Olympe de Gouges
1745-1793
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Olympe de Gouges was born to working class parents but took her place amidst the French intellectuals who advocated the French Revolution.

She was a popular playwright and she strongly advocated the rights of French women. When the Revolution was in full swing that Robespierre initiated the Reign of Terror, Olympe was one of the few public figures to denounced him for this action. This act of moral courage was to cost her dearly. She, herself, was guillotined.

Chronology

1745 Olympe de Gouges, was born in Montablm, France to working class parents. She was named Marie de Gouzes, which often was written phonetically as "de Gouges." Her mother was a washerwoman and her father a butcher. Little is known of her early years.

1765 At the age of 20 she married Louis Aubry, a man of some wealth who was a good bit older that she was. They had one child, a son named Pierre. Then early in the marriage she was widowed.

1778 She is in Paris and is using the name Olympe de Gouges. Despite having low skills in the language of the aristocracy, she supports herself as a playwright. She is also an ardent champion of women and attempts to get women to organize so as to improve their lot in French society.

1791 She joins the Cercle Social which meets at the home of Sophie de Condorcet, who was the daughter of the intellectual Marie Gilberte Henriette Freteau and Francoise Jacques. By 1791 Sophie had married Nicolas de Condorcet, philosopher and mathematician and she became a prominent saloniste who was indifferent to class origins of her acquaintances. After the publication of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen  Olympe de Gouges wrote Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen. After the appearance of Rousseau's Social Contract, she immediately wrote Social Contract a work in which she proposed gender equality in marriage. She supported the French Revolution and wrote more than 30 political pamphlets to further its cause. (See: works ) She spoke out against the execution of the King and his family and denounced Robespierre and Marat for the Reign of Terror.

1793 She was guillotined as "a reactionary" after the publication of her Les trois umes, or le salut de la Patrie, par un voyageur aerien. She is considered a martyr to ideas. Donald Nicholson-Smith has penned an essay about her, Olympe de gouges, a Daughter of Quercy on her Way to the Pantheon

Works

Olympe de Gouges was a prolific writer and I am not sure if I have all her works in the following list.

1774 L'Esclavage des Negres (The Enslavement of Blacks), a play.

1784 Memory of Mrs. Valmont - a novel;

  • Zamore and Mirza or the Happy Shipwreck (Enslavement of  Blacks) - a play;
  • The Unexpected Marriage of Cherubin - a play

1786 The Generous Man - a play

1787 The Corrected Philosopher or the Supposed Cuckold - a play;

  • Moliere at Ninon or the Century of the Great Men - a play

1788 Benevolence, or the Good Mother;

  • The Rewards of Benevolence or the Crown Virtue, a play;
  • Reflexions about Negroes;
  • Letter with the People or the Project of a Patriotic Case; Patriotic Remarks

1789 The Prince Philosophizes - a novel;

  • Allegorical Dialogue between France and Truth;
  • Project of the Second Theatre and of a maternity;
  • The Cry of the Wise One - by a Woman;
  • Pressing Opinion, or Answer with My slanderers;
  • To Save the Fatherland, the Three-orders Should be Respected; My wishers are Filled, or the Patriotic Gift;
  • Speeches of the Blind Man with the French;
  • Letter with Monseigneur. the Duke of Orleans;
  • Royal Meeting; The National Order or the Count d'Artois;
  • Heroic Action of a Frenchwoman, or France Saved by the Women;
  • Letter to the Representatives of the Nation Against Poison

1790 Answer to the American Champion, or Colonist Very Easy to Know;

Letter to French Literary Men;

Departure of Mr. Necker and of Mrs. de Gouges;

Project on the formation of a Popular Court and Supreme Out of a Criminal Matter;

National Bouquet;

Need for the Divorce;

The Convent or The Forced Wishers - a play 1790, 1792

1791 Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Female Citizen.

  • Contrat Social;
  • The Tomb of Mirabeau;
  • Preface to the Ladies, or the Portrait of the Women;
  • Mirabeau in the Field-Elysium;
  • Address to the King, to the Queen, with Prince de Conde Will He Be King or Will He Be?;
  • Observations of the Foreigners;
  • Repentance of Mrs. Gouges

1792 France Saved, or, the Dethroned Tyrant;

  • The Good Direction of the French ;
  • The French Spirit or Problem to Solve on the Labyrinth of Various Plots ;
  • Letter from the French;
  • Great Eclipse ;
  • National Packet;
  • Letter on the Death of Gouvion;
  • The Cry of Innocence;
  • The Pride of Innocence;
  • Phantoms of Political Opinion;
  • Answer to Justification of Mr. Robespierre ; 
  • Forecast on Mr. Robespierre, by an amphibious animal;
  • Correspondence of the Court ;
  • Last Words with my Dear Friends;
  • Olympe de Gouges, semi-official defender of Louis Capet ;
  • Address to the Gifted Quixote of the North

1793 Unconventional Opinion about a True Republican Union, Courage, Monitoring, and the Republic is Saved;

  • Political legacy ;
  • The Entry of Demourier in Brussels, or Canteen-keepers - a play;
  • Three ballot boxes, or the safety of the Fatherland, by an air traveler Olympe de Gouges with the revolutionary tribunal -
  • Last Letter to her Son
  • The former Prelate of Sophie and Saint-Elme-a play

Note: her Trial can be found at Trial of Olympe de Gouges

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Marie Olympe de Gouges is among the more than 100 women featured in A Pictorial History of Women Philosophers photo album and is one of more than 40 philosophers featured in

Busted!! A Pictorial History of Women Philosophers DVD Volume 2.

This page was last updated 12/14/14.

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