A Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female
By Olympe de Gouges
Man, are you capable of being just? It is a woman who poses
the question; you will not deprive her of that right at least.
Tell me, what gives you sovereign empire to oppress my sex? Your
strength? Your talents? Observe the Creator in his wisdom; survey
in all her grandeur that nature with whom you seem to want to be
in harmony, and give me, if you dare, an example of this
tyrannical empire. Go back to animals, consult the elements,
study plants, finally glance at all the modifications of organic
matter, and surrender to the evidence when I offer you the means;
search, probe, and distinguish, if you can, the sexes in the
administration of nature. Everywhere, you will find them mingled;
everywhere they cooperate in harmonious togetherness in this
Man alone has raised his exceptional circumstances to a
principle. Bizarre, blind, bloated with science and degenerated
— in a century of enlightenment and wisdom — into the
crassest ignorance, he wants to command as a despot a sex which
is in full possession of its intellectual faculties; he pretends
to enjoy the Revolution and to claim his rights to equality in
order to say nothing more about it.
Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female
For the National Assembly to decree in its last sessions, or
in those of the next legislature:
Mothers, daughters, sisters [and] representatives of the
nation demand to be constituted into a national assembly.
Believing that ignorance, omission, or scorn for the rights of
woman are the only causes of public misfortunes and of the
corruption of governments, [the women] have resolved to set forth
in a solemn declaration the natural, inalienable, and sacred
rights of woman in order that this declaration, constantly
exposed before all the members of the society, will ceaselessly
remind them of their rights and duties; in order that the
authoritative acts of women and the authoritative acts of men may
be at any moment compared with and respectful of the purpose of
all political institutions; and in order that citizens' demands,
henceforth based on simple and incontestable principles, will
always support the constitution, good morals, and the happiness
Consequently, the sex that is as superior in
beauty as it is in courage during the sufferings of maternity
recognizes and declares in the presence and under the auspices of
the Supreme Being, the following Rights of Woman and of Female
- Woman is born free and lives equal to man in her rights.
Social distinctions can be based only on the common utility.
- The purpose of any political association is the conservation
of the natural and imprescriptible rights of woman and man; these
rights are liberty, property, security, and especially resistance
- The principle of all sovereignty rests essentially with the
nation, which is nothing but the union of woman and man; no body
and no individual can exercise any authority which does not come
expressly from it [the nation].
- Liberty and justice consist of restoring all that belongs to
others; thus, the only limits on the exercise of the natural
rights of woman are perpetual male tyranny; these limits are to
be reformed by the laws of nature and reason.
- Laws of nature and justice proscribe all acts harmful to
society; everything which is not prohibited by these wise and
divine laws cannot be prevented, and no one can be constrained to
do what they do not command.
- The law must be the expression of the general will; all
female and male citizens must contribute either personally or
through their representatives to its formation; it must be the
same for all; male and female citizens, being equal in the eyes
of the law, must be equally admitted to all honors, positions,
and public employment according to their capacity and without
other distinctions besides those of their virtues and talents.
- No woman is an exception; she is accused, arrested,
and detained in cases determined by law. Women, like men, obey
this rigorous law.
- The law must establish only those penalties that are strictly
and obviously necessary, and no one can be punished except by
virtue of a law established and promulgated prior to the crime
and legally applicable to women.
- Once any woman is declared guilty, complete rigor is [to be]
exercised by the law.
- No one is to be disquieted for his very basic opinions;
woman has the right to mount the scaffold; she must
equally have the right to mount the rostrum, provided that her
demonstrations do not disturb the legally established public
- The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the
most precious rights of woman, since that liberty assures
the recognition of children by their fathers. Any female citizen
thus may say freely, I am the mother of a child which belongs to
you, without being forced by a barbarous prejudice to hide the
truth; [an exception may be made] to respond to the abuse of this
liberty in cases determined by the law.
- The guarantee of the rights of woman and the female citizen
implies a major benefit; this guarantee must be instituted for
the advantage of all, and not for the particular benefit of those
to whom it is entrusted.
- For the support of the public force and the expenses of
administration, the contributions of woman and man are equal; she
shares all the duties and all the painful tasks; therefore, she
must have the same share in the distribution of positions,
employment, offices, honors and jobs.
- Female and male citizens have the right to verify, either by
themselves or through their representatives, the necessity of the
public contribution. This can only apply to women in they are
granted an equal share, not only of wealth, but also of public
administration, and in the determination of the proportion, the
base, the collection, and the duration of the tax.
- The collectivity of women, joined for tax purposes to
the aggregate of men, has the right to demand an accounting of
his administration from any public agent.
- No society has a constitution without the guarantee of rights
and the separation of powers; the constitution is null if the
majority of individuals comprising the nation have not cooperated
in drafting it.
- Property belongs to both sexes whether united or
separate; for each it is an inviolable and sacred right;
no one can be deprived of it, since it is the true patrimony of
nature, unless the legally determined public need obviously
dictates it, and then only with a just and prior indemnity.
Woman, wake up; the tocsin of reason is being heard throughout
the whole universe; discover your rights. The powerful empire of
nature is no longer surrounded by prejudice, fanaticism,
superstition, and lies. The flame of truth has dispersed all the
clouds of folly and usurpation. Enslaved man has multiplied his
strength and needs recourse to yours to break his chains. Having
become free, he has become unjust to his companion. Oh, women,
women! When will you cease to be blind? What advantage have you
received from the Revolution? A more pronounced scorn, a more
marked disdain. In the centuries of corruption you ruled only
over the weakness of men. The reclamation of your patrimony,
based on the wise decrees of nature — what have you to
dread from such a fine undertaking?