Olympe de Gouges
Born: 7 May 1748 Died: 3 November 1793 Nationality: French
Marie Gouze decided her fate as well as her name, which she changed into Olympe de Gouge, her pseudonym. She was a French writer and activist who managed to make her way into a large number of Parisian bourgeois circles and keep up with many prominent male personalities. She devoted herself to theatre, which helped her spread important ideals, such as emancipation and gender equality, with the frivolousness that only comedy allows. She also called for the renunciation of religious marriage, the right to divorce, equal rights for children born out of wedlock, as well as the protection of mothers and minors. In 1788 she published the “Reflections on negroes”, in which she took a position against slavery.
Not too long after that, Gouge published her masterpiece - the “Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of Female Citizen” - in which she defended political and social equality between men and women. Following the model of the declaration adopted in France two years earlier, Gouge focused on the need to make women aware of their rights and obligations to be in the interests of the country. In a nutshell, she reclaimed the natural rights of women that the force of prejudice had stolen from them. After that, she was constrained because she asked for a popular referendum to choose a form of government between republican, federative and monarchic ones. The Revolutionary Court found her guilty of attack on the sovereignty of the people and sentenced her to the guillotine. And so, Gouge ended up guillotined by those who, hypocritically, shouted “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. Olympe de Gouge was a great utopian because, in the middle of a period of terror, she fearlessly rose up against women subordination and tried to defend a fairer world in which, stigmatizing men superiority, both the sexes could be put on an equal footing. Even though, during her execution, the Revolutionaries stated “Olympe de Gouges wanted to be a statesman, it seems that the law has punished her for having forgotten the virtues that fit its sex”, nowadays her originality, independence of spirit and brave writings have guaranteed her an exceptional form of recognition.