Olympia de Gouges: a woman who resisted terror

The Age of Enlightenment and the ideas about freedom, equality and fraternity of all people generated by it seriously influenced the worldview of Europeans, which, in particular, was reflected in the revision of legal norms regulating marital relations, mutual rights and obligations of spouses. An attempt to carry out a radical reform of family law was undertaken on the wave of the then triumphant revolution in 1792-1793. It was based on four main theses: the right to divorce (including initiated by a woman), equalization of property rights of spouses, reduction of parental authority over children, policies to improve the demographic situation in the country.

De Gouges was one of the founders of the Negro Friends Society.

However, the Jacobin terror that swept France and subsequent events for more than a century postponed the solution of the issue of gender equality. The future emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, clearly formulated the then dominant view of the role and place of women in society: "Women are the property of their husbands, like a fruit tree is the property of a gardener." Of course, such a harsh judgment of Napoleon was probably related to an episode from his personal biography: he could not forgive his wife, Josephine Beauharnais, the numerous debts she managed to make, hiding behind his name, in the absence of a spouse to buy a luxurious Malmaison residence.


The march of women to Versailles in 1789, caused by a catastrophic food shortage and a sharp rise in prices

Educational ideas about universal equality, the rule of law and reason over any manifestations of the dictatorship, faith in the Russian natural man manifested themselves in the incipient movement for women's equality, pushing women to the forefront of history.

The widow of the provincial police quartermaster Marie Gouge arrived in Paris in 1770 and decided to start a new life, replacing her simple name with the proud ancient Olympia. Three years later, she was able to successfully marry - a rich public servant Jacques Beetri de Rosierre. Financial well-being allowed Olympia to quietly engage in journalism and self-education, so she soon became a frequenter of the most famous political shops of pre-revolutionary Paris. Since 1774, her name was regularly included in the list of the most distinguished Parisians, thanks to which she soon became acquainted with famous philosophers and thinkers of her time, many of whom then formed the core of the future Girondin party: Jean-François Lagarp, Sebastien Chamfort, Louis Mercier, Nicolas Condorcet . By the way, Olympia immediately got along pretty close with the wife of the latter, Sophia Condorcet, the mistress of the famous Social Circle.


The execution of Olympia de Gouges

De Gouge actively welcomed the movement in support of democratic freedoms in America, which inspired her to actively fight for the abolition of slavery. So, she was among the most prominent abolitionist philanthropists who, not directly participating in the activities of political parties, promoted their writings in the press and staged on the stage to promote the speedy complete destruction of such barbaric violations of human rights and freedoms. De Gouges began composing sharp social plays in the spirit of Voltaire’s philosophical tales - “Zamora and Mirza, or Happy Shipwreck”, “Black Market”. The latter was staged in 1789 on the stage of the main French theater, Comedie Francaise, however, due to excessive provocativeness and open calls for insurrection, it stood only 3 performances, after which it was removed from the repertoire.

Revolutionary unrest soon ensued, Olympia de Guge supported, forming together with his wife, a prominent Girondist leader Condorcet, a political club, the Social Circle, which became for several years the focus of the most progressive ideas of equality and liberalism. The adherents of this elite society advocated the immediate proclamation of gender equality, which meant giving women all the freedoms and property rights, called for the creation of a universal federation of free peoples — a kind of prototype world government, whose actions should be guided by the concept of egalitarianism. Note that despite the very short period of its existence, the Social Circle had a significant influence on the political and socio-philosophical views of the romantics, utopian socialists and the early Karl Marx.


Sofia Condorcet

The main document developed during the meetings of the “Social Circle” and approved by all its members was the “Declaration of the Rights of a Woman and a Citizen” (1791) by Olympia de Gouges. This work has glorified the name of its writer not only among contemporaries, but also in the minds of the descendants who dubbed her “the mother of feminism”. Here is the most vivid fragment of her famous manifesto: “Woman, wake up. Nabat of reason is distributed around the world. Realize your rights. The vast kingdom of nature is no longer surrounded by prejudice, fanaticism, superstition, and lies. The flame of truth has dispersed clouds of stupidity and usurping. The forces of the slave multiplied, and he threw off his chains. But, freeing himself, he became unjust to his neighbors. Oh, women! When will you begin to see clearly? What did you get from the Revolution? Increased contempt, more obvious neglect. For centuries, you had power only over male weaknesses. ”

The name referred to the Declaration of the Rights and Freedoms of Man and Citizen

The crucial events in the rich life of Olympia de Guge brought in 1793, when Robespierre accused the Girondist party of betraying the interests of the revolution, which resulted in the expulsion of 22 deputies from the Convention. Six months later, the main party members were sentenced to death by the revolutionary court, many of them decided not to wait for the enforcement of the punishment and independently committed suicide: for example, Condorcet was poisoned, Valaze stabbed himself with a dagger in the courtroom, and Barbara was drowned in Ron.


The first page of the “Declaration of the Rights of a Woman and a Citizen”

Outraged by such iniquity, clearly counterfeit and hypocritical accusations, Olympia de Gouges published an angry political pamphlet "The Three Urns, or the Salvation of the Fatherland by the Air Traveler." The main content of this work was the preaching of the early holding of a national referendum, which would determine the fate of the French state, tossing about between the Jacobins, the Girondists and the Germans. However, immediately after the publication of the pamphlet, Olympia de Guge is arrested for counterrevolutionary activities, they are searched at her home, where the draft of the socio-political drama “Rescued France, or Thrown Down a Throne Villain” is found - the very name already contains clearly provocative and undesirable allusions. Despite the fact that in the center of the narrative was the figure of Queen Marie-Antoinette, presented in a very negative way, the investigation reasoned that by doing so the author tried to arouse sympathy for her readers.

De Guj before the execution: "Children of the fatherland will avenge my death"

Contrary to the law, de Gouges was not provided with a lawyer - members of the revolutionary tribunal stated that she was able to defend herself on her own. While in prison, the writer, with the help of friends, published her latest works: “Olympia de Gouges before the Revolutionary Tribunal”, where she spoke about the details of her process, and “Harassment of a patriot”, in which she condemned the terror policy. At the end of October 1793, the tribunal sentenced de Gouges to death "for incitement to revolt against a single and indivisible republic."

Watch the video: Top 7 Infamous Guillotine Executions of Notable People (November 2019).

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