Women's Rights During French Revolution Term Paper

Pages: 6 (1667 words)  ·  Style: Chicago  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Sports - Women

Womens Rights During French Revolution

The French Revolution equalized responsibilities and obligations for women, even if in terms of rights they were often trailing men. However, this period saw some of the important women politicians of the day fight for their ideas alongside men and often die for these. Madame Roland is probably just one of the examples of a politician who fought with the Gironde until she was guillotined. Others defended their husbands and were condemned with them to the guillotine, such as was the case with Camille Desmoulins's wife and Hebert's wife. When it came to historical recognition, they would, however, always be under the shadow of their spouses or of the important manly figures of those times.

One can successfully argue that women in France had always been politically active. The lower class, notably laboring and peasant women, allegedly would "march to the civic center to beseech the local government to ameliorate their misery," especially in times of famine, when bread was scarce and women could not provide for their families. From this perspective, one can support the idea that revolutionary initiative and the capacity to revolt and fight for their rights existed from early Middle Ages.

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The political spirit of women in France can also be traced to the upper classes as well. Queens and noblewomen were recognized as able politicians, especially when it came to peace negotiations, where men could not find common ground and a common denominator. They were often able to act as regents and make the right decisions in difficult times.

However, with the French Revolution and the introduction of civic equality as one of the main statements that the French Revolution made (keeping in mind the slogan Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite - Liberty, Equality, Fraternity), women saw an opportunity to be more involved in political life and, especially, in the decision making process within the country. Some of them rose to the top and remained historical figures that would be connected with the Revolution.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Women's Rights During French Revolution Assignment

Nevertheless, at this point, the society was still a profoundly masculine one. The Declaration of the Rights of Man was entirely silent about the rights of women, suffrage was still limited to males who could afford it, as a tax was perceived for this etc. Women's rights were never touched upon or even considered as a subject of debate.

This triggered the women's political spirit, as they joined into clubs in order to publish their own bills of rights. The Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Citizeness (1791) was the result of one such club and a determined way of action by politically-spirited women to address their rights in a period of continuous change and challenges. The results of their struggle and of their implication in promoting legislation that would support their rights reached a culmination in late 1792 and early 1793, when they had obtained several rights, including that of marrying without parental consent, initiate divorce etc.

However, as mentioned in the thesis, women were also significantly involved in state politics and at the highest decision making levels, despite the fact that the political world remained predominantly male dominated. She had accompanied her husband to Paris in 1791, as he became a member of the National Assembly and became actively involved in current times politics, with actions that included pamphlets on the new order of things and holding a saloon that brought together some of the most important political voices of the times. As a Girondist, her approach was always a moderate one, which was a striking contrast to the growing radicalism and violence that would mark the period starting with 1792. There is evidence that she was so influential at some point in her political career that she was able to intervene along a very influential political figure of the time, M. Busot, in her attempt to save Robespierre, who was about to be charged by the National Assembly and send to the guillotine.

As the twenty two members of the Gironde were arrested and tried, Madam Roland did not hesitate to share their fate. She was often called the soul of the Gironde Party and was often recognized as being one of the important forces behind this party. However, she is not present in the Assembly, she is not present in all political debates of the times and we are often under the impression, mentioned in the thesis of the paper, that she is to share only the Gironde's members' fates rather than their entire recognition and glory. A concise history of the French Revolution will never mention Madame Roland, despite the important contribution she has played during a certain part of the French Revolution.

Unknown women were also relevant in some of the victories of the Revolution. The march to Versailles to bring the king to Paris in 1789 and install him at Tuileries was allegedly started and led by women. They were also active in storming the Bastille or the Tuileries Palace when these events occurred in 1789 and 1792.

As mentioned, women in the French Revolution seem to always have equal rights when it comes to death on the guillotine, but almost never equal recognition or equal rights in other matters. Hebert's wife, as well as the wife of Camille Desmoulins, were both guillotined because they had the courage to stand up for the rights of their husband and protest against their condemnations. However, they are remembered in history only as the wives of the two revolutionaries.

The Terror instituted by the Jacobins also did a significant deal to target women and to reverse some of the advantages in their positioning that women had obtained in 1791 and 1792. The Jacobins would tend to place the woman alongside her husband in the sphere of their home rather than in the political framework and turmoil of the day. In other words, they would rather see the woman back in the house where she belonged rather than taking part in the most important decisions that were to affect the country on all levels and decide on its future. This type of belief, most likely also as a reactionary mean of action towards the influence that women were beginning to gain, reduced the gains previously made.

More often, women also played the role of the powerful woman behind the man. This may be the case of Theresa Tallien, who during the Directorate was one of the most powerful individuals in France, closely influencing many of the decisions that her husband would make. Lacking the virtue of Madame Roland and her intrinsic approach in politics, she nevertheless had a political mind that helped her master deals around the decision makers and promote the interests of the individuals she was supporting at that time.

Mentioned in history generally only as a woman with a notorious amount of lovers, she was, nevertheless, an able negotiator and informal politician.

The role of women in the Revolution did not only manifest itself in the political field. With the close invasion of the country, starting in 1792 and going on virtually to 1794, women, alongside the entire population of all ages, were requisitioned as permanent defenders of the land. In their role, as the proclamation cited, they would help make clothes for the army, as well as tents. Again, as mentioned several times, there was no issue in equality in terms of what the women would have to do (or rather what they were obliged to do), but in terms of the recognition and rewards they would receive from this. In any war, those who are remembered are always the soldiers, usually alongside their glorious generals and commanders, but nobody remembers those behind the lines, doing a similarly difficult work and being always at the mercy of the invading… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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