History 1C

Lecture 1: The French Revolution and Women's Rights

I. Intro

Broad Outlines of European History, 1750-1890
A. For our purposes we will take 1750 as a starting point:
--1750 symbolizes the commencement in some areas of Europe the types of ideological, economic, and social reconstruction that ultimately changed the lives of women and men of the western world as much if not more than the French Revolution.

II. Industrial Revolution

A. Came out of England and spread westward across the North Atlantic and eastward across Europe.
--economic changes but most importantly innovations in the organization of production and the distribution of goods.
B. "Dual Revolution" of French Revolution and Industrial Revolution depended on the interaction of several socioeconomic and political factors:
1. Population explosion or "demographic revolution" i.e. mortality declined more rapidly than fertility ending in slow and steady growth patterns.

2. Demographic rev was a cause and a result of Ag. Rev (changes in agricultural production): 

--consolidation of small landholding into larger more effective farms

--extension of lands under cultivation (crop rotation rather than 3-field system)

--new chemical fertilizers

--later the utilization of new machinery

C. Agricultural Revolution made possible industrial growth--more people forced off the land freeing up labor for urban industrialization
1. People had to seek work in urban areas, and especially after the development of the factory system landless people were able to work for wages
--rural areas provided labor for urbanizing industrial areas

--in turn, growing need for food in urban areas acted as incentive for agricultural production

D. All this was facilitated by another revolution: The Transportation revolution
1. Unprecedented movement of goods and people 

2.Canals were dug, roads paved, and increased numbers of locomotives and steamships were constructed opening up new jobs in steel and iron industries and spurring the development of heavy industry.

E. Finally the Ideological Revolution
1. Decline of religious world view and loss of confidence in the church dates back to Renaissance and Reformation--this produced a feeling among educated members of the population that society had progressed beyond the "dark ages" to an Age of Enlightenment:
--belief that through rational thought and the scientific method human intelligence could discover the laws of nature and by applying them to social structures, could reform society for the greater good. 

--Stressed importance of education: in knowledge not faith lay the path to virtue.

--Voltaire (1694-1778)= total freedom of thought and speech 

--and Diderot (1713-1784) Encyclopedia useful scientific knowledge.

III. Women and the "Rights of Man"

A. Before, during and after the French Revolution, women's primary role was support for their families. All the leaders of all the political parties insisted that politics was the province of men. 
--Politics cannot be separated from the culture and the social arrangements in which it is grounded and which it in turn shapes and reshapes.
Revolutionary leaders indeed intended to reconstruct society and create a "new man"--prior to revolution political rights were tied to property rights with property ownership working against women. However with the dawning of "enlightened" thought and its concept of "natural rights" the germ of equality for women existed.

Indeed JOHN LOCKE, to strengthen his argument against patriarchal government and its extension of absolute monarchy, granted mothers "equal Title" to their children (women had as much right to their children as the fathers did).

AGE OF REASON: flowing of new secular thought embodied in the American Declaration of independence and French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.

--The philosophes that articulated enlightened thought (Bacon, Descartes, Newton, Locke) put full confidence in the power of reason and defined "natural law" as principles that govern human and animal life, including laws of "justice and equity".

--The philosophes were opposed to church, monarchy, and all arbitrary forms of hierarchy and rule, they sought to bring the laws of the state and the structure of social institutions into agreement with nature:

Diderot: "The only true sovereign is the nation"

Rousseau: sovereignty resided in the general will and idea of a social contract.

These ideas influenced the French revolution and the recasting of the new order.

It is impossible in a brief summary to do justice to the constructive aspects of the revolutionary experience, these include:

--ending feudalism

--creation of a constitutional government and balance of legislative and executive powers

--establishing civil equality among men (including jews)

--enactment of family laws allowing for civil divorce and inheritance rights by women

--end of absolute monarchy based on divine right and beginning of republic based on consent of governed

For women however a separate battle had to be fought. As we know, the rights for men did not encompass the female half of "mankind"

A. In fundamental task of defining natural law, the philosophes were divided in their assessment of the nature of women

ROUSSEAU defended restrictive roles.

