The Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen (French : Déclaration des droits de la femme et de la citoyenne), also known as the Declaration of the Rights of Woman, was written on 14 September 1791 by French activist, feminist, and playwright Olympe de Gouges in response to the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. By publishing this document on 15 September, de Gouges hoped to expose the failures of the French Revolution in the recognition of gender equality, but failed to create any lasting impact on the direction of the Revolution. As a result of her writings (including the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen), de Gouges was accused, tried and convicted of treason, resulting in her immediate execution, along with the Girondists in the Reign of Terror (one of only three women beheaded during the Reign of Terror – and the only executed for her political writings). The Declaration of the Rights of Woman is significant because it brought attention to a set of feminist concerns that collectively reflected and influenced the aims of many French Revolutionaries.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was adopted in 1789 by the National Constituent Assembly (Assemblée nationale constituante), during the French revolution. Prepared and proposed by the Marquis de Lafayette, the declaration asserted that all men "are born and remain free and equal in rights" and that these rights were universal. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen became a key human rights document and a classic formulation of the rights of individuals vis-a-vis the state.The Declaration exposed inconsistencies of laws that treated citizens differently on the basis of sex, race, class, or religion. In 1791, new articles were added to the French constitution which extended civil and political rights to Protestants and Jews, who had previously been persecuted in France.
In 1790, Nicolas de Condorcet and Etta Palm d'Aelders unsuccessfully called on the National Assembly to extend civil and political rights to women.Condorcet declared that "he who votes against the right of another, whatever the religion, color, or sex of that other, has henceforth abjured his own".
In October 1789, women in the marketplaces of Paris, rioting over the high price and scarcity of bread, began to march to Versailles, often called the Women's March on Versailles. While not solely an attempt for the extension of natural and political rights to women, the demonstrators believed that equality among all French citizens would extend those rights to women, political minorities, and landless citizens. [ page needed ] Although upon the march, the king acknowledged the changes associated with the French Revolution and no longer resisted such liberal reforms, the leaders of the Revolution failed to recognize that women were the largest force in the march, and did not extend natural rights to women.
In November 1789, in response to both the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and the failure of the National Assembly to recognize the natural and political rights of women, a group of women submitted a petition for the extension of egalité to women, referred to as the Women's Petition to the National Assembly. While thousands of petitions were repeatedly submitted to the National Assembly, this one was never brought up or discussed.[ citation needed ]
The French Revolution did not lead to a recognition of women's rights, and this prompted de Gouges to publish the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen in early 1791.
Olympe de Gouges was a French playwright and political activist whose feminist and abolitionist writings reached large audiences. She began her career as a playwright in the early 1780s, and as the political tensions of the French Revolution built, she became more involved in politics and law.
In 1788 she published Réflexions sur les hommes négres, which demanded compassion for the plight of slaves in the French colonies.For Gouges there was a direct link between the autocratic monarchy in France and the institution of slavery, she argued that "Men everywhere are equal… Kings who are just do not want slaves; they know that they have submissive subjects". She came to the public's attention with the play l'Esclavage des Noirs, which was staged at the famous Comédie-Française in 1785.
Gouges wrote her famous Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen shortly after the French Constitution of 1791 was ratified by King Louis XVI, and dedicated it to his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette. The French Constitution marked the birth of the short-lived constitutional monarchy and implemented a status based citizenship. Citizens were defined as men over 25, were "independent" and had paid the poll tax. These citizens had the right to vote. Furthermore active citizenship was two-tiered, with those who could vote and those who were fit for public office. Women were by definition not afforded any rights of active citizenship. Like men who could not pay the poll tax, children, domestic servants, rural day-laborers and slaves, Jews, actors and hangmen, women had no political rights. In transferring sovereignty to the nation the constitution dismantled the old regime, but Gouges argued that it did not go far enough. Social Contract," named after a famous work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau), proposing marriage based upon gender equality.This was followed by her Contrat Social ("
The Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen was published on 15 September 1791.It is modeled on the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789. Olympe de Gouges dedicated the text to Marie Antoinette, whom de Gouges described as "the most detested" of women. The Declaration states that "This revolution will only take effect when all women become fully aware of their deplorable condition, and of the rights they have lost in society".
The Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen follows the seventeen articles of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen point for point. Despite its serious intent, it has been described by one writer, Camille Naish, as "almost a parody... of the original document".
De Gouges opens her Declaration with the famous quote, "Man, are you capable of being fair? A woman is asking: at least you will allow her that right. Tell me? What gave you the sovereign right to oppress my sex?" She demands that her reader observe nature and the rules of the animals surrounding them – in every other species, sexes coexist and intermingle peacefully and fairly. She asks why humans cannot act likewise and demands (in the preamble) that the National Assembly decree the Declaration a part of French law.Also they have seen many wars in combat with the men of France therefore they sought out rights for themselves.
In the preamble to her Declaration, de Gouges mirrors the language of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and explains that women, just as men, are guaranteed natural, inalienable, sacred rights – and that political institutions are instituted with the purpose of protecting these natural rights. She closes the preamble by declaring that "the sex that is superior in beauty as it is in courage during the pains of childbirth recognizes and declares, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen."
The first article of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen proclaims that "Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be based only on common utility." The first article of Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen responds:[ citation needed ] "Woman is born free and remains equal to man in rights. Social distinctions may only be based on common utility."
Articles II and III extend the articles in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen to include both women and men in their statements.
Article IV declares that "the only limit to the exercise of the natural rights of woman is the perpetual tyranny that man opposes to it" and that "these limits must be reformed by the laws of nature and reason". In this statement, de Gouges is specifically stating that men have tyrannically opposed the natural rights of women, and that these limits must be reformed by the laws of a political organization in order to create a society that is just and protects the Natural Rights of all.
Article V is unchanged from the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
De Gouges expands the sixth article of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which declared the rights of citizens to take part in the formation of law, to: "All citizens including women are equally admissible to all public dignities, offices and employments, according to their capacity, and with no other distinction than that of their virtues and talents."
Articles VII through IX again extend the articles in the Declaration of the Rights of Man to include both women and men in their statements.
In Article X, de Gouges draws attention to the fact that, under French law, women were fully punishable, yet denied equal rights, declaring: "Women have the right to mount the scaffold, they must also have the right to mount the speaker's rostrum".This statement would go on to be well-known and spread to wide audiences.
De Gouges declares, in Article XI, that a woman should be allowed to identify the father of her child/children. Historians believe that this could relate to de Gouges' upbringing as a possible illegitimate child, and allows women to demand support from fathers of illegitimate children. [ page needed ]
This article explains that the declaration of these rights for women is a great benefit to society, and does not only benefit those protected by it. According to her biographer, Olivier Blanc, de Gouges maintained that this article be included to explain to men the benefit they would receive from support of this Declaration despite the advice to her of the Society of the Friends of Truth. [ page needed ]
Articles XIII through XVI extend the articles in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen to include both women and men in their statements.
The seventeenth article of the Declaration expresses sexual equality of marriage, and that upon marriage, women and men are found equal in the eyes of the law – this means that upon divorce, property is split evenly between the involved parties, and property cannot be seized without reason from women (as it is not seized from men).
De Gouges opens her postscript to the Declaration with a declaration: "Woman, wake up; the tocsin of reason is resounding throughout the universe: acknowledge your rights."In her first paragraph, she implores women to consider what they have gained from the Revolution — "a greater scorn, a greater disdain." She maintains that men and women have everything in common, and that women must "unite under the banner of philosophy." She declares that whatever barriers women come up against, it is in their power to overcome those barriers and progress in society. She goes on to describe that "marriage is the tomb of trust and love" and implores men to consider the morally correct thing to do when creating the framework for the education of women.
De Gouges then writes a framework for a social contract (borrowing from Rousseau) for men and women, and goes into details about the specifics of the legal ramifications and equality in marriage. In many ways, she reformulates Rousseau's Social Contract with a focus that obliterates the gendered conception of a citizen and creates the conditions that are necessary for both parties to flourish.
According to de Gouges's journal, what ails government are fixed social hierarchies that are impossible to maintain. What heals a government is an equal balance of powers and a shared virtue. This is consistent with her continuing approval of a constitutional monarchy. Marriages are to be voluntary unions by equal rights-bearing partners who hold property and children mutually and dispense of same by agreement. All children produced during this union have the right to their mother’s and father’s name, "from whatever bed they come."
