History – World history Assignment

History – World history Assignment

Rights & Enlightened Revolution

Rights and Revolution

FIRST: Review the following primary sources and respond to ONE of the questions below.

SECOND: After you have posted your response, please comment on the post of one your classmates.

  1. What do these declarations reveal about the distribution of power in the societies in which they were produced? Choose one or several to discuss. ~OR~
  2. How might one or more of these declarations either uphold or reject established religious principles or facets of society that are supported by religion? ~OR~
  3. Describe how one or more of these declarations might reflect or contradict Enlightenment ideals.

Olympe de Gouges, The Declaration of the Rights of Woman (September 1791) 


Olympe de Gouges, �e Declaration of the Rights of

Woman (September 1791)


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Marie Gouze (1748–93) was a self–educated butcher’s

daughter from the south of France who, under the name

Olympe de Gouges, wrote pamphlets and plays on a variety

of issues, including slavery, which she attacked as being

founded on greed and blind prejudice. In this pamphlet

she provides a declaration of the rights of women to

parallel the one for men, thus criticizing the deputies for

having forgotten women. She addressed the pamphlet to

the Queen, Marie Antoinette, though she also warned the

Queen that she must work for the Revolution or risk

destroying the monarchy altogether. In her postscript she

denounced the customary treatment of women as objects

easily abandoned. She appended to the declaration a

sample form for a marriage contract that called for

communal sharing of property. De Gouges went to the

guillotine in 1793, condemned as a counterrevolutionary

and denounced as an "unnatural" woman.


�e materials listed below appeared originally in �e

French Revolution and Human Rights: A Brief

Documentary History, translated, edited, and with an

introduction by Lynn Hunt (Boston/New York Bedford/St.

Martin's, 1996), 124–129.


September 1791






To be decreed by the National Assembly in its last sessions

or by the next legislature.


Mothers, daughters, sisters, female representatives of the

nation ask to be constituted as a national assembly.

Considering that ignorance, neglect, or contempt for the

rights of woman are the sole causes of public misfortunes

and governmental corruption, they have resolved to set

forth in a solemn declaration the natural, inalienable, and

sacred rights of woman: so that by being constantly

present to all the members of the social body this

declaration may always remind them of their rights and

duties; so that by being liable at every moment to

comparison with the aim of any and all political

institutions the acts of women's and men's powers may be

the more fully respected; and so that by being founded

henceforward on simple and incontestable principles the

demands of the citizenesses may always tend toward

maintaining the constitution, good morals, and the

general welfare.

In consequence, the sex that is superior in beauty as in

courage, needed in maternal su�ferings, recognizes and

declares, in the presence and under the auspices of the

Supreme Being, the following rights of woman and the


1. Woman is born free and remains equal to man in rights.

Social distinctions may be based only on common utility.

2. �e purpose of all political association is the

preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of

woman and man. �ese rights are liberty, property,

security, and especially resistance to oppression.

3. �e principle of all sovereignty rests essentially in the

nation, which is but the reuniting of woman and man. No

body and no individual may exercise authority which does

not emanate expressly from the nation.

4. Liberty and justice consist in restoring all that belongs to

another; hence the exercise of the natural rights of woman

has no other limits than those that the perpetual tyranny of

man opposes to them; these limits must be reformed

according to the laws of nature and reason.

5. �e laws of nature and reason prohibit all actions which

are injurious to society. No hindrance should be put in the

way of anything not prohibited by these wise and divine

laws, nor may anyone be forced to do what they do not


6. �e law should be the expression of the general will. All

citizenesses and citizens should take part, in person or by

their representatives, in its formation. It must be the same

for everyone. All citizenesses and citizens, being equal in

its eyes, should be equally admissible to all public dignities,

o��ces and employments, according to their ability, and

with no other distinction than that of their virtues and


7. No woman is exempted; she is indicted, arrested, and

detained in the cases determined by the law. Women like

men obey this rigorous law.

8. Only strictly and obviously necessary punishments

should be established by the law, and no one may be

punished except by virtue of a law established and

promulgated before the time of the o�fense, and legally

applied to women.

9. Any woman being declared guilty, all rigor is exercised

by the law.

10. No one should be disturbed for his fundamental

opinions; woman has the right to mount the sca�fold, so

she should have the right equally to mount the rostrum,

provided that these manifestations do not trouble public

order as established by law.

11. �e free communication of thoughts and opinions is

one of the most precious of the rights of woman, since this

liberty assures the recognition of children by their fathers.

Every citizeness may therefore say freely, I am the mother

of your child; a barbarous prejudice [against unmarried

women having children] should not force her to hide the

truth, so long as responsibility is accepted for any abuse of

this liberty in cases determined by the law [women are not

allowed to lie about the paternity of their children].

12. �e safeguard of the rights of woman and the citizeness

requires public powers. �ese powers are instituted for the

advantage of all and not for the private bene�t of those to

whom they are entrusted.

13. For maintenance of public authority and for expenses of

administration, taxation of women and men is equal; she

takes part in all forced labor service, in all painful tasks; she

must therefore have the same proportion in the

distribution of places, employments, o��ces, dignities, and

in industry.

14. �e citizenesses and citizens have the right, by

themselves or through their representatives, to have

demonstrated to them the necessity of public taxes. �e

citizenesses can only agree to them upon admission of an

equal division, not only in wealth, but also in the public

administration, and to determine the means of

apportionment, assessment, and collection, and the

duration of the taxes.

15. �e mass of women, joining with men in paying taxes,

have the right to hold accountable every public agent of the


16. Any society in which the guarantee of rights is not

assured or the separation of powers not settled has no

constitution. �e constitution is null and void if the

majority of individuals composing the nation has not

cooperated in its dra�ting.

