November 3rd, 2008 Headsman
On this date in 1793, Olympe de Gouges’ forward thoughts were removed from her shoulders in the Place de la Revolution.
Most recognizable today for her Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Citizen* — a proto-feminist call for equality of the sexes issued in response to the day’s revolutionary but guy-centric Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen — de Gouges was much more than a one-issue woman.
Fully engaged with the liberal intellectual currents of the Enlightenment, de Gouges spent the 1770′s and 1780′s in Parisian salon circles cranking out plays (over 40) and petitions, pamphlets and manifestos on animal welfare, poverty, the treatment of orphans, and ending slavery.
The latter issue, and not women’s rights, was the cause her contemporaries would have most associated with her.
But the natural-born gadfly didn’t pick her battles with injustice, and the Terror was a bad period to be indiscriminate. Like some of her Girondist associates, she risked the Paris mob’s wrath by openly opposing Louis XVI‘s execution — right in character, Olympe was down on the whole idea of the death penalty — and she carried principle into foolhardiness by printing broadsides savaging Robespierre.
There can be no mistaking the perfidious intentions of this criminal woman, and her hidden motives … calumniating and spewing out bile in large doses against the warmest friends of the people, their most intrepid defender.
Misogynist condescension veined the prevailing interpretation of this misbehavior.
Olympe de Gouges, born with an exalted imagination, mistook her delirium for an inspiration of nature. She wanted to be a man of state. She took up the projects of the perfidious people who want to divide France. It seems the law has punished this conspirator for having forgotten the virtues that belong to her sex.
And strange to say, that condescension outlived Robespierre by centuries.
* Article 10: “Woman has the right to mount the scaffold; she must equally have the right to mount the rostrum.” The work was dedicated to Marie Antoinette.
Also on this date
- Which U.S. Governors have overseen the most executions?
- 1858: Henry Jackson, in Decatur
- 1324: Petronilla de Meath, the first Irish woman burned for heresy
- 1991: Barrios Altos massacre
- 1942: Duncan Scott-Ford, because loose lips sink ships
- 1783: John Austin
Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Activists,Artists,Arts and Literature,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,France,Freethinkers,Guillotine,History,Intellectuals,Martyrs,Public Executions,Treason,Women
Tags: 1790s, 1793, declaration of the rights of man, declaration of the rights of woman, feminism, feminist, French Revolution, gender, marie antoinette, maximilien robespierre, misogyny, november 3, olympe de gouges, paris, place de la revolution, slavery