Paris, along with New York, was one of the main centres of the fashion industry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But although New York based garment workers were mobilized early in the twentieth century, Paris was the stage of vibrant revolutions and uprisings throughout the nineteenth century. As a consequence, French women workers were radicalized much earlier, creating a unique and unprecedented moment in both labour and feminist history.
Seamstresses were central figures in the socio-political and cultural events of nineteenth and early twentieth century France but their stories and political writings have remained marginalized and obscured. Drawing on a wide range of published and unpublished documents from the industrial revolution, ‘Sewing, Fighting and Writing’ is a foucauldian genealogy of the Parisian seamstress. Looking at the assemblage of radical practices in work, politics and culture, it explores the constitution of the self of the seamstress in the era of early industrialization and revolutionary events and considers her contribution to the socio-political and cultural formations in modernity.