The XVII century was a period of advancement of human rights. The French Revolution was a milestone for the support of human rights, as it showed the possibility of changing the established order. However, the reforms affected primarily men, with little advantages to women. The unequal treatment of male and female citizens of France raises the question of evaluating the demands of the Revolutionaries and their effect on women.
The French monarchy put one person above the law to the detriment of his subjects. As an alternative type of government, the French revolutionaries envisioned a republic, which is reflected in Article 3 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen: “No body and no individual may exercise authority which does not emanate expressly from the nation” (5). The major change that defined the Revolution’s goal was to establish natural rights that apply to everyone regardless of political or social affiliation. Under the auspices of a republic, there were supposed to be free individuals who would be equal to each other in rights. Article 2 of the Declaration states the universal rights, which are “liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression” (4). Essentially, the revolutionaries wanted a democracy that respects the rights of citizens.
The Declaration did not satisfy the working women of France. One of their complaints was male dominance in jobs that were feminine. As such, the Petition of Women asked the King to disallow men “under any pretext, to exercise trades that are the prerogative of women” (9). Another opportunity they wanted for themselves was an official ability to do work that only women can handle: “may you assign us positions, which we alone will be able to fill” (Petition of Women, 11). De Gouges further developed this legal possibility in Article 13 of The Rights of Woman stating that women “must have the same share in the distribution of positions, employment, offices, honors, and jobs” (LES DROITS DE LA FEMME, 13). Altogether, women wanted to solidify the opportunities that gave them the autonomy to work without male supervision.
“France: Declaration of the Right of Man and the Citizen.” Refworld, 2020. Web.
“Women’s Petition to the National Assembly.” Historyteacher.net, Web.
“LES DROITS DE LA FEMME.” Olympe De Gouges, Web.