Wednesday, December 17, 2014


French cantinière during the Crimean War, by Roger Fenton (1855).

A cantinière was a civilian woman attached to the French Army on an official basis, who sold food and liquor to the soldiers above and beyond what they received as rations. She had to be married to a soldier of the regiment, and received no pay, living off her earnings instead. This cantinière was attached to a zouave regiment (zouaves were originally Algerian troops), and therefore wears baggy trousers (source: The National Army Museum).

'Le Zouave blessé' by Roger Fenton (Crimea, February 29, 1855). A cantiniere on the Crimea War battlefield administering fluid to a wounded soldier.

As well as providing the troops with extra food and alcoholic drinks, the cantinière also played an important social role in the regiment, providing female companionship to the men away from home. For a fee she might also undertake cooking, laundry, or sewing. During a battle, she might distribute brandy and cartridges to the troops, and assist the wounded. Cantinières, usually from lower class backgrounds, lived and travelled with a regiment and shared the same hardships as the soldiers (source: The National Army Museum).

next episode: reindeer


  1. That sounds like a hard life and I expect she had to be quite enterprising.

  2. A hard life in deed, she looks strong and determined as well as lovely! Very interesting post and I really like the clarity in the first photo!


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