Olympe de Gouges

English translations of the original French texts

Olympe De Gouges Timeline

  • 1748 Olympe de Gouges [O G] born 7 May to Anne-Olympe Mouisset in Montauban, presumed to be the illegitimate child of Le Franc de Pompignan.
  • 1765 O G marries Louis-Yves Aubry 24 October.
  • 1766 son Pierre born 29 August; husband dies that winter; takes the name Olympe de Gouges.
  • 1767 O G meets Jacques Biétrix de Rozières who becomes her lover and companion; she refuses to re-marry.
  • From 1773 O G is known to live in Paris, as does her elder sister Jeanne; it is almost certain that she had a child by Jacques Biétrix de Rozières who died in childhood, dates unknown.
  • Mid 1770s - mid 1780s O G lives in various rented apartments, regularly attends the theatre, meets journalists and writers (e.g. Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Michel de Cubières, La Harpe), frequents salon of Mme de Montesson alongside future Philippe Égalité, has contacts in freemasonry through Mme Helvetius and the Condorcets, from 1780 she regularly sends money to her widowed mother, sets up her own amateur theatre and attends fashionable classes at the Lycée.
  • 1784 O G writes three-act play Zamore et Mizra ou l’Heureux naufrage which breaks with tradition by writing about slavery from the slaves’ perspective. Following the death of Le Franc de Pompignan she begins to write Mémoire de Madame de Valmont (a fictional auto-biography) in response to the inconsiderate treatment her mother received from her father. O G writes three-act play Les Amours de Cherubin inspired by Beaumarchais’ Le Mariage de Figaro; it was well received but never played due to Beaumarchais’ antipathy to both the play and its author who he accused of plagiarism.
  • 1785 Zamore et Mizra is read and accepted at the Comédie Française but not played; the subsequent rows between author and theatre lead to O G narrowly avoiding imprisonment in the Bastille. One-act play Lucinde et Cardénio is read but refused.
  • 1786 Les Amours de Cherubin published as Le Mariage inatendu de Cherubin; O G tours provinces in amateur production of the play with son and others. Publishes five-act play L’Homme généreux, again well received but not played.
  • 1787 O G sells her private theatre – sets, costumes etc., writes five-act play Le Philosophe corrigé ou le Cocu supposé.
  • 1788 O G publishes first two volumes of three volume Œuvres which includes all works cited previously and one-act play Bienfaisante ou la Bonne mère; later publishes third volume with new five-act play Molière chez Ninon ou Le Siècle des grands hommes. Writes Réflexions sur les Hommes Nègres; Dialogue entre mon esprit, le bon sens et la raison, ou critique de mes œuvres ; Préface pour les dames, ou le Portrait des Femmes; Réminiscences ; Les Vengeances utiles et humaines. Estates General recalled for 1789 due to financial crisis, Assembly of Notables meets 6 November; on same day her first political pamphlet Lettre au peuple ou projet d’une caisse patriotique is advertised; December sees publication of Remarques patriotiques.
  • 1789 O G publishes Dialogue allégorique entre la France et la vérité and a philosphical essay Bonheur primitif de l’homme. Writes one-act play Bienfaisante ou la Bonne mère. Moves to Versailles to participate in the opening of the Estates General on 5 May; publishes Le Cri du sage and Avis pressant, ou réponse à mes calomniateurs in same month. June sees publication of Pour sauver la patrie il faut respecter les trois ordres. On 17 June Estates General name themselves National Assembly, on 19 June majority of clergy vote to join Third Estate, on 20 June Oath taken in Tennis Court, on 23 June the King vetoes the decisions taken by the Third Estate, on 27 June the King orders clergy and nobility to join Third Estate, on 7 July the Constituent National Assembly formed. Publication on 24 June of Discours de l’aveugle au Français and in the same month Mes vœux sont remplis, ou le Don patriotique. 11 July Necker dismissed (recalled on 16), riots in Paris leading to storming of Bastille on 14 July. Séance royale distributed 11 July, followed by <Lettre à Monseigneur le duc d’Orléans, Motion de Monseigneur le duc d’Orléans, ou les Songes patriotiques. 26 August National Assembly adopts Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen. 7 September a delegation of women offer their jewellery to the state to alleviate its debt; 11 September O G publishes Action héroïque d’une française, ou la France sauvée par les femmes. 5 October women march on Versailles, 6 October royal family brought to Paris. O G leaves Versailles for Paris. 28 December first night of L’Esclavage des Nègres, ou l’Heureux naufrage. Writes one-act play Les Aristocrates et les Démocrates, ou le Curieux du Champ de Mars; plus Les Comédiens démasqués, ou Madame de Gouges ruinée par la Comédie Française; Le Contre-poison, Avis aux citoyens de Versailles; L’Ordre national, ou le Comte d’Artois inspiré par Mentor; Projets utiles et salutaires; Projet de formation d’un second Théâtre Français and numerous articles and published letters in 1789.
