Born in 1748 in Montauban
in the south of France, Marie Gouze
was born into a poor family. Her father was a butcher, her mother a washerwoman. She married quite young in 1765
to one Louis Aubry, but at the age of 18 she left her husband for Paris and took the name Olympe de Gouges.
de Gouges immediately began to write essays, manifestos and socially conscious plays. She attempted to move among
the elite and worked at losing her provincial accent; she became a social climber.
In 1744, She wrote the play L'Esclavage des Negres
(Negro Slavery), but because she was a woman and due to its
controversial subject matter, the play remained unpublished until 1798, at the start of the French Revolution
. She also wrote on such gender-related topics as the right to divorce and the right to sexual relations outside of
de Gouges greeted the outbreak of the revolution with hope and joy, but soon became disappointed since the purpose of
tthe revolution was not to give rights to women. In 1791, she became part of the Cercle Social (Social Circle), and
association with the goal of equal political and legal rights for women. The Cercle Social met at the home of well-known
women's rights advocate Sophie de Condorcet
. There, de Gouge expressed for the first time her famous statement, "A woman has the right to mount the scaffold.
She must possess equally the right to mount the speaker's platform."
That same year, de Gouges wrote The Declaration of the Rights of Woman. This was followed by her Contrat
Social, proposing marriage based on gender equality.
She attempted to become involved in any matter she believed to involve injustice. She opposed the execution of
King Louis XVI of France, partly due to her opposition to capital punishment and partly due to her preference to a relatively
tame and living king to the possibility of an exiled, and rebellious, ruler. Jules Michelet
once commented about de Gouges that, "she allowed herself to act and write about more than one affair that her weak head did
As her hopes in the French Revolution were disappointed, de Gouges became more and more controversial in her writings.
Finally, her piece The Three Urns, or The Health of the Country by an Aerial Voyager
, which was written in 1793,
led to her arrest and execution on the guillotine.