Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Olympe de Gouges

An early French feminist who was against the violence of the Revolution and the murder of the King.
A passionate advocate of human rights, Olympe de Gouges greeted the outbreak of the Revolution with hope and joy, but soon became disenchanted when égalité (equal rights) was not extended to women.

In 1791, she became part of the Society of the Friends of Truth, an association with the goal of equal political and legal rights for women. Also called the "Social Club", members sometimes gathered at the home of the well-known women's rights advocate, Sophie de Condorcet. Here, De Gouges expressed, for the first time, her famous statement, "A woman has the right to mount the scaffold. She must possess equally the right to mount the speaker's platform." 

That same year, in response to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, she wrote the Déclaration des droits de la Femme et de la Citoyenne (Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen). This was followed by her Contrat Social (Social Contract, named after a famous work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau), proposing marriage based upon gender equality.

She became involved in almost any matter she believed to involve injustice. She opposed the execution of Louis XVI of France, partly out of opposition to capital punishment and partly because she preferred a relatively tame and living king to the possibility of a rebel regency in exile. This earned her the ire of many hard-line republicans, even into the next generation—such as the comment by the nineteenth century historian Jules Michelet, a fierce apologist for the Revolution, who wrote, "She allowed herself to act and write about more than one affair that her weak head did not understand."


tubbs said...

La Jane Fonda d'Anciene Regime!

elena maria vidal said...

Jane Fonda, absolument!

Julygirl said...

They still think we are weak-headed and we outwit them all the time.

lara77 said...

I never knew of this woman; how fascinating a story. Of course, it just proves again the hypocrisy of the French Revolution! Rights for men only; women no need to apply!! To the barbarian cabal of men like Danton and Robespierre rights were okay as long as you agreed with them!

elena maria vidal said...

True, Julygirl! ;-)

Lara, you hot the nail on the head. As George Orwell would say, all animals ate equal but some are more equal that others. THAT is the essence of the hypocrisy of the Revolution.

Matterhorn said...

Killing the king seems rather pointless to me, even by the logic of the revolutionaries. They only ended up with his brothers, afterwards.