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Olympe de Gouges

Marie Gouges known as Olympe de Gouges was born in 1748 in Montauban, France. , She was from the petit-bourgeois family. De Gouges went to Paris to fulfill her dream of becoming a writer where she changed her name to Olympe de Gouges. She had little education having acquired all her knowledge through self-education. At those times, men believed that women had no intellectual capability and hence could not participate in the public sphere. Thye lack of education caused the intellectual division between men and women. During her time, women were not considered as full-fledged citizens.

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In 1789, the National Assembly was created; still, the politicians were only concerned with preserving and reforming male citizens’ rights. The National Assembly passed the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. De Gouges was the first person to formulate human and citizen rights in her “Declaration of the Rights of Women and Women Citizens". She was advocating for women’s inclusion into the National Assembly, because their omission "was the major cause of corruption and misfortunes”. The government was monarchial where only a few elite governed through succession. Women did not have a chance to become leaders, because they were considered to have insufficient intellect hence men-governed. Her arguments were based on the theory of natural rights. According to De Gouges, equal opportunity was not something to be approved like a reward; equality was ‘natural’ and had to be acknowledged.

In 1789, she supported the Paris upraising, because she believed that the society was full of corruption and that women were the victims of injustice and oppression. There were monarchists or the royalists and the revolutionaries in the government; she considered herself a royalist. She remained a royalist until the escape of Louis XVI where she produced “Cry of Wise by a Woman” and “To Save the Fatherland”.

These were some things which women were not allowed to have or to do; it was also noted in the constitution that a woman does not have the right to divorce a man if she is not happy with him. Moreover, she did not have the right to own property. The constitution did not mention the right to liberty and security, the custody of children after a divorce and resistance from oppression. In her works, Gouges said that if women had the right to execution, they should also have a right to defend themselves. During her days, women would just be executed without any talk. Gouges was denied the representation of a lawyer during execution. She also concluded that France would be more stable if women were to be given equal rights with men.

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She also suggested to create a law that would protect girls and women from men who made fake promises so as to marry them and later divorce them leaving neither money nor title for their children. Women were left to suffer alone with their children after divorce, because they had no right for ownership of property. Gouges said that property should be equally divided between men and women and the children should be given out for adoption to a healthy family as a way of reducing disorder. She said that women were not lesser beings and that they needed fair treatment.

France is one of the countries which experienced discrimination based on gender where women were subjected to oppression by the men who were thought to be superior. According to Gouges, the constitution is worthless if women are not involved in drafting it. She encouraged women to fight for their rights, because men could not fight for them. In November 1793, Gouges was sent to a guillotine fighting for women rights.

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