MARQUIS DE CONDORCET (1743-1794) most famous for his support of enhanced women's rights. Mathematician and philosopher, was leading member of the liberal nobility who supported goals of American Revolution. He envisioned a basis for reconstruction that included admission "of women to rights of citizenship" He felt the revolution was not complete. In his words the revolutionaries had,

"violated the principle of equality of rights, in depriving half of the human race of that of assisting in the making of laws; excluding women from the right of citizenship...Either no individual of the human race has genuine rights, or else all have the same; and he who votes against the right of another, whatever the religion color or sex of that other, has henceforth adjured his own"
Needless to say he had few allies. Rousseau on the other hand won wide support especially since he tapped several main currents: traditional misogyny; distrust of the power of royal mistresses and artifices of aristocratic ladies; and romanticism that envisioned natural woman as the companion of natural man.

Rousseau defined the female role narrowly for purposes of reproduction, childbearing and child rearing. But Rousseau added new language to the discourse on women's subordination, because for him the differences entailed disabilities that precluded their participation in the "general will": According to Rousseau, participation in the general will required getting beyond personal interest, and women were dependant of personal relations (legally and traditionally) they could not exercise the highest duties of citizenship.

Two exceptional women responded to this and to its articulation in the Declaration of the Rights of Man

--Olympe de Gouges-- ASK SOME QUESTIONS HERE

Mary Wollenstonecraft:
She challenged the French leaders to examine the causes and consequences of women's situation. As she said in the preface,
"If women are to be excluded, without having a voice from participation of the natural rights of mankind, prove first, to ward off the charge of injustice and inconsistency, that they lack reason--else this flaw in your NEW CONSTITUTION will ever shew that man must in some shape, act like a tyrant and a tyrant, in whatever part of society it rears its brazen front, will ever undermine morality."
Her wit and pen won her a place among Enlightenment-inspired English radicals in Britain. Her book is a stinging condemnation of Rousseau's ideals. She argued for extending his blueprint for male education to women in the common interest. For, she wrote, "Till women are more rationally educated, the progress of human virtue and improvement in knowledge must receive continual checks...Let women share the rights and she will emulate the virtues of man."

VINDICATION came to be considered the beginning of the women's movement, even though Wollenstonecraft was vilified for her unconventional life.

Known to the leaders of the 19th century feminist movement, she too was largely absent from the historical record to be discovered by feminist historians in the 1960s and 1970s.

B. Many others before Condorcet, de Goges and Wollenstonecraft enjoined the leaders of society to include women in the new rights of citizenship. 
--Abigail Adams is one who is known for rebuking John Adams and the "Founding Fathers" for ignoring women's rights in the US Constitution.

--Theodore von Hippel of Germany revise his popular treatise on marriage to reproach the French revolutionaries who, in their new constitution, "forgot half of the nation...All human beings have equal rights--all French Men and Women should be citizens and free." He attacked Rousseau's principles, "Men, do you really believe that half the world exists merely for you pleasure, for your own desires, to satisfy your selfishness? Animals function, human beings act--Why should a woman not be allowed to pronounce the word I?" 

C. The challenge of revolutionary reconstruction not only inspired renewed debates about women's rights and abilities, some women participated directly in the political events in France.
--women joined men in drawing up a list of grievances to present to the king

--Working women petitioned for protection of their means of livelihood from encroachment by men

--others called for free schools that would teach women the humanities

--asked for paid midwives in the country

--sent delegations to the National Assembly--none of the feminist proposals submitted to the Assembly received serious consideration.

D. Most decisive however was women's collective action--bread riots. Faced with conditions that threaten the substance of their families, women have always utilized every means at their disposal to find food. It is no surprise then that in the midst of famine in France, thousands of market women, housewives, and working women marched to Versailles in search of bread in 1789 ("Let them eat cake" was MAs reply) was more typical of women engaged in political action than those who joined associations or signed petitions. 

Throughout the 18th and 19th century all over Europe as national markets prevailed over local needs, angry women, sometimes armed with knives and sticks, would lead mobs to attack mills, millers, machinery, and other appropriate targets. This reaches a head as we will see in Russia where again a radical revolution fails to bring about fundamental changes for women.

When we incorporate the experiences of women, we can no longer hail as progressive a political process whereby traditional or informal power and privilege were replaced by formal rights of citizenship granted only to men. The negative reaction to political participation by women demonstrates the limited impact of the French Revolution.

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