In response to the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen, many of the radicals of the Revolution immediately suspected de Gouges of treason. The Jacobins (led by Robespierre), upon seeing that the Declaration was addressed to the Queen, suspected de Gouges (as well as her allies in the Girondists) of being Royalists. After de Gouges attempted to post a note demanding a plebiscite to decide between three forms of government (which included a Constitutional monarchy), the Jacobins quickly tried and convicted her of treason. She was sentenced to execution by the guillotine, and was one of many "political enemies" to the state of France claimed by the Reign of Terror.
At the time of her death, the Parisian press no longer mockingly dismissed her as harmless. While journalists and writers argued that her programs and plans for France had been irrational, they also noted that in proposing them she had wanted to be a "statesman." Her crime, the Feuille du Salut public reported, was that she had "forgotten the virtues which belonged to her sex." In the misogynistic environment of Jacobian Paris, her feminism and "political meddlings" were a dangerous combination.
De Gouges was a strict critic of the principle of equality touted in Revolutionary France because it gave no attention to whom it left out, and she worked to claim the rightful place of women and slaves within its protection. By writing numerous plays about the topics of black and women's rights and suffrage, the issues she brought up were spread not only through France, but also throughout Europe and the newly created United States of America.
In the UK, Mary Wollstonecraft was prompted to write A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects in 1792. This was in response to both de Gouges' Declaration as well as Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord's 1791 address to the French National Assembly, which stated that women should only receive a domestic education. Wollstonecraft wrote the Rights of Woman to launch a broad attack against sexual double standards and to indict men for encouraging women to indulge in excessive emotion. [ page needed ]
As opposed to de Gouges, Wollstonecraft does call for equality between the sexes in particular areas of life but does not explicitly state that men and women are equal. Her ambiguous statements regarding the equality of the sexes have made it difficult to classify Wollstonecraft as a modern feminist.Rights of Woman was relatively well received in 1792 England.
While there were no immediate effects in the United States upon publishing of the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen, it was used extensively in the modeling of the Declaration of Sentiments, written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others at the Seneca Falls Convention, held in the summer of 1848.The Declaration of Sentiments, much like the Declaration of the Rights of Woman, was written in the style of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen which was written in the style of the United States Declaration of Independence.
In her Declaration, de Gouges is forceful and sarcastic in tone and militant in spirit. For de Gouges, the most important expression of liberty was the right to free speech; she had been exercising that right her whole life. Access to the rostrum was another question, and one that she demanded be put at the forefront of the discussion about women's rights and suffrage.
The Enlightenment's presumption of the natural rights of humans (or inalienable rights as in the United States Declaration of Independence) is in direct contradiction with the beliefs of natural sexual inequality (sometimes called the "founding principles of nature"). The rights the equality of the French Declaration states, but does not intend, implies, according to de Gouges, the need to be recognized as having a more far-reaching application; if rights are natural and if these rights are somehow inherent in bodies, then all bodies are deserving of such rights, regardless of any particularities like gender or race.
De Gouges generally agreed with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his understanding of how education of a nation could transform the society in which that nation resided. However, seeing well beyond Rousseau in terms of gender, she argued that the failure of society to educate its women was the sole cause of corruption in government. Her social contract, a direct appropriation of Rousseau, proclaims that the right in marriage to equal property and parental and inheritance rights is the only way to build a society of harmony. [ page needed ]
At the time of the French Revolution, marriage was the center for political exploitation. In her Social Contract, de Gouges describes marriage as the "tomb of trust and love" and the place of "perpetual tyranny." The singly most common site of institutionalized gender inequality, marriage created the conditions for the development of women's unreliability and capacity for deception. In her Social Contract, many similarities to movements around the world become apparent. [ page needed ]Similarly to how Mary Wollstonecraft explains marriage in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), de Gouges points to female artifice and weakness as a consequence of woman's powerless place in it. De Gouges, much like Wollstonecraft, attempts to combat societal and educational deficiencies: the vicious cycle which neglects to educate its females and then offers their narrower interests as the reason for the refusal of full citizenship. Both, however, see the resulting fact of women’s "corruption and weak-mindedness" as a major source of the problems of society – and therein lies the solution, as well.
