|Jeanne-Marie Roland de la Platière
Jeanne Roland was born on March 17, 1754. From her early years she showed great
aptitude for study. She was largely self-taught; and her love of reading acquainted her with
authors like Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau. As her mind matured, she abandoned the
idea of entering a convent, and added to the enthusiasm for a republic which she had
imbibed from her earlier studies. Jeanne is said to have been attractive but not beautiful.
She married Jean Marie Roland in 1781, who later became minister of internal affairs. When
the couple moved to Paris, she began to take an even more active role. Her salon on the rue
Guénégaud in Paris became the rendezvous of several leaders of the popular movement.
The rupture between the Girondist party and that section still more extreme, had not yet
occurred. For a time the whole left united in forcing the resignation of the ministers. Later,
after Roland had made a stand against the worst excesses of the Revolution, the couple
became very unpopular.
Roland managed to escape, but left Jeanne behind, and shortly afterwards she was arrested
and on November 8, 1793 - a dull November afternoon in Paris, the guillotine cut off her
head. She was four months short of her 40th birthday.
On her way to execution, she managed to deliver a curse on the crowd who applauded
whatever violence they were presented with. "Those who send me thither," she called from
the tumbril, "will not be long before they follow me. I go to the scaffold innocent. They will
come there as criminals. And you who applaud today will then applaud." On the steps of the
guillotine, she paused to gaze toward the clay statue of Liberty set up in the Place de la
Revolution. "O liberty! O liberty!" she exclaimed. "Quede crimes on commet en ton nom!"
(Oh liberty! Oh liberty! What crimes we commit in thy name!)
When Mr. Roland learned that his wife had been guillotined, he committed suicide.