In May 1790, the French National Assembly created spinning workshops (ateliers de filature) for thousands of unemployed women in Paris. These ateliers disclose new aspects of the process which transformed Old Regime charity into revolutionary welfare initiatives characterized by secularization, centralization, and entitlements based on citizenship. This study is the first to examine women and the welfare state in its formative period at a time when modern concepts of human rights were elaborated. In The Origins of the Welfare State, Lisa DiCaprio reveals how the women working in the ateliers, municipal welfare officials, and the national government vied to define the meaning of revolutionary welfare throughout the Revolution. Presenting demands for improved wages and working conditions to a wide array of revolutionary officials, the women workers exercised their rights as \u201cpassive citizens\u201d capaciously and shaped the meanings of work, welfare, and citizenship. Looking backward to the Old Regime and forward to the nineteenth century, this study explores the interventionist spirit that characterized liberalism in the eighteenth century and serves as a bridge to the history of entitlements in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Lisa DiCaprio is a visiting assistant professor in the history department at Washington and Lee University. She is coeditor with Merry E. Wiesner of Lives and Voices: Sources in European Women's History.