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A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792), written by the 18th-century British proto-feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In it, Wollstonecraft responds to those educational and political theorists of the 18th century who believed that women should not receive a rational education. She argues that women's education ought to match their position in society, and that they are essential to the nation because they raise its children and could act as respected "companions" to their husbands. Wollstonecraft maintains that women are human beings deserving of the same fundamental rights as men, and that treating them as mere ornaments or property for men undercuts the moral foundation of society.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, set by France's National Constituent Assembly in 1789, is a human civil rights document from the French Revolution. Inspired by Enlightenment philosophers, the Declaration was a core statement of the values of the French Revolution and had a major impact on the development of popular conceptions of individual liberty and democracy in Europe and worldwide.
Mary Wollstonecraft was an English writer, philosopher, and advocate of women's rights. Until the late 20th century, Wollstonecraft's life, which encompassed several unconventional personal relationships at the time, received more attention than her writing. Today Wollstonecraft is regarded as one of the founding feminist philosophers, and feminists often cite both her life and her works as important influences.
Women's rights are the rights and entitlements claimed for women and girls worldwide. They formed the basis for the women's rights movement in the 19th century and the feminist movements during the 20th and 21st centuries. In some countries, these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behavior, whereas in others, they are ignored and suppressed. They differ from broader notions of human rights through claims of an inherent historical and traditional bias against the exercise of rights by women and girls, in favor of men and boys.
Olympe de Gouges was a French playwright and political activist whose writings on women's rights and abolitionism reached a large audience in various countries. She began her career as a playwright in the early 1780s. As political tension rose in France, Olympe de Gouges became increasingly politically engaged. She became an outspoken advocate against the slave trade in the French colonies in 1788. At the same time, she began writing political pamphlets. In her Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen (1791), she challenged the practice of male authority and the notion of male-female inequality. She was executed by guillotine during the Reign of Terror (1793–1794) for attacking the regime of the Revolutionary government and for her association with the Girondists.
Equality feminism is a subset of the overall feminism movement that focuses on the basic similarities between men and women, and whose ultimate goal is the equality of the sexes in all domains. This includes economic and political equality, equal access within the workplace, freedom from oppressive gender stereotyping, and an androgynous worldview.
The history of feminism comprises the narratives of the movements and ideologies which have aimed at equal rights for women. While feminists around the world have differed in causes, goals, and intentions depending on time, culture, and country, most Western feminist historians assert that all movements that work to obtain women's rights should be considered feminist movements, even when they did not apply the term to themselves. Some other historians limit the term "feminist" to the modern feminist movement and its progeny, and use the label "protofeminist" to describe earlier movements.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité, French for "liberty, equality, fraternity", is the national motto of France and the Republic of Haiti, and is an example of a tripartite motto. Although it finds its origins in the French Revolution, it was then only one motto among others and was not institutionalized until the Third Republic at the end of the 19th century. Debates concerning the compatibility and order of the three terms began at the same time as the Revolution. It is also the motto of the Grand Orient and the Grande Loge de France.
Emile, or On Education is a treatise on the nature of education and on the nature of man written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who considered it to be the "best and most important" of all his writings. Due to a section of the book entitled "Profession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar", Emile was banned in Paris and Geneva and was publicly burned in 1762, the year of its first publication. During the French Revolution, Emile served as the inspiration for what became a new national system of education.
A Vindication of the Rights of Men, in a Letter to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke; Occasioned by His Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) is a political pamphlet, written by the 18th-century British liberal feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, which attacks aristocracy and advocates republicanism. Wollstonecraft's was the first response in a pamphlet war sparked by the publication of Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), a defense of constitutional monarchy, aristocracy, and the Church of England.
The Women's Petition to the National Assembly was produced during the French Revolution and presented to the French National Assembly in November 1789 after The March on Versailles on 5 October 1789, proposing a decree by the National Assembly to give women equality. There were thousands of petitions presented to the National Assembly and this one was not discussed. This petition showed how the authors were knowledgeable about the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen which had been adopted in August 1789. They provided 6 pages of women's contributions and addressed gender roles and slavery.
