By Simon Black
On the morning of October 5, 1789, dozens of women were looking for food at an outdoor market in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine neighborhood of Paris.
But the store shelves were nearly empty. Bread in particular– a staple of the French diet– was in critically short supply. And what little bread the shops did have available was being sold for sky-high prices.
This was nothing new for French peasants; the government had mismanaged the economy so poorly that food supplies had been falling (and bread prices rising) for several years.
There had even been food riots and protests going back more than a decade to the mid 1770s. But the situation only worsened.
People finally reached their breaking point that October morning in 1789, when a single young woman standing in corner of the marketplace began beating a drum, signaling the other women that it was time for another protest.
As they marched through the streets, more and more supporters joined, with some estimates as high as 10,000 people.
Their first stop was City Hall in Paris, located at the Hotel de Ville; there, officials opened grain reserves to feed the protesters. But the mob’s anger wasn’t quenched.
At this point they didn’t just want bread, or even a single meal. They wanted revolution. So from there they set out to Versailles, the King’s palace outside of Paris.
It took them about six hours to reach Versailles, where, that evening, King Louis XVI met personally with some of the protest leaders.
He made promises to give them more food, then later announced that he would voluntarily relinquish some of his power and accept a new bill of rights for the French people.