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The Leading Front of Female Equality: Olympe De Gouges

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Olympe de Gouges

Olympe de Gouges, born Marie Gouze in 1748, was a French woman who authored various writings and pamphlets that evoked thought on many issues of the time. She spent much of her time writing about basic human rights subjects, focusing primarily on women’s rights, or lack thereof. She was executed in 1793, but not before she was able to produce a retaliatory piece of work titled, “The Declaration of the Rights of Woman.” The pamphlet was written in response to the recently written “Declaration of the Rights of Man,” which Gouze believed was lacking the necessary recognition for female members of society. It would ultimately become a very influential piece, despite its controversy of the time. Preamble Summary

At the beginning of the piece it is instantly clear that the focus is to grab the attention of her fellow women, or “citizenesses”. Gouze believed that the suffering of women in society and their lack of public voice directly affected the way society was impacted by the government (Gouze, 1). She continues past this portion to include seventeen rights that she believed all women were entitled to. The listing of rights is very specific and goes on to include better divorce options for women, as well as inheritance, and ultimately brings them more on par with male members of society, even going so far as to say that women should be held just as accountable by law as men. An example of this can be seen in Article Seven of the document, which quotes, “No woman is exempted; she is indicted, arrested, and detained in the cases determined by the law. Women like men obey this rigorous law.” A Wake-Up Call to Women

Wrapping up the pamphlet is a portion that acts as a call for women to wake up and see the issues that they are faced with in society, and how they are being wronged. She wanted women to take action and become beneficial members of society, and essentially to work toward a brighter future for themselves and society as a whole. The piece is concluded with Gouze’s own example of a contract for marriage that brings equal sharing of the property of both the husband and wife, ultimately being divided amongst their children. Women were previously lacking any such form of property rights. Up to this point, women had no say in the events of a divorce on what would happen with the family property.

Ultimately, I believe that the paper didn’t have the immediate effect that Gouze intended. Due to the fact that it was addressed to the Queen, many members of society (or rather, the Revolutionists,) believed that de Gouges was a traitor to the cause. Having been considered a counterrevolutionary, she was beheaded. The paper did at least stir up some controversy, and it did bring to light many of the issues toward women that many members of European society had not considered. Takeaway Thoughts

Reading this work of literature really opened my eyes to the struggles that womankind has gone through throughout the years. As a man, it is easy to sometimes lose sight of the plights of others because we may take many things for granted. It particularly strikes a chord, because I want the women of my life, such as my wife, to have every opportunity they can be afforded to them. Women of today, for the most part, have similar rights to those of men, but the road getting here was a long one filled with the work and sacrifices of those like de Gouges. With that being said, not everything is still how some women would see it be. One modern example of setbacks for women’s rights is the debacle of Planned Parenthood and its resources that are available for women. Some argue that the organization is immoral and that the work they do should not be sourced by government funding. Others (primarily women’s rights advocates,) believe that what Planned Parenthood offers is obviously something that should continue to receive government support, as withdrawing such support would force the programs to be discontinued. Only time will tell what will become of programs such as that, but one thing is for sure; some of the same issues that women faced over two hundred years ago can still be mirrored in today’s society.

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The Leading Front of Female Equality: Olympe de Gouges. (2019, April 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from
“The Leading Front of Female Equality: Olympe de Gouges.” GradesFixer, 10 Apr. 2019,
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