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Challenging authority : : how ordinary people change America
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Payment methods. Other offers may also be available. Interest will be charged to your account from the purchase date if the balance is not paid in full within 6 months. The Estates-General had not met since , and its convocation heightened everyone's expectations for reform. The King invited the three estates—the clergy, the nobility, and the Third Estate made up of everyone who was not a noble or a cleric —to elect deputies through an elaborate, multilayered electoral process and to draw up lists of their grievances.
At every stage of the electoral process, participants mainly men but with a few females here and there at the parish level meetings devoted considerable time and political negotiation to the composition of these lists of grievances. Since the King had not invited women to meet as women to draft their grievances or name delegates, a few took matters into their own hands and sent him petitions outlining their concerns. The modesty of most of these complaints and demands demonstrates the depth of the prejudice against women's separate political activity.
Women could ask for better education and protection of their property rights, but even the most politically vociferous among them did not yet demand full civil and political rights.
Conflicting perceptions on participation between citizens and members of local government
After the fall of the Bastille on 14 July , politics became the order of the day. The attack on the Bastille showed how popular political intervention could change the course of events. When the people of Paris rose up, armed themselves, and assaulted the royal fortress-prison in the center of Paris, they scuttled any royal or aristocratic plans to stop the Revolution in its tracks by arresting the deputies or closing the new National Assembly.
In October the Revolution seemed to hang in the balance once again. In the midst of a continuing shortage of bread, rumors circulated that the royal guards at Versailles, the palace where the King and his family resided, had trampled on the revolutionary colors red, white, and blue and plotted counterrevolution. In response, a crowd of women in Paris gathered to march to Versailles to demand an accounting from the King.
They trudged the twelve miles from Paris in the rain, arriving soaked and tired. At the end of the day and during the night, the women were joined by thousands of men who had marched from Paris to join them. The next day the crowd grew more turbulent and eventually broke into the royal apartments, killing two of the King's bodyguards. To prevent further bloodshed, the King agreed to move his family back to Paris.
Women's participation was not confined to rioting and demonstrating. Women began to attend meetings of political clubs, and both men and women soon agitated for the guarantee of women's rights. In July a leading intellectual and aristocrat, Marie-Jean Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet, published a newspaper article in support of full political rights for women. It caused a sensation. In it he argued that France's millions of women should enjoy equal political rights with men.
A small band of proponents of women's rights soon took shape in the circles around Condorcet. They met in a group called the Cercle Social social circle , which launched a campaign for women's rights in — One of their most active members in the area of women's rights was the Dutch woman Etta Palm d'Aelders who denounced the prejudices against women that denied them equal rights in marriage and in education. In their newspapers and pamphlets, the Cercle Social, whose members later became ardent republicans, argued for a liberal divorce law and reforms in inheritance laws as well.
Their associated political club set up a female section in March to work specifically on women's issues, including civil equality in the areas of divorce and property. The boldest statement for women's political rights came from the pen of Marie Gouze —93 , who wrote under the pen name Olympe de Gouges. An aspiring playwright, Gouges bitterly attacked slavery and in September published the Declaration of the Rights of Woman , modeled on the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.
Following the structure and language of the latter declaration, she showed how women had been excluded from its promises. Although her declaration did not garner widespread support, it did make her notorious.
The context of the late medieval church
Like many of the other leading female activists, she eventually suffered persecution at the hands of the government; while Etta Palm d'Aelders and most of the others only had to endure arrest, however, Gouges went to the guillotine in Public political activism came at a high price. Women never gained full political rights during the French Revolution; none of the national assemblies ever considered legislation granting political rights to women they could neither vote nor hold office.
Most deputies thought the very idea outlandish. This did not stop women from continuing to participate in unfolding events. Their participation took various forms: some demonstrated or even rioted over the price of food; some joined clubs organized by women; others took part in movements against the Revolution, ranging from individual acts of assassination to joining in the massive rebellion in the west of France against the revolutionary government.
The most dramatic individual act of resistance to the Revolution was the assassination of the deputy Jean-Paul Marat by Charlotte Corday on 13 July Corday gained entrance to Marat's dwelling and stabbed him in his bath. He often took baths for a skin condition. Most women acted in more collective, less individually striking fashion.
First and foremost, they endeavored to guarantee food for their families. Concern over the price of food led to riots in February and again in February In these disturbances, which often began at the door of shops, women usually played a prominent role, egging on their confederates to demand lower prices and to insist on confiscating goods and selling them at a "just" price. A small but vocal minority of women activists set up their own political clubs. The members hoped to gain political education for themselves and a platform for expressing their views to the political authorities.
The society did not endorse full political rights for women; it devoted its energies to advocating more stringent measures against hoarders and counterrevolutionaries and to proposing ways for women to participate in the war effort. Many early breast cancer activists drew from their experience in the women's movement to ask whether their disease including how it was recognised and treated was yet another symptom of the adverse health effects of gender inequality.
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