Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen

Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen by Olympe de Gouges

Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen is a pamphlet by Olympe de Gouges. The manifesto published in 1791 is modeled on the 1789 document titled Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Gouges’ document held that women are equal to male in society and, therefore, are entitled to the same citizenship rights. Gouges pamphlet’s preamble emphasizes that women must be included in among those considered as part of France’s National Assembly. According to Gouges, similar to their male counterparts, women also have natural, inalienable, and sacred rights (De Gouges, 1791). The remainder of the document outlines the rights, related duties, and responsibility to society.

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Genre and nature of the reading

            Gouges included seventeen articles outlining the basic rights that should be extended to women. They include the right to liberty, security, property, and resistance to oppression. Women should also enjoy the right to fully participate in the making of laws. Thirdly, the right to participate at all levels of government without discrimination and voice their opinions in public. One of the most controversial articles of Gouges’ preamble is Article 11, which gives women the right to publicly name the father of their children and be entitled to pass along the property to their children. The article stands out as one of the most controversial elements of the document because it insists that men who father children outside of marriage must be held accountable for those children similar to those fathered within marriage (De Gouges, 1791).

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            Another notable proposition of the preamble is Article 15 which gives women, who paid taxes the right to ask public officials about the finances of the household. As an extension of this, Article 17 extends property rights to women regardless of their marital status. The document includes a form of social contract between man and woman. The contract holds that a man and a woman agree to unite in an equal partnership within which wealth belong to both parties. Finally, the pamphlet highlights measures that should be taken to provide for young girls deceived by false promises and widows (De Gouges, 1791).

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            To sum up, the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen is a women empowerment document. Reading the pamphlet allowed me to appreciate the milestones that have been achieved in the battle against women oppression. I concur with Gouges that the empowerment and autonomy of women, specifically their political, social. Economic, and health status is an essential end in itself. Empowering women and extending them equal rights as their male counterparts it crucial to the achievement of sustainable development. Indeed, full participation and partnership between men and women in society are essential to maintaining optimal productive and reproductive life characterized by shared responsibilities.

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Women in 18th Century France

Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen was published in 1791, which was during the French Revolution. Notably, the French revolution began in 1789. During this time, French women were largely confined to domestic duty and family obligations. However, it was during this period that the idea of gender equality was gaining popularity in France. In fact, it was the ideas of comradely and equality that sparked the French Revolution, which captivated women from all backgrounds (Offen, 2017). Offen explains that women were eager to voice their grievances and opinions. 

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The French Revolution was sparked by the ideas of Enlightenment. During the late 18th century, new ideas were discussed at the evening gatherings of Paris high society. The gatherings were hosted by the wives of aristocrats or daughters of French ministers. The ladies, therefore, wielded a significant amount of indirect influence in politics. However, it is worth noting that these ladies did not enjoy legal rights in many instances. During the French Revolution, the women of France were highly engaged whereby their convictions stretched the political spectrum towards equality. Despite the women belonging to the upper-class households hosting the evening gatherings that shaped the politics of France during the era, generally, women had little say over their lives as they did have political rights and enjoyed minimal social rights (Offen, 2017). This is why the theme of equality is recurrent in Gouges’ pamphlet. 

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Although women could live independently in France during this period due to the influence of the Enlightenment era, doing so was most likely to lead to a life of plight. The political, social, and economic environments were not favorable for a woman to live independently. Women were not perceived as fit for participation in politics and economic activities due to their biological function of reproduction and child-rearing. Women were, therefore, not independent or equal to their men. Wives had no access to divorce, custody of children, or owning property (Offen, 2017). 

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