17. Property belongs to both sexes whether united or

separated; it is for each of them an inviolable and sacred

right, and no one may be deprived of it as a true patrimony

of nature, except when public necessity, certi�ed by law,

obviously requires it, and then on condition of a just

compensation in advance.


Women, wake up; the tocsin of reason sounds throughout

the universe; recognize your rights. �e powerful empire of

nature is no longer surrounded by prejudice, fanaticism,

superstition, and lies. �e torch of truth has dispersed all

the clouds of folly and usurpation. Enslaved man has

multiplied his force and needs yours to break his chains.

Having become free, he has become unjust toward his

companion. Oh women! Women, when will you cease to be

blind? What advantages have you gathered in the

Revolution? A scorn more marked, a disdain more

conspicuous. During the centuries of corruption you only

reigned over the weakness of men. Your empire is

destroyed; what is le�t to you then? Firm belief in the

injustices of men. �e reclaiming of your patrimony

founded on the wise decrees of nature; why should you fear

such a beautiful enterprise? . . . Whatever the barriers set

up against you, it is in your power to overcome them; you

only have to want it. Let us pass now to the appalling

account of what you have been in society; and since

national education is an issue at this moment, let us see if

our wise legislators will think sanely about the education of


Women have done more harm than good. Constraint and

dissimulation have been their lot. What force has taken

from them, ruse returned to them; they have had recourse

to all the resources of their charms, and the most

irreproachable man has not resisted them. Poison, the

sword, women controlled everything; they ordered up

crimes as much as virtues. For centuries, the French

government, especially, depended on the nocturnal

administration of women; o��cials kept no secrets from

their indiscretion; ambassadorial posts, military

commands, the ministry, the presidency [of a court], the

papacy, the college of cardinals, in short everything that

characterizes the folly of men, profane and sacred, has

been submitted to the cupidity and ambition of this sex

formerly considered despicable and respected, and since

the revolution, respectable and despised. . . .

Under the former regime, everyone was vicious, everyone

guilty. . . . A woman only had to be beautiful and amiable;

when she possessed these two advantages, she saw a

hundred fortunes at her feet. . . . �e most indecent

woman could make herself respectable with gold; the

commerce in women [prostitution] was a kind of industry

amongst the highest classes, which henceforth will enjoy

no more credit. If it still did, the Revolution would be lost,

and in the new situation we would still be corrupted. Can

reason hide the fact that every other road to fortune is

closed to a woman bought by a man, bought like a slave

from the coasts of Africa? �e di�ference between them is

great; this is known. �e slave [that is, the woman]

commands her master, but if the master gives her her

freedom without compensation and at an age when the

slave has lost all her charms, what does this unfortunate

woman become? �e plaything of disdain; even the doors

of charity are closed to her; she is poor and old, they say;

why did she not know how to make her fortune?

Other examples even more touching can be provided to

reason. A young woman without experience, seduced by

the man she loves, abandons her parents to follow him; the

ingrate leaves her a�ter a few years and the older she will

have grown with him, the more his inconstancy will be

inhuman. If she has children, he will still abandon her. If

he is rich, he will believe himself excused from sharing his

fortune with his noble victims. If some engagement ties

him to his duties, he will violate it while counting on

support from the law. If he is married, every other

obligation loses its force. What laws then remain to be

passed that would eradicate vice down to its roots? �at of

equally dividing [family] fortunes between men and

women and of public administration of their goods. It is

easy to imagine that a woman born of a rich family would

gain much from the equal division of property [between

children]. But what about the woman born in a poor family

with merit and virtues; what is her lot? Poverty and

opprobrium. If she does not excel in music or painting, she

cannot be admitted to any public function, even if she is

fully quali�ed. . . .

Marriage is the tomb of con�dence and love. A married

woman can give bastards to her husband with impunity,

and even the family fortune which does not belong to

them. An unmarried woman has only a feeble right:

ancient and inhuman laws refuse her the right to the name

and goods of her children's father; no new laws have been

made in this matter. If giving my sex an honorable and just

consistency is considered to be at this time paradoxical on

my part and an attempt at the impossible, I leave to future

men the glory of dealing with this matter; but while

waiting, we can prepare the way with national education,

with the restoration of morals and with conjugal


Form for a Social Contract between Man and Woman

We, ________ and ________, moved by our own will, unite

for the length of our lives and for the duration of our

mutual inclinations under the following conditions: We

intend and wish to make our wealth communal property,

while reserving the right to divide it in favor of our

children and of those for whom we might have a special

inclination, mutually recognizing that our goods belong

directly to our children, from whatever bed they come

[legitimate or not], and that all of them without distinction

have the right to bear the name of the fathers and mothers

who have acknowledged them, and we impose on ourselves

the obligation of subscribing to the law that punishes any

rejection of one's own blood [refusing to acknowledge an

illegitimate child]. We likewise obligate ourselves, in the

case of a separation, to divide our fortune equally and to

set aside the portion the law designates for our children. In

the case of a perfect union, the one who dies �rst will give

up half his property in favor of the children; and if there

are no children, the survivor will inherit by right, unless

the dying person has disposed of his half of the common

property in favor of someone he judges appropriate. [She

then goes on to defend her contract against the inevitable

objections of "hypocrites, prudes, the clergy, and all the

hellish gang."]


Text (/items/browse?tags=Text), Women (/items/browse?



“Olympe de Gouges, �e Declaration of the Rights of

Woman (September 1791),” LIBERTY, EQUALITY,


accessed October 11, 2023,


�is site is a collaboration of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media

(http://chnm.gmu.edu/) (George Mason University) and American Social History Project

(http://www.ashp.cuny.edu/) (City University of New York), supported by grants from the

Florence Gould Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


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