Declaration of the Rights of Woman (1791)

The full title of this declaration includes a focus on citizenship, and it was published two years after the declaration of rights for men and immediately after the National Assembly of France rejected a proposal to extend the rights to women. With an ironic tone, the writer and activist Olympe de Gouges dedicated it to Marie Antoinette, who -- as a woman -- was not seen as an equal. And, as a queen, she did nothing to promote gender equality (yet she was eventually given a trial and death sentence equal to that of King Louis XVI). While a postscript and form for a social contract are also included, the main structure and contents of this declaration parallel and parody its male counterpart. Compare these lists to hear the echoes.
E-text available here.

Here are links to our lists on rights: The Declaration of Independence, Declaration of the Rights of Man, Declaration of the Rights of Woman, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. scorn
    lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
    Considering that ignorance, omission, or scorn for the rights of the WOMAN are the only causes of public misfortunes and of the corruption of governments, they have resolved to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, inalienable, and sacred rights of the WOMAN
  2. incontestable
    not open to question or doubt; obviously true
    and in order that the Woman-citizens’ demands, henceforth based on simple and incontestable principles, may always support the constitution, good mores, and the happiness of all.
  3. superior
    having a higher rank
    In consequence, the sex that is as superior in beauty as it is in courage during the suffering of maternity recognizes and declares, in the presence and under the auspices of the supreme being, the following Rights of WOMAN and of the WOMAN-CITIZEN.
  4. utility
    the quality of being of practical use
    1. Woman is born free and remains equal to man in rights. Social distinctions may be based only on common utility.
  5. resistance
    group action in opposition to those in power
    2. The purpose of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of woman and man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and especially resistance to oppression.
  6. emanate
    proceed or issue forth, as from a source
    3. The principle of all sovereignty rests essentially in the nation, which is but the reuniting of woman and man. No body and no individual may exercise authority which does not emanate expressly from the nation.
  7. tyranny
    dominance through threat of punishment and violence
    4. Liberty and justice consist in restoring all that belongs to another; hence the exercise of the natural rights of woman has no other limits than those that the perpetual tyranny of man opposes to them; these limits must be reformed according to the laws of nature and reason.
  8. injurious
    harmful to living things
    5. The laws of nature and reason prohibit all actions which are injurious to society.
  9. hindrance
    something immaterial that interferes with action or progress
    No hindrance should be put in the way of anything not prohibited by these wise and divine laws, nor may anyone be forced to do what they do not require.
  10. representative
    an advocate for someone else's policy or purpose
    6. The law should be the expression of the general will. All citizenesses and citizens should take part, in person or by their representatives, in its formation.
  11. dignity
    high office or rank or station
    All citizenesses and citizens, being equal in its eyes, should be equally admissible to all public dignities, offices and employments, according to their ability, and with no other distinction than that of their virtues and talents.
  12. exempt
    freed from or not subject to an obligation or liability
    7. No woman is exempted; she is indicted, arrested, and detained in the cases determined by the law.
  13. promulgate
    put a law into effect by formal declaration
    8. Only strictly and obviously necessary punishments should be established by the law, and no one may be punished except by virtue of a law established and promulgated before the time of the offense, and legally applied to women.
  14. rigor
    the quality of being strictly valid
    9. Any woman being declared guilty, all rigor is exercised by the law.
  15. rostrum
    a platform raised above the surrounding level
    10. No one should be disturbed for his fundamental opinions; woman has the right to mount the scaffold, so she should have the right equally to mount the rostrum, provided that these manifestations do not trouble public order as established by law.
  16. recognition
    the state or quality of being acknowledged
    11. The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of woman, since this liberty assures the recognition of children by their fathers.
  17. barbarous
    able or disposed to inflict pain or suffering
    Every citizeness may therefore say freely, I am the mother of your child; a barbarous prejudice [against unmarried women having children] should not force her to hide the truth, so long as responsibility is accepted for any abuse of this liberty in cases determined by the law [women are not allowed to lie about the paternity of their children].
  18. safeguard
    a precautionary measure warding off impending danger
    12. The safeguard of the rights of woman and the citizeness requires public powers.
  19. maintenance
    activity involved in keeping something in good working order
    13. For maintenance of public authority and for expenses of administration, taxation of women and men is equal; she takes part in all forced labor service, in all painful tasks; she must therefore have the same proportion in the distribution of places, employments, offices, dignities, and in industry.
  20. necessity
    the condition of being essential or indispensable
    14. The citizenesses and citizens have the right, by themselves or through their representatives, to have demonstrated to them the necessity of public taxes.
  21. assessment
    an amount determined as payable
    The citizenesses can only agree to them upon admission of an equal division, not only in wealth, but also in the public administration, and to determine the means of apportionment, assessment, and collection, and the duration of the taxes.
  22. accountable
    responsible for one's actions
    15. The mass of women, joining with men in paying taxes, have the right to hold accountable every public agent of the administration.
  23. guarantee
    written assurance that a product or service will be provided
    16. Any society in which the guarantee of rights is not assured or the separation of powers not settled has no constitution.
  24. patrimony
    an inheritance coming by right of birth
    17. Property belongs to both sexes whether united or separated; it is for each of them an inviolable and sacred right, and no one may be deprived of it as a true patrimony of nature, except when public necessity, certified by law, obviously requires it, and then on condition of a just compensation in advance.
  25. barrier
    any condition that makes it difficult to make progress
    Whatever the barriers set up against you, it is in your power to overcome them; you only have to want it.
  26. recourse
    act of turning to for assistance
    What force has taken from them, ruse returned to them; they have had recourse to all the resources of their charms, and the most irreproachable man has not resisted them.
  27. cupidity
    extreme greed for material wealth
    in short everything that characterizes the folly of men, profane and sacred, has been submitted to the cupidity and ambition of this sex formerly considered despicable and respected, and since the revolution, respectable and despised. . . .
  28. amiable
    disposed to please
    A woman only had to be beautiful and amiable; when she possessed these two advantages, she saw a hundred fortunes at her feet
  29. feeble
    pathetically lacking in force or effectiveness
    An unmarried woman has only a feeble right: ancient and inhuman laws refuse her the right to the name and goods of her children's father; no new laws have been made in this matter.
  30. consistency
    a harmonious uniformity or agreement among things or parts
    If giving my sex an honorable and just consistency is considered to be at this time paradoxical on my part and an attempt at the impossible, I leave to future men the glory of dealing with this matter
  31. conjugal
    relating to the relationship between a wife and husband
    but while waiting, we can prepare the way with national education, with the restoration of morals and with conjugal agreements.
  32. mutual
    common to or shared by two or more parties
    We, ________ and ________, moved by our own will, unite for the length of our lives and for the duration of our mutual inclinations under the following conditions
  33. communal
    for or by a group rather than individuals
    We intend and wish to make our wealth communal property, while reserving the right to divide it in favor of our children and of those for whom we might have a special inclination, mutually recognizing that our goods belong directly to our children, from whatever bed they come [legitimate or not]
  34. obligate
    force somebody to do something
    We likewise obligate ourselves, in the case of a separation, to divide our fortune equally and to set aside the portion the law designates for our children.
  35. appropriate
    suitable for a particular person, place, or situation
    In the case of a perfect union, the one who dies first will give up half his property in favor of the children; and if there are no children, the survivor will inherit by right, unless the dying person has disposed of his half of the common property in favor of someone he judges appropriate.

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