theater but quit again after three months, and settled into a life of unrecorded obscurity.
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- Léopold Lacour, Les origines du féminisme contemporain: Olympe de Gouges, Théroigne de Méricourt, Rose Lacombe, Paris: Plon, 1900, pp. 413-414.
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