This pamphlet, printed in Paris in November 1792, was written by frustrated female French citizens in order to define their rights in the eyes of the law after being denied a voice in the government for so long. Though the exact identity of the author(s) of this document is unknown, it was printed by L’Imprimerie des muets, or the Printer of the Mutes, which was likely an organization created to give voice to those who had none during the turbulent years of the French Revolution. The epistle is signed by the pseudonym Philaletes, a Greek name meaning “lover of truth”. The majority of the declaration articulates women’s demands for freedom of speech and access to the rights that their male counterparts have long been free to exercise. However, the final page sheds light on what supportive men felt towards the issue of women’s rights