Life during Revolution
Today it has occurred to me that Mary Wollstonecraft was a foreign correspondent — a war correspondent — during the French Revolution. No one ever calls her this, but she was sending reports home to her publisher and writing an account of the Revolution while her friends got thrown into jail or guillotined. She had to step around puddles of blood streaming down from the scaffold when she crossed the Place de la Revolution. I think of those brave women I’ve watched broadcasting from Iraq, or now Haiti, and it puts Mary in a very different light. She seems less misty, more vivid. I remember teaching the French Revolution years ago at the Waring School. It was my first class. I was twenty three years old and I wasn’t very clear about history of any kind. The revolution felt old, musty, and kind of romantic with people running around in funny clothes, wearing cockade hats and saying old fashioned things about liberty. I have taught the Revolution many times since, and even though I have worked to make it feel more immediate for myself and my students, seeing it unfold through MW’s eyes is the first time the full force of its violence and its modernity have really struck me.