Olympe de Gouges

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Olympe de Gouges (1748-92) was a French writer who proposed the Declaration of the Rights of Women in 1791. She argued that women should gain equality with men through education and work and that, in the new order introduced by the revolution, the liberty granted to men should include women. She wrote the pamphlet "Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen" (1791) and the anti-slavery play "The Slavery of the Blacks" (1792). She championed family life and lobbied for constitutionally guaranteed women's rights - equality in society, politics, economics, marriage, and sexuality. Regarding marriage, she wrote in "Les Droits de la Femme et de la Citoyenne" (1791). She argued that marriage should be a consensual and loving 'social contract' between a man and a woman, and divorce and adoption should be legalized, existing laws on marital separation liberalized, and the rights of illegitimate children safeguarded.

In 1791, just weeks after the death of Honoré-Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau, she wrote the comedy "Mirabeau in the Elysian Fields" based on his speeches and writings. By combining various texts and modifying them in slight ways, Gouges created a work which paid homage to a man regarded at the time as a national hero.

In 1792 the National Assembly rejected her feminist proposals. She belongs to the Girondin faction and like most Girondin leaders she was executed.

Further reading

  • Chaudhuri, Nupur. "Olympe De Gouges' Perception of Marriage and Motherhood," Consortium on Revolutionary Europe 1750-1850: Proceedings 1990 20: 815-821,
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