Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Olympe de Gouges: Feminist and Revolutionary

It is interesting how so many of the early feminists experienced abuse and hardship in their youth. From Haaretz:
From a young age, de Gouges believed she was destined to be a distinguished playwright. But fate cast her instead in the lead role in the widespread tragedy of the 18th century: life as a woman. She was born Marie Gouze in 1748, in the town of Montauban, southern France, and grew up in a bourgeois family that was not well-off. Officially, her father was a butcher, but very early on she learned that her real, biological father was actually her mother’s lover, Jean-Jacques Lefranc, the Marquis de Pompignan.

Lefranc, whom Marie got to know as a child, was an educated man and a successful playwright-poet. His occupations and social status left a deep impression on her, but their relationship did not last long: The marquis’ ties with Marie were abruptly severed when he married a rich Paris widow. Marie was 9 at the time, no longer had the right to be with him and, of course, had no legitimate claim to his fortune. Far from fading with the years, that early affront only intensified and became a major driving force in her later writing.

De Gouges’ education and place of birth were also not likely to land her in Parisian intellectual circles. The language spoken in southern France at the time was Occitan, not French; she did not learn the latter until she was older. Moreover, her education was quite basic. “Fate left me in total darkness, in the most enlightened century. I know few things, only a few ideas that have not become confused in my memory,” she wrote later, though she was intellectually superior to the girls around her, most of whom were illiterate. (Read more.)

1 comment:

The North Coast said...

I've always been fascinated by this feminist. How sad, and immoral, that her rightful claim on the affections, and support, of her own father, was not recognized at that time. Perhaps if men had felt the same sense of obligation towards their "illegitimate" children that mothers feel to all their children, they wouldn't have been so reckless in "sowing their wild oats".. and perhaps Olympe's life, and surely her politics, would have been quite a bit different.