On May 7, 1748, a young girl was born in Southern France who was to grow up to have a profound, ahead-of-her-time influence on the rights of women. Marie Gouze was born into a middle class family in pre-Revolutionary France. After giving birth to her first son, she took the name by which she would be known to history: Olympe de Gouges.
She became a playwright in Enlightenment France and was influenced by the writings of men like Rousseau and Voltaire who called for equal rights for “all.” As the actions of many of Enlightenment revolutionary leaders show, “all” did not mean “all,” but rather “white men.” In the famous document, “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the leaders of the French Revolution laid out their ideas of natural rights. In response to this, de Gouges published “The Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen.” In this document, she called out the leaders of the revolution for ignoring the plight of women and failing to include anything concerning equal rights of the sexes.
If you know anything about the French Revolution, they did not take kindly to having their ideas questioned and criticized. de Gouges was arrested for her work, sentenced to death by guillotine and executed in 1793. Her work is now seen as an early feminist who risked and lost her life standing up for what she believed in.
Featured Image: “Olympe de Gouges.” By Alexander Kucharsky – Collection particulière, Public Domain.
Image 1. “Declaration of the Rights of Women, page 1.” By Olympe de Gouges – Originally from ., Public Domain.