Olympe de Gouges, the Precursor of Feminism that Was Persecuted During the French Revolution

Olympe de Gouges wrote the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen’ as a protest against the French Revolution.

Gabriela Castillo

Before Judith Butler and Simone de Beauvoir, but after Juana de Asbaje, there was a pioneering woman in the fight for women’s rights named Olympe de Gouges. Her real name was Marie Gouze, and she was born in Montauban, in the middle Pyrenees of France, on May 7, 1748. She grew up in a bourgeois family; her father was a meat seller and her grandfather was a fabric merchant. She married an older man, and they had a son named Pierre Aubry.

Marie was widowed shortly thereafter. Around 1770, she moved to Paris and began frequenting places where literature and politics were discussed. This was the beginning of her literary career, and she adopted the pseudonym Olympe, which was her mother’s second name.

Her literary works dealt with the social conditions of the French people. The Slavery of the Blacks, her most famous play, was registered in the French Comedy with another name, but as it dealt with the condition of black slaves in France and the company was financed by the Court of Versailles, it was rejected.

Olympe de Gouges was imprisoned by order of the king because he could send anyone to prison. When the French Revolution was in full swing, De Gouges began her proselytizing activity more intensively. She published essays and pamphlets to express her opinion about slavery and founded fraternal societies in which men and women participated.

Olympe - olympe de gouges, the precursor of feminism that was persecuted during the french revolution

Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen

In 1791, Olympe de Gouges published a paraphrase of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, but it talks about women and their rights. In this declaration, she proposed equality of rights for women about men. “Man, are you capable of being just? A woman asks you this question; at least you will not deprive her of that right. Tell me, what gives you sovereign power to oppress my sex? Your strength? Your talents?”

She supported her position by questioning the naturalness with which the supremacy of men over women was viewed, as well as the attribute of intelligence given to men but not granted to women. She questioned that in the first phase of the French Revolution, only the rights of men were advocated without considering women. “If women can climb the scaffold, they should also be recognized for the right to climb the rostrum.”

Olympe de Gouges defended the separation of powers and was a precursor to the defense of children’s rights. After some arrests and disputes with various political groups, De Gouges was arrested and guillotined on November 3, 1793.

Story written in Spanish by Anylú Ayala in Cultura Colectiva.