18 Jul 2018

The forgotten legacy of women's marches 

Learning about women's marches during the French Revolution proves that, despite rampant oppression, women have always fought to change the world. 

Editorial Team
Editorial Team NewsMavens, Europe
Source: ARE WE EUROPE Magazine
The forgotten legacy of women's marches  - NewsMavens
Journées révolutionnaires des 5 et 6 octobre 1789, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

-- by Elizabeth Pratt

When thinking of the French Revolution, many picture men at the forefront. This is not the case, however, as can be seen in the article recommended below. 

It was women who led the march on Versailles in October 1789.

They occupied the National Assembly and demanded that King Louis XVI move the royal court back to Paris, which he did. This marked the end of absolute monarchy in France and returned power to the people. 

Women in revolutionary France also played vital roles in riots over food, voiced their opinions in the salons of Paris, and participated in political clubs. 

One example of feminine strength was exhibited by Marie Gouze, who published The Declaration of the Rights of Women. This declaration was a response to the government's Declaration of the Rights of Man. 

Yet the efforts of these women in destroying an absolutist regime are forgotten -- they were not mentioned during the recent Women's Marches.

Details from the story:

  • Women marched on Versailles in 1789 to demand that Louis XVI move the government back to Paris. He did so, signaling an early victory for the people in the French Revolution. 
  • "It's revealing that of the two women commonly associated with the Revolution -- Marianne, symbol of the nation and Marie Antoinette, Queen of France -- one is a bare-chested male fantasy while the other is a two-dimensional caricature of effeminate ditz." 
  • Charlotte Corday, a political activist, murdered journalist Jean-Paul Marat to save others from going to the guillotine. 
  • Marie Gouze criticized the government's Declaration of the Rights of Man and published her own declaration in response -- The Declaration of the Rights of Women. 
  • Despite feminine activism, women's rights were not on the forefront of the political agenda. In fact, the "intellectual guiding light of the Revolution," Jean-Jacques Rousseau, preached about the inferiority of women. 
  • Women did get the right to file for divorce and the right to inherit family property between 1789 and 1792, but this was only a small step forward in the face of oppression. 
  • For example, prominent women like Gouze were guillotined; some were arrested, publicly flogged, and put in insane asylums; and all women were prohibited from attending political assemblies or gathering in groups of more than five. 
  • It wasn't until 1848-1871 that women's rights would again make an appearance on a more liberal political agenda. 
  • The radical feminism of the French Revolution can be related to feminist efforts in the modern day. But first, we must learn about the true, forgotten history of feminism. 
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