French Revolution and Feminism

Essay by charliebrown13University, Bachelor'sA-, June 2014

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The French Revolution and the birth of Feminism Claire Cotton

European Studies 100 8276730

During 1789-1799 France underwent a radical transformation period of social and political reforms which came to be known as the French Revolution. It saw the unbelievable collapse of the centuries old Absolute Monarchy within three years through the attack from radical left-wing political groups, masses on the streets and peasants in the country side (Doy). The French Revolution was the first of its kind and was the result of a number of issues in France. These issues included the lack of food, the bad economy, the debt France was in and the flourishing of 'Enlightened' ideas (Doy). The common people of France were angered at the indifference of the clergy and the aristocracy as well as their continued decadence in a period of financial crisis. They decided to take their country into their own hands and in 1789 the Estates-General meeting was held.

By September 1792 a Republic was proclaimed and King Louis XVI was executed the next year. During the years of the French Revolution it can be shown that Women, who were defined as 'passive citizens', played an active part in the period of social and political upheaval. Taking advantage of the shaky social and political grounds, women activists attempted to pierce the public sphere and gain active citizenship. During this time we see the shaping of the women's individual voice, separate from that of her husband and children. Throughout this essay we will assess women's place in the old regime, their actions during the revolution, if they made any progress towards gender equality and the long term effects of the revolution on women's rights.

Despite many feminist scholars having described the French Revolution as a 'defeat' for women (Doy) it is a...