19 October 2010
History 4, 20316, T-Th 9:45-11:10
Women in the French Revolution:
The Ultimate Failure of Women’s Acquisition of Equal Rights The French Revolution has often been touted as the revolution that liberated individuals and gave triumph to traditionally oppressed groups. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, which was France’s declaration of rights drafted during the revolution, garnered basic human rights to all man, leaving all women as a subservient afterthought. Due to this oversight, many women as well as some men began to challenge exactly who deserved these rights and demanded equality for all women. While ultimately failing in Revolutionary France, the radical women’s movements somehow managed at one point to acquire some rights. Lynn Hunt, the Editor of The French Revolution and Human Rights, guides her readers in a briskly paced, well-written manner through the public sentiments prior to the war, the origins of the Revolution, and on to the actions of oppressed groups to gain basic rights during the revolution.
Before the French Revolution, the American War of Independence gave way to Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence of 1776. This document as well as the war itself greatly influenced notions of human rights among French citizens. Lynn writes of the American Revolution’s influence, “The American War of Independence had helped make notions of human rights even more influential in France, for many French officers who served in North America arrived home fired by the ideals of liberty that they saw in action in the New World.”  Such influence, in fact, that when the clergy and nobility joined the Third Estate to form the National Assembly, Marquis de Lafayette, a close friend of Thomas Jefferson and active participant in the American War of Independence, was the first to offer a proposal for a new declaration of rights on July 11, 1789.
Two days afterward, however, Parisians learned...