Olympe de Gouges

Portrait of Olympes de Gouges by Alexander Kucharsky, Collection particulière

Olympe de Gouges, née Marie Gouze

*May 7, 1748 (Montauban, France)
†November 3, 1793 (Paris, France)

Spouses: Louis-Yves Aubry

Children: General Pierre Aubry de Gouges

Olympe de Gouges was a playwright and political activist during the French Revolution. She was born as Marie Gouze in Monauban as the daughter of Anne-Olympe Mouisset and Pierre Gouze, a butcher, but her biological father may have been Jean-Jacques Le Franc, Marquis de Pompignan. At 16, she was married against her will to Louis-Yves Aubry, who died two years later. Rejecting the institution of marriage, she gave herself the name Olympe de Gouge and moved to Paris with her young son, Pierre. The following years were spent in pursuit of her intellectual education, supported by Jacques Biétrix de Roziéres, a wealthy merchant. Soon, de Gouges established herself as a fixture in Parisian society; she held salons and began writing poetry, novellas, pamphlets and plays. A passionate advocate of human rights, de Gouges welcomed the outbreak of the Revolution, but soon became disillusioned when equal rights were not extended to women. By far her most well-known feminist work, The Declaration of the Rights of Woman (1791) was written as a response to The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789), the preamble to the French Constitution. As the Revolution progressed, she became more and more radical in her writings until she was arrested for her political opinions in 1793. De Gouges, who had demanded in her “Declaration” that women be given the same right to climb the scaffold as men, was guillotined on November 3, 1793.

  • Primary Sources

    Olympe de Gouges. Lettre au peuple ou projet d´une caisse patriotique par une citoyenne, in Oeuvres présentées par Benoite Groult. Paris: Mercure de France, 1986.

    Olympe de Gouges. Remarques Patriotiques par la citoyenne, auteur de la lettre au peuple, in Oeuvres présentées par Benoite Groult. Paris: Mercure de France, 1986.

    Olympe de Gouges. Réflexion sur les Hommes Nègres, in Oeuvres présentées par Benoite Groult. Paris: Mercure de France, 1986.

    Olympe de Gouges. Projet d´un second théâtre et d´une maternité, in Oeuvres présentées par Benoite Groult. Paris: Mercure de France, 1986.

    Olympe de Gouges. Le Cri du Sage par une Femme, in Oeuvres présentées par Benoite Groult. Paris: Mercure de France, 1986.

    Olympe de Gouges. Les Droits de la Femme Paris, n.d. [1791] Bibliothéque Nationale, E 5588, in Women in Revolutionary Paris 1789-1795, D.G. Levy, H.B. Applewhite and M.D. Johnson, eds. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press (1979).

  • Secondary Sources
  • Online Sources
  • Quotes

    Man, are you capable of being just? It is a woman who poses the question; you will not deprive her of that right at least. Tell me, what gives you sovereign empire to oppress my sex? – Declaration of the Rights of Woman (1791)

    Woman is born free and lives equal to man in her rights. Social distinctions can be based only on the common utility. – Declaration of the Rights of Woman (1791)

    Woman, wake up! The tocsin of reason is being heard throughout the whole universe; discover your rights. – Declaration of the Rights of Woman (1791)

    No one is to be disquieted for his very basic opinions; woman has the right to mount the scaffold; she must equally have the right to mount the rostrum, provided that her demonstrations do not disturb the legally established public order. – Declaration of the Rights of Woman (1791)

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