Little Bits of History

Self Actualization

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 3, 2015
Olympe de Gouges

Olympe de Gouges

November 3, 1793: Olympe de Gouges dies. She was born Marie Gouze in 1748 in what was then the Kingdom of France. Her family was small-time bourgeois and she believed she was the illegitimate daughter of the Marquis de Pompignan. She was married to Louis Aubry, a caterer from Paris who came to her town with a government retinue. She was 17 at the time of her marriage and it was not based on love. She loathed the man to whom she was tied. They had a son but Marie was left a widow just one year after she had married. Marie took her son and fled to Paris in 1770 and changed her name, arriving in the city as Olympe de Gouges.

In Paris, she met Jacques Biétrix de Rozières and had a long term relationship with the wealthy man which ended during the French Revolution. He introduced her to Paris society and she was welcomed into the artistic and philosophical salons where she met many writers and future politicians. She was often invited into the salons of two women playwrights of the day. De Gouges lived with several wealthy men who were able to support her financially as she tried to climb the social ladder and be accepted by the aristocracy. In 1784, the man she believed to be her father died and she began her career as a public intellectual. During the remaining nine years of her life she wrote about 40 different pieces, essays, manifestos, treatises, political pamphlets, and social plays advocating women’s rights and abolition.

One of her first plays was an anti-slavery piece vilifying the slave trade. She also wrote about women’s right to divorce as well as argued for sex outside of marriage. She was also an advocate for the rights of illegitimate children. Her social conscience led her to rejoice at the beginning of the Revolution, believing that human rights would be championed and preferential treatment would cease. But she was soon disappointed when she learned that while men were willing to fight for their freedom, they were not inclined to offer the same to the women of the time.

As the Revolution went on, she became more and more vocal in her desire to have equal rights with the men who were hoping for freedom. Her writings became more vehement. She was allied with the Girondins (an offshoot of the Jacobins) and on June 2, 1773 she was arrested by the Jacobins (anti-Royalist). After her arrest, her house was searched for evidence but none was found so de Gouges led her accusers to where her papers were stored and they found an unfinished play which her accusers said would bring sympathy to the Queen. De Gouges spent three months in jail without an attorney and tried to defend herself. She was sentenced to death for seditious behavior and was guillotined on this day.

I was married to a man I did not love and who was neither rich nor well-born. I was sacrificed for no reason that could make up for the repugnance I felt for this man. – Olympe de Gouges

A woman has the right to mount the scaffold. She must possess equally the right to mount the speaker’s platform. – Olympe de Gouges

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. – Olympe de Gouges

That woman… had thrown herself in the Revolution, body and soul. But having quickly perceived how atrocious the system adopted by the Jacobins was, she chose to retrace her steps. She attempted to unmask the villains through the literary productions which she had printed and put up. They never forgave her, and she paid for her carelessness with her head. – a Parisian chronicler of her death

Also on this day: Greensboro Massacre – In 1979, violence broke out in Greensboro, North Carolina.
It’s a Dog’s Life – In 1957, the Soviets sent a dog into outer space.
Last Public Hanging – In 1783, Tyburn public hangings ceased.
Fashoda Incident – In 1898, the Fashoda Incident ended.
Godzilla – In 1954, the first Godzilla movie was released.


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