(tʁikɔtøːz) literally translates from the French
as a (female) knitter. The term is used to refer to the old women who used to sit around the guillotine
knitting during the Reign of Terror
in the 18th century. Decisions on executions had to be made in public so these women were paid to be in attendance and give their opinion. During the Reign of Terror
the opinions were rarely anything but 'off with his head'.
In Charles Dickens's novel A Tale of Two Cities, the character Madame Defarge is a relentless and bloodthirsty tricoteuse during the Reign of Terror.
In The Scarlet Pimpernel the Pimpernel disguises himself as a wine-selling tricoteuse in order to smuggle aristocrats out of Paris in wine barrels.
David Bowie's Candidate from his Diamond Dogs album alludes to the tricoteuses with the lyric
someone's scrawled on the wall "i smell the blood of les tricoteuses".