Olympe de Gouges

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About the book

Who the Hell is Olympe de Gouges? looks at an 18th-century feminist and social reformer who has been largely forgotten by history, despite her important political legacy and execution for her beliefs. Beginning with her life story and her transformation from the daughter of a butcher and maidservant into a ‘woman of letters’ in Paris, this book goes on to explore how the social, cultural and political influences of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment made her into a formidable social activist. The book goes on to explore her key ideas through her political writings and plays, showing how this remarkable woman not only challenged the white patriarchal structure of society but also confronted the powerful influence of the Church, and championed the abolition of slavery.

Chapter 1: De Gouges' Life Story

Chapter 2: Influences on de Gouges' Thinking

Chapter 3: Declaration of the Rights of Woman
This chapter explains the lead up to de Gouges' revolutionary treatise, before going through each article of the Declaration in detail, to explore the meaning and ramification of each one.

Chapter 4: Confronting the Church: Marriage and Divorce
Fighting for women's rights also meant fighting against the Church and the power it had over women's lives and those of illegitimate children. This chapter looks at de Gouges' campaign through both her political writings and her plays.

Chapter 5: The Abolition of Slavery
This chapter documents de Gouges' abolitionist work, in particular her play Zamore and Mirza. De Gouges was the first person to put on a play at the Comédie-Française that explored and reinterpreted gender and race relations based on social equality.

About the author

Mina Moriarty is a writer based in Glasgow, Scotland, with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow. She writes poetry on themes of history and feminism, and her work has been published in literary magazines such as The Blue Nib and From Glasgow to Saturn. She is also a journalist, penning features for US and UK publications such as The Scotsman and Cosmopolitan.


"Anyone interested in women and their erasure from history should read this book. Everyone else should too, for in 100 pages Olympe de Gouges's life, writings, and the complex times she lived in are clearly set out, bringing this glorious woman and her groundbreaking ideas to life. Mina Moriarty manages to explore her subject's ideas in depth in this concise book, going beyond the well known Declaration of the Rights of Woman to highlight de Gouges' wider concerns. She fought against discrimination in all its forms, against violence, against unscrupulous and over ambitious politicians. Her voice was stifled, her life cut short to silence her inconvenient truths. 'Who the Hell is Olympe de Gouges?' offers an accessible and well-researched introduction to this important figure whose views are as relevant now as they were in 1789."

Clarissa Palmer | www.olympedegouges.eu