Edith Thomas, who herself was on the coordinating committee of the Union des Femmes Francaises working against the Vichy government, feels an evident affinity for the women of the Commune of 1871. She meticulously traces the individual destinies of particular women, both leaders and followers, who participated in the movement. At the outset she presents the state of women in a society where they might earn two francs a day by needlework. She witnesses the emergence of such women as Nathalie Lemel, Marguerite Tinayre, and particularly the heroic Louise Michel about whom so much of the history of the women incendiaries centers. She proceeds to the war with Prussia, the fall of the Empire and emergence of the Republic, the uprising of March 18, the sieges of Paris. The author reviews the activities of the Union des Femmes, a section of the French International, and the Clubs at this time and purveys the philosophy of the Commune on education. She follows the actions of the women at the barricades as ambulance nurses, canteen workers, soldiers, and ultimately turns to the subject her title infers: the petroleuses. She finds no evidence that women set fire to Paris aside from their duties with the fighting forces; nevertheless many were tried and sentenced. The book predicates some knowledge of and particular interest in the period.