Monday, November 5, 2012

The Role of Women in the French Revolution

Liberty: Women and the French Revolution By: Lucy Moore

Debatable issues of rights have constantly haunted our society, but equality during the French Revolution was a gripping concept to put into effect. The French Revolution, a period calling for liberty and inequality, failed to produce the rights and respect of women in their society. Although women contributed a great deal to the French Revolution, their involvement always proved controversial. Whether they were rioting over the price of food at local markets, petitioning for political participation, or making bandages for the war, women in the eyes of the majority were overbearing and undeserving of citizenship. Contrary to popular belief women were not just troublemaking revolutionaries; they were created as equals to the male and were willing to go to all magnitudes to establish their vast mental capacity.
The 18th century shaped very liberal, feministic activists that outwardly spoke about the harsh treatment of women. One of the first works to combat the overwhelming callous attitude toward women was de Gouges' Declaration of the Rights of Women in which de Gouges stated, "Women is born free and remains equal to man in rights...The aim of every political association is the preservation of the natural...rights of man and woman."[1] De Gouges, whose real name was Marie Gouze, wrote under a pen name to conceal her real identity and avoid persecution. Unfortunately unrestricted political activism came at a high price, and in 1793 she suffered persecution at the guillotine. De Gouges' appeal was the most fanatical attempt to not only gain suffrage for women by exemplifying the exclusion of women from citizenship, but also the privilege to be elected toParlement.
It became common practice to see women meeting together in clubs to rally ways for them to become bona fide citizens. In addition to citizenship, women also wanted common rights to education, rights within the marriage, and rights to employment. The societies of women became more and more revolutionary which inevitably caused leading officials to feel threatened, so in 1793 one of the leading associations (the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women) was shut down by authorities as well as all others. Revolutionary women were outraged at the codes and double standards that existed in their society. Although they fought hard battles, they never achieved the type of respect and privileges that male citizens received.
The French Revolution made a promise of just that, a revolution, but the context of the revolution did little to change the way men viewed women during the late 1700's. Without citizenship, property, or an education, women still existed to be little more than slaves even after the French Revolution; although, the government provided better marriage and divorce laws to satiate some of their wants without angering the conservatives. While the French Revolution appears to some to have been a notable and altering period for women, it was actually much later that the passion for women's rights was fully understood and all demands met.
De Gouges, Olympe. "Declaration of the Rights of Women." "Western Civilization: A Brief History" Marvin Perry. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. 341-343.
Finch, Allison. Women's Writing in Nineteenth-Century France. Madrid, Spain: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
McMillian, James F. France and Women (1789-1914). New York, New York: Routledge, 2000.
[1] De Gouge, Olympe. "Declaration of the Rights of Women." "Western Civilization: A Brief History" Marvin Perry. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. 341-343.

No comments:

Post a Comment