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Declaring the Rights of Men and Women in the French Revolution

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The French Revolution was a dark time in the history of man. From corruption in

government to the almost certainty of starvation for the French peasants, there seemed

to be no sign of better times. These were just a few of the logs in the ever-growing

revolutionary fire that was burning in the late 1700's.

There were many causes to the French Revolution ranging from: poor

distribution of power and wealth, a bad harvest which left no grain for bread, a

manufacturing depression, and the king's financial problems (which caused

overtaxation for the entire population with the exception of the high clergy and

nobility). When the estates general was called for the first time in one hundred

years, it seemed that the Enlightenment had finally reached France and it seemed

that things were going to get better. But as the third estate general would soon find out,

this was merely a trick by the the king and other estates general to bring more

taxation to the lower and middle classes.

When the third estate found out about this plot, they proposed a change in the

voting rules which not only didn't pass, but got them locked out of the hearings. But, on

July 17, 1789, the third estate founded the National Assembly which later brought upon

the Declaration of the Rights of Man. This declaration affirmed the "natural and impre-

scriptible rights of man" to "liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression." It

also abolished all exemptions from taxation and stated that there is freedom and equal

rights for all men, and talent should bring about a holding of public office. Freedom of

speech and press, and the restriction of monarchy were also stated in the declaration.

This was a great step in creating a fair government that treated all of it's citizens

fairly, but it did not include women's freedom in terms of civil liberty. Many deputies

said that "women do not aspire to exercise political rights and functions." Many

women did not agree to the fairness of this document and thought women were also

citizens and should have an active role in the government. Olymp de Gouges penned


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