DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN AND CITIZENS - France September 1791
Her real name Marie Gouze, born in 1748 in Montauban, in a family of bourgeois clothiers, Olympe de Gouges will claim to be the illegitimate daughter of the noble and poet Lefranc de Pompignan. Widow of a wealthy merchant, she moved to Paris where she led the life of a free and courted woman and devoted herself to literature, notably publishing several plays and novels which took sides against slavery, as well as, from 1788 to 1793, about sixty political pamphlets, one of which, entitled Remarques patriotiques, contains an economic and social program. During the Revolution, she frequented the Social Circle, where revolutionaries like Condorcet or Collot d'Herbois came, as well as other opponents of prejudices against women.
She calls on her fellow citizens to make their own revolution : " Will women always be isolated from each other and never become part of society? ? Close to the Girondins, it violently attacks Marat and Robespierre. Arrested on July 20, 1793, while she was putting up her own posters, she was condemned to death and executed on November 3, 1793.
It was in mid-September 1791 that Olympe de Gouges published his Declaration of the Rights of Women and Citizens. From the Cahiers de doléances, various demands had been expressed by a few anonymous people who demanded that women be able to be part of the government and have representatives in the National Assembly. In his article of July 1790, “ On the admission of women to the right of citizenship », Condorcet was associated with this fight, and, during the summer of 1791, several other pamphlets were published on this topic, in particular that of Madame de Cambis, Du Sort actual des Femmes. Olympe de Gouges' declaration, like them, starts from the idea that women, who possess all intellectual faculties, by nature have the same rights as men. The Nation being defined as "the reunion of woman and man" (article 3), it deduces that "the Constitution is null if the majority of the individuals who make up the nation have not cooperated in its drafting". Olympe de Gouges' statement went almost unnoticed and feminist writings of subsequent years, like those of the 19th century, did not refer to it. But the form of this text, that of a bill of rights, is unique to its time and gives it a force that will explain its late success in the second half of the twentieth century.
Mothers, daughters, sisters, representatives of the Nation, ask to be constituted as a National Assembly. Considering that ignorance, forgetting or contempt for the rights of women are the only causes of public misfortune and government corruption, have resolved to set out, in a solemn declaration, the natural, unalterable and sacred rights of woman, so that this declaration constantly present to all members of the social body constantly reminds them of their rights and duties, so that the acts of the power of women and those of the power of men, can be at every moment compared with the goal of any political institution are more respected, so that the complaints of female citizens, now based on simple and indisputable principles, always turn to the maintenance of the Constitution, good morals and the happiness of all. Consequently, the sex superior in beauty as in courage in maternal sufferings recognizes and declares, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of the woman and the citizen :
Article 1 Woman is born free and remains equal to man in rights. Social distinctions can only be based on common utility.
Article 2 The aim of any political association is the conservation of the natural and inalienable rights of women and men. These rights are : freedom, prosperity, security and above all resistance to oppression.
Article 3 The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the Nation, which is only the union of woman and man; no individual can exercise authority which does not expressly emanate from it.
Article 4 Freedom and justice consist in returning all that belongs to others; thus the exercise of the natural rights of the woman has no limits except the perpetual tyranny which the man opposes to her; these limits must be reformed by the laws of nature and reason.
Article 5 The laws of nature and reason forbid all actions harmful to society; anything that is not forbidden by these wise and divine laws cannot be prevented, and no one can be compelled to do what they do not command.
Article 6 The law must be the expression of the general will : all citizens must contribute personally or through their representatives to its formation; it must be the same for all; all citizens being equal in its eyes must be equally admissible to all public dignities, places and jobs, according to their capacities, and without other distinctions than those of their virtues and their talents.
Article 7 No woman is excepted; she is accused, arrested, and detained in cases determined by law : women obey this rigorous law like men.
Article 8 The law should only establish penalties that are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one can be punished except by virtue of a law established and promulgated prior to the offense, and legally applied to women.
Article 9 Any woman being declared guilty, all rigor is exercised by the law.
Article 10 No one should be worried about even his fundamental opinions; the woman has the right to climb on the scaffold, she must also have that to go up to the platform, provided that its demonstrations do not disturb the public order established by the law.
Article 11 The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the most precious rights of women, since this freedom ensures the legitimacy of fathers towards their children. Any citizen can therefore freely say : I am the mother of a child who belongs to you, without a barbaric prejudice forcing it to conceal the truth; except to answer for the abuse of this freedom in cases determined by law.
Article 12 The guarantee of the rights of the woman and the citizen requires a major utility; this guarantee must be instituted for the benefit of all, and not for the particular utility of those to whom it is conferred.
Article 13 For the maintenance of the public force, and for administrative expenses, the contributions of women and men are equal; it takes part in all the drudgery, in all the painful tasks, it must therefore have the same part in the distribution of places, employments, offices, dignities and industry.
Article 14 Citizens have the right to ascertain for themselves or through their representatives the need for the public contribution. The citizens can join it only by the admission of an equal division, not only in the fortune, but also in the public administration and to determine the quota, the base, the collection and the duration of the tax.
Article 15 The mass of women, united for the contribution to that of men, has the right to demand an account from any public official of his administration.
Article 16 Any society in which the guarantee of rights is not assured, nor the separation of powers determined, has no constitution. The constitution is void if the majority of the individuals who make up the Nation have not cooperated in its drafting.
Article 17 The properties are to all the sexes united or separated : they are for everyone an inviolable and sacred right; no one can be deprived as a true heritage of nature, except when legally established public necessity obviously requires it and under the condition of fair and prior compensation.