Olimpia de Gouges

Biography of Olympia de Gouges

Olympia de Gouges was a French writer, playwright, pamphleteer and political philosopher, who was born on May 7, 1748, in Montauban, France.

Olimpia de Gouges’s real name was Marie Gouze. At the age of 17, in 1765, she married an older man, of whom she was soon widowed and with a son named Pierre Aubry. Disappointed with the marriage, she called it the grave of trust and love.

At the age of 22 and in order for his son to receive a good education, he moved to Paris in 1770, where he began to frequent the Parisian literary salons.

There he undertook a literary career as “Olympe”, his mother’s middle name, to which he added the preposition “of” before a variation of his maiden name: “Gouges”.

He wrote various plays and established a traveling theater company that toured the Paris region presenting his plays.

Olympia de Gouges maintained an intense activity in favor of the abolition of slavery, through her plays.

Olimpia de Gouges also claimed equal rights between women and men, within the framework of the French Revolution and therefore is considered forerunner of modern feminism.

After the French Revolution, in which she sided with the Girondists and warned about the risks of the Robespierre dictatorship, she was imprisoned in August 1793 and sentenced to the scaffold. Therefore, Olimpia de Gouges died in Paris, on November 3, 1793, on the guillotine, at just 45 years of age.

Olympia de Gouges publications

Within their publications we have some that were very impressive and of great repercussion at the time. Some of her works sought to express her opposition to the slavery of blacks and others, for the defense of women’s rights:

  • In 1788 he published the essay “Reflections on black mens “(Réflexions sur les hommes nègres) which opened the doors of the”Society of Friends of Blacks”(Société des amis des Noirs) making it a member.
  • Also in 1788, the General Newspaper of France (Journal général de France) published two of his political pamphlets. One of them, a preamble to his famous “Letter to the people”(Lettre au Peuple) and the other, a broad program of social reforms.
  • He continued to write pamphlets that he addressed to the representatives of the Revolution, to the patriotic clubs and to various personalities. It is estimated that there were around 30 brochures.
  • In 1790 he wrote another work on slavery, called “The black market”(Le marché des Noirs).
  • In 1791 he wrote his famous “Declaration of the Rights of Women and Citizens“Based on the”Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”Of 1789.
  • The slavery of blacks (L’esclavage des noirs), his best known work, was published in 1792 and registered in the French Comedy as “Zamore and Mirza, or the happy shipwreck”.
  • In 1793, trying to defend himself against the accusations that led to his death, he wrote “Olympia de Gouges at the Revolutionary Court” Y “A hunted patriot“, His last two pamphlets.

Social contributions

From the point of view of the impact of the actions of Olimpia de Gouges, its social contributions for the lives of women are the most outstanding. Gouges’ Olympia works were profoundly feminist and revolutionary.

He defended the equality of women in all aspects of public and private life, which included:

  • The right to vote
  • To public work, not only to domestic
  • To be able to speak about politics in public and be part of the political life of the country
  • To own properties and be able to manage them
  • To join the army
  • To fiscal equality, which implied having economic independence
  • To have the right to education
  • To equal power in the family and ecclesiastical sphere.

He also spoke about the abolition of marriage and the establishment of divorce. Instead of marriage, he argued, the idea of ​​a renewable annual contract signed between the parties should be considered.

She was also a defender of the recognition of children born out of wedlock, by the father. This makes it look like a forerunner of children’s rights, both to an identity and to systems that guarantee its protection. Since, for example, he proposed the creation of maternity wards for the protection of mothers and their children.

He also recommended the creation of workshops for the unemployed and the creation of homes for the dispossessed and beggars.

Democratic contributions

At the political level, Olimpia de Gouges defended the separation of powers, as a guarantee against despotism or absolute power, following the line of Montesquieu. He supported the French Revolution in its beginnings, until Robespierre led the “Reign of Terror”, ruling France in an autocratic way, plunging the country into persecution and continuous executions.

From that moment on, he sided with the Girondists, who although they were revolutionaries, did not agree with the “Kingdom of Terror.” Olimpia de Gouges then warned about the dangers of dictatorship, strongly criticizing Robespierre’s policy.

He also denounced the creation of the Public Salvation Committee, a repressive institution to apply firm and harsh sentences to those who attempted against the Revolution. Her denunciations and defense of the Girondins led to her being arrested in August 1793 and accused of being the author of a pamphlet in their favor.

Olimpia de Gouges asked to be tried in order to defend herself against the accusations against her and to avoid the revolutionary court. So he wrote his last two pamphlets.

But on November 2, 1793, 48 hours after the Girondists were executed, Olimpia de Gouges was brought before the revolutionary tribunal without a lawyer. The revolutionary court sentenced her to death, for which she was guillotined the following day, November 3, 1793.

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