Olympe de Gouges

21 Apr, 2022 940 History of Europe

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the French playwright who, in 1791, wrote The Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen. This was Olympe de Gouges (1748-93) and she was responding to The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen from 1789, the start of the French Revolution which, by excluding women from these rights, had fallen far short of its apparent goals. Where the latter declared ‘men are born equal’, she asserted ‘women are born equal to men,’ adding, ‘since women are allowed to mount the scaffold, they should also be allowed to stand in parliament and defend their rights’. Two years later this playwright, novelist, activist and woman of letters did herself mount the scaffold, two weeks after Marie Antoinette, for the crime of being open to the idea of a constitutional monarchy and, for two hundred years, her reputation died with her, only to be revived with great vigour in the last 40 years.

Play on BBC Sounds website


  • Catriona Seth 5 episodes
    Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at the University of Oxford
  • Katherine Astbury 4 episodes
    Professor of French Studies at the University of Warwick
  • Sanja Perovic No other episodes
    Reader in 18th century French studies at King's College London

Reading list

  • The Self-Fashionings of Olympe de Gouges, 1784-1789
    Gregory S. Brown (Eighteenth-Century Studies, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001)
  • Reason's Muse: Sexual Difference and the Birth of Democracy
    Genevieve Fraisse (Chicago University Press, 1994) Google Books →
  • A History of Women's Political Thought in Europe, 1700-1800
    Karen Green (Cambridge University Press, 2014) Google Books →
  • The Other Enlightenment: How French Women Became Modern
    Carla Hesse (Princeton University Press, 2001) Google Books →
  • Women's Rights and the French Revolution: A Biography of Olympe de Gouges
    Sophie Mousset (Routledge, 2017) Google Books →
  • Reading Olympe de Gouges
    Carol L. Sherman (Palgrave MacMillan, 2013) Google Books →
  • Only Paradoxes to Offer: French Feminists and the Rights of Man
    Joan Wallach Scott (Harvard University Press, 2021) Google Books →
  • Marie-Olympe de Gouges, 1748-1793: des droits de la femme a la guillotine
    Olivier Blanc (Tallendier, 2014)
  • Olivier Blanc, Marie-Olympe de Gouges : une humaniste a la fin du XVIIIe siecle
    Isabelle Brouard-Arends (Cahors, Editions Rene Vienet, 2003)
  • Ecrits politiques, presentes par Olivier Blanc
    Olympe de Gouges (Cote Femmes Editions, 1993) Google Books →
  • OEuvres presentees par Benoite Groult
    Olympe de Gouges (Mercure de France, 1986)
  • Ainsi soit Olympe de Gouges: La Declaration des droits de la femme et autres textes politiques
    Benoite Groult (Grasset, 2014) Google Books →
  • L'Esclavage des noirs, ou la mauvaise conscience d'Olympe de Gouges
    Rene Tarin (Dix-huitieme Siecle, 1998)

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Programme ID: m0016hdj

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0016hdj

Auto-category: 944.04 (French Revolution and women’s rights)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, in 1791 in the French Revolution, Olympe de Gouges wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen, a riposte to the Declaration of the Rights of Man.