May 7, 1748 is the birthday of Olympe de Gouges, born Marie Gouze. She was an early feminist and abolitionist. De Gouges had an early, unhappy marriage and moved to Paris after his death a year later where she had a string of aristocratic lovers. Their high birth gave the daughter of a small town butcher access to the salons of the Enlightenment thinkers. She advocated not only the right for women to vote, but the right for them to seek a divorce and retain custody of their children. She believed that she was the illegitimate daughter of an aristocrat and argued for the rights of unacknowledged children. During the Revolution, she wrote La Déclaration des droits de la femme et de la citoyenne in which she advocated for equal rights for women. She famously declared “La femme a le droit de monter sur l’échafaud ; elle doit avoir également celui de monter à la Tribune,” or “Woman has the right to mount the scaffold (of the guillotine); she must also have the right to mount the speaker’s podium.” De Gouges was arrested for demanding a plebiscite that would allow the French to choose among a republic, a federalist-style of government, and a constitutional monarchy. Get this. She was sentenced to execution for her opposition to the death penalty! She mounted the scaffold she had written about on November 3, 1793.
Today’s expression, femme, réveille-toi ! (fam, raveA twah) is an Olympe de Gouges exhortation for womankind to wake up. As I pointed out in the Vouloir, c’est pouvoir blog entry, women didn’t get the right to vote until 1944 in France. It was apparently a very long nap.