  • 1790 2 January third and last performance of L’Esclavage des Nègres brought down by slave traders; OG replies with Réponse au champion Américain ou Colon très aisé à connâitre 18 January. Religious orders suppressed in February; in same month O G publishes Adresse au Représentants de la Nation and Lettres aux littérateurs français. In April O G publishes Départ de M. Necker et de Mme de Gouges, in May Projet sur la formation d’un Tribunal populaire et supréme en matière criminelle. 14 July first Fête de la fédération. 4 September Necker resigns. 19 September funeral procession for soldiers killed at Nancy. Three-act play Le Couvent, ou les Vœux forcés first performed 4 October and continued to be played sporadically until 1792. 12 October legality of slavery reaffirmed followed by riots in Saint-Domingue (Hispaniola) at the end of the month. O G also wrote Bouquet national; one act play Le Temps et la Liberté, ou la Fédération française ; five-act play Le Nouveau Tartuffe, ou l’Ecole de jeunes gens. 21 December National Assembly decrees to erect a statue in memory of Rousseau.
  • 1791 Three-act play Les Rêveries de Jean-Jacques ou la Mort de Jean-Jacques à Ermenonville read and refused by Comédie Française. 13 January the Comédie Française loses its theatrical monopoly following a decree allowing any citizen to erect a public theatre and recognising playwrights as sole owners of their works. 6 March Pauline Léon suggests a female militia to the National Assembly. Five-act play Nécessité du divorce, ou le Divorce read at the Comédie Italienne in March. Mirabeau dies 2 April; OG writes Le Tombeau de Mirabeau and a four-act play Mirabeau aux Champs-Elysées performed at the Comédie Italienne on 14 April but so cut it was reduced to one act; played to great success in Bordeaux on 1 June. 21 June Louis XVI arrested in Varennes; O G publishes Sera-t-il roi ,ou ne le sera-t-il pas? in next few days. 24 June O G presents Projet d’une garde nationale de Femmes to the National Assembly. 17 July Champ de Mars massacre. O G publishes Observations sur les étrangers in July. 17 August all emigrants to return to France within a month; O G writes Adresse au Roi et à la Reine, au Prince de Condé et Observations à M. Duveyrier sur sa fameuse ambassade. 5 September Repentir de Madame de Gouges appears. 14 September Louis XVI accepts the constitution inspired by the Declaration of the Rights of Man; O G presents her alternative Les Droits de la femme et de la citoyenne, dédié à la Reine. 27 September slavery is made illegal within France but not in the colonies. 30 September last session of Constituent National Assembly; 1 October first sitting of Legislative National Assembly. 5 October Sire and Majesté are banned as forms of address. October sees the start of bellicose debates regarding foreign powers. 14 November Pétion elected as Mayor of Paris. 25 November surveillance committee created by Legislative Assembly. December sees mounting pressure for war against foreign powers to safeguard revolution.