Etta Lubina Johanna Palm d'Aelders, also known as the Baroness of Aelders, was a Dutch spy and feminist, outspoken during the French Revolution. She gave the address Discourse on the Injustice of the Laws in Favour of Men, at the Expense of Women to the French National Convention on 30 December 1790 and was a founding member of the first female-only organisation in the history of France, Société patriotique et de bienfaisance des Amies de la Vérité. D'Aelders used these political platforms to instruct French citizens on the struggles of women in the public and private spheres, and to show men the harm that was being caused to the lives of women through their relative social inferiority. D'Aelders joined women like Olympe de Gouges and Théroigne de Méricourt in her resolute determination to improve the rights of women and mobilise tangible action to drive female equality forward.
Jeanne Deroin was a French socialist feminist. She spent the latter half of her life in exile in London, where she continued her organising activities.
The role of women in the Enlightenment is debated. It is acknowledged that women during this era were not considered of equal status to men, and much of their work and effort were suppressed. Even so, salons, coffeehouses, debating societies, academic competitions and print all became avenues for women to socialize, learn and discuss enlightenment ideas. For many women, these avenues furthered their roles in society and created stepping stones for future progress.
Pauline Léon was an influential woman during the French Revolution. She played an important role in the Revolution, driven by her strong feminist and anti-royalist beliefs. Along with her friend Claire Lacombe, founded the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women, and she also served as a prominent leader of the Femmes Sans-Culottes.
In pre-revolutionary France, women had no part in affairs outside the house. Before the revolution and the advent of feminism in France, women's roles in society consisted of providing heirs for their husbands and tending to household duties. Even in the upper classes, women were dismissed as simpletons, unable to understand or give a meaningful contribution to the philosophical or political conversations of the day. However, with the emergence of ideas such as liberté, égalité, and fraternité, the women of France joined their voices to the chaos of the early revolution. This was the beginning of feminism in France. With demonstrations such as the Women's March on Versailles, and the Demonstration of 20 June 1792, women displayed their commitment to the Revolution. Both the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen and the creation of the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women further conveyed their message of women's rights as a necessity to the new order of the revolution.
The Society of Revolutionary and Republican Women was the most famous female-led revolutionary organization during the French Revolution. Formed May 10, 1793, it lasted less than five months. In this brief period of time, however, the Society managed to draw significant interest within the national political scene, and advocated for gender equality in revolutionary politics.
The feminist movement refers to a series of Social movements and Political campaigns for reforms on women's issues created by the inequality between men and women. Such issues are women's liberation, reproductive rights, domestic violence, maternity leave, equal pay, women's suffrage, sexual harassment, and sexual violence. The movement's priorities has expanded since its beginning in the 1800s, and varies among nations and communities. Priorities range from opposition to female genital mutilation in one country, to opposition to the glass ceiling in another.
Historians since the late 20th century have debated how women shared in the French Revolution and what long-term impact it had on French women. Women had no political rights in pre-Revolutionary France; they were considered "passive" citizens, forced to rely on men to determine what was best for them. That changed dramatically in theory as there seemingly were great advances in feminism. Feminism emerged in Paris as part of a broad demand for social and political reform. The women demanded equality to men and then moved on to a demand for the end of male domination. Their chief vehicle for agitation were pamphlets and women's clubs, especially the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women. However, the Jacobin element in power abolished all the women's clubs in October 1793 and arrested their leaders. The movement was crushed. Devance explains the decision in terms of the emphasis on masculinity in wartime, Marie Antoinette's bad reputation for feminine interference in state affairs, and traditional male supremacy. A decade later the Napoleonic Code confirmed and perpetuated women's second-class status.
White feminism is a form of feminism that focuses on the struggles of white women while failing to address distinct forms of oppression faced by ethnic minority women and women lacking other privileges. White feminism is criticized for its feminist theories that focus solely on the experience of white women and fail to acknowledge and integrate the notion of intersectionality in the struggle for equality. The term “white feminism” may also be used to refer to these theories which focus more specifically on the experience of white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied women, and in which the experiences of women without these privileges are excluded or marginalized. This approach was predominantly visible in the first waves of feminism which generally centered around the empowerment of white middle-class females in Western societies.