A new biography of Olympe de Gouges calls for her to be buried in the Pantheon

A new biography of Olympe de Gouges calls for her to be buried in the Pantheon

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Olympe de Gouges (1748-1793).

She supported the abolition of slavery, fought for equality between men and women, campaigned for the right of free union and divorce, and defended democracy threatened by the Reign of Terror. Guillotined at the age of 45 for federalism and anti-Robespierrism, Olympe de Gouges (1748-1793) believed that if women had the right to go to the gallows, they should also have the right to “go to the podium.” Literature (novels, plays) and newspapers were her podium. She carved out a space for herself in society at a time when women, even those of influence, remained in the shadows. And the fact is, aside from Louis-Sébastien Mercier (1740-1814), few writers displayed their solidarity with this uncompromising woman of letters, who never gave up despite the threat of being arrested.

Courageous and obstinate

Restif de la Bretonne (1734-1806) considered her a prostitute, and the historian Jules Michelet, in the 19th century, a hysteric. According to La Feuille du Salut Public (a French revolutionary newspaper), “the law had punished this conspirator for having forgotten the virtues that befit her sex”. For two centuries, her fate was sealed and the author of the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen (1791) was somewhat forgotten.

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The feminist figure, to whom the French journalist and feminist Benoîte Groult (who wrote Ainsi soit Olympe de Gouges, 2013) and the historian Olivier Blanc (Marie-Olympe de Gouges, 2014) are particularly attached, is now a source of fascination for the academic Michel Faucheux. In this new biography, he pays tribute to the courageous and obstinate writer and calls for her to be interred in the Pantheon (a Paris monument), “because it would be the right and deserved symbol of a nation’s gratitude. It would also be a sign of our deepening political thought, capable of seeing, in the condition of women, the measure of the degree of democracy.”

Read an excerpt (in French) on the Gallimard Publishing website.

A new biography of Olympe de Gouges calls for her to be buried in the Pantheon

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