  • 1792 January sees publication of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman translated the same year into French. Paris troubled by riots at end of the month, grocery shops pillaged due to shortages and escalating prices. 1 February passports obligatory for any internal journeys; 9 February French emigrant’s chattels are confiscated in favour of the nation. O G publishes Le Bon Sens du Français in February and L’Esprit français ou Problème a résoudre sur le labyrinthe de divers complots in March. 3 March Simonneau, mayor of Etampes, murdered by a rabble; 16 March Gustav III of Sweden assassinated; 20 March the creation of guillotines authorised; 24 March black men in the Antilles are given political status; 30 March triumphant march into Paris by liberated Swiss soldiers of Châteauvieux. O G’s sister Jeanne who married and came to Paris before her younger sibling dies in March. O G produces a poster in April Invocation au sens commun, ou Dernier mot sur la fête de la Liberté qui aura lieu dimanche 15 Avril 1792 prior to festival on 15 April for Swiss soldiers. The Legislative Assembly decides to honour Simonneau as a civic hero with a festival; O G comes to the Assembly and successfully campaigns for a women’s cortege in the celebratory procession of 3 June. In April she publishes Le Bon sens français, ou l’Apologie des vrais nobles, dédié aux Jacobins followed by Grande Éclipse du Soleil Jacobiniste et de la Lune Feuillantine and Lettre aux Français. War declared on 20 April. In May O G writes Lettres à la Reine, aux Généraux de l’Armée, aux Amis de la Constitution et aux Françaises citoyennes. 20 June invasion of the Tuileries by Parisian crowds. In June O G publishes a two-volume novel Le Prince philosophe; in July she addresses her Pacte Nationale to the Assembly and publishes both Le cri de l’Innocence and Aux Fédérés. 14 July O G organised a cortege of women to participate in celebratory procession. 30 July national guards from Marseilles arrive in Paris chanting a song that will become the National Anthem. 5 August O G attends unveiling of patriotic monument in Auteuil along with Condorcet and Siéyes; she is given a passport to allow her to tour the provinces with a theatre group so was absent for 10 August insurrection in Paris, royal family chased out of Tuileries and forced to seek sanctuary in National Assembly. Following these events O G begins a play La France sauvée, ou le Tryan détrôné; never finished and not remotely royalist it was nonetheless used against her in her trial. 13 August royal family imprisoned in Temple. Robespierre proposes a popular tribunal but is refused. Dumouriez heads Army of the North. By end August 30,000 or more people imprisoned in Paris and guillotine used for first time. Mme de Stael flees France. Early September Parisian crowds massacre prisoners; O G one of few to respond with La Fierté de l’Innocence, ou le Silence du véritable Patriotisme. 13 September O G comes to Legislative Assembly with an old man she had saved from prison massacres begging for his freedom; it was granted, her eloquence and courage had moved the deputies. 22 September year 1 of the republic is declared. 25 September the republic is decreed one and indivisible. In October political divisions reach new heights; O G produces Les Fantômes de l’opinion publique denouncing the factions and attacking Marat. A Jacobin Bourdon de l’Oise accuses O G of being a royalist and Louis XV’s bastard. 28 October Louvet accuses Robespierre of seeking dictatorship; prior to Robespierre’s response on 5 November O G placards Pronostic sur Maximilien Robespierre, par un animal amphibie all over Paris; Robespierre brilliantly defended his corner, O G replied with Réponse à la justification de Maximilien Robespierre. In response to Bourdon she wrote Correspondance de la cour. Compte moral rendu par Olympe de Gouges sur une dénonciation faite sur son civisme aux Jacobins par le sieur Bourdon. 14 November Dumouriez entered Brussels, O G writes in four days a play celebrating the event L’Entrée de Dumouriez à Bruxelles ou les vivandiers; 19 November the Convention vows to help any country seeking freedom ; 20 armoire de fer discovered at Tuileries implicating Mirabeau and proving that Louis XVI had sought the help of other sovereigns. 15 December O G writes to Assembly offering to defend the king at his trial as all men deserve a fair trial, she is refused, heedless of the warnings that she has powerful enemies she placards her letter as Olympe de Gouges défenseur officieux de Louis Capet. An armed gang assembles outside her flat, she comes down to talk to them and through her humour and courage narrowly avoids decapitation at the hands of an armed man holding her tight. She decides to abandon politics writing Mon dernier mot à mes chers amis but the imminent death of Louis Capet obliges her to write Adresse au don Quichotte du Nord. Also written in 1792 Dédicace à la Providence ; Invocation à la Providence ; Abrégé de la vie de l’auteur ; Maximes d’Olympe de Gouges. Grandson born in 1792.
  • 1793 17 January Louis Capet condemned to death; 18 January O G produces red poster Arrêt de mort que présente Olympe de Gouges contre Louis Capet. 21 January king guillotined. 22 January Roland resigns. 23 January first night of L’Entrée de Dumouriez à Bruxelles ou les vivandiers; production delayed from 1791; coincides with king’s death; this and OG’s presumed royalism ensured its failure. 1 February war declared on England. 7 March war declared on Spain. 10 March Fouquier-Tinville heads Revolutionary Tribunal. Insurrection in the Vendée. Facing the real threat of civil war O G writes Avis pressant à la Convention, par une vraie Républicaine. 20 March she is attacked in the street but evades her assassins (presumed to be associates of Laclos); in Union, courage, surveillance, et la République est sauvée O G accuses Laclos and Philippe Égalité of betraying revolution ; latter arrested 3 April. 29 March law passed making it treasonable and punishable by death to support any government other than republic, one and indivisible. O G publishes two volume Œuvres politiques originally dedicated to Philippe Égalité but now to Parisian journalists. 6 April Committee of Public Safety created. Girondins and Montagnards more divided than ever. In May O G’s son wounded in battle, she fears his death; visits daughter-in-law and grandson in Touraine and arranges to buy local cottage as a retreat from the tumult in Paris. O G starts work on pamphlet Le Combat à mort des trois gouvernements in which she suggests a democratic choice of government; very dangerous territory. May and June see insurrections throughout France. 2 June Convention votes to arrest 29 Girondin deputies; Roland flees, his wife is arrested. Appalled by the turn of events O G returns to Paris publishing a pamphlet Testament politique d’Olympe de Gouges defending the Girondins. Returning to Tours to purchase cottage 1 July O G puts finishing touches to pamphlet Le Combat. 13 July Charlotte Corday assassinates Marat. Returning to Paris O G publishes Le Combat as poster Les Trois Urnes, ou le Salut de la Patrie par un voyageur aérien. 17 July Corday guillotined. 20 July O G arrested; 22 July she voluntarily accompanies gendarmes to take papers from her home; in August she manages to smuggle placard out of prison Olympe de Gouges au Tribunale révolutionnaire detailing the horrors of her incarceration. 27 July Robespierre elected to Committee of Public Safety; a month later he is elected president of the Convention. In September O G smuggles out further placard Une Patriote persécutée à la Convention nationale in which she courageously throws down the gauntlet to her enemies. 16 October Marie-Antoinette guillotined. Despite being transferred to a form of open prison O G does not seek to escape; she claims to be pregnant, this is not accepted. 28 October O G transferred to Conciergerie, ante-chamber of the guillotine for so many. 31 October Girondins guillotined. 2 November O G tried and condemned to death. 3 November O G guillotined. 8 November Mme Roland guillotined. 14 November O G’s son Pierre Aubry formally disowns his mother.
  • 1794 4 February slavery abolished (reinstated by Napoleon in May 1802).
  • 1795 April Pierre Aubry asks the Convention to rehabilitate his mother, giving them the two volumes of her Œuvres politiques; took the name Aubry de Gouges. Attempted, but failed, to inherit his mother’s property; it had been claimed by the state at her death.
  • 1796 Pierre Aubry de Gouges marries his companion following birth of second child.
  • 1801 Sent by Bonaparte to command troops in Guyana, a form of exile possibly motivated by the emperor’s distaste for a son who seemingly disowned his mother.
  • 1802 Pierre Aubry de Gouges in Cayenne where ironically the slavery his mother fought against had been re-established.
  • 1803 7 February Pierre Aubry de Gouges dies from fever.
  • 1848 Slavery abolished in totality of French territory.
  • 1944 April French women given the vote for first time.
  • 1965 Married women entitled to rights over their intellectual property which had previously belonged to their husbands; O G, Colette, Flora Tristan, George Sand and numerous other women writers had struggled to maintain their author’s rights.
  • 1981 9 October death penalty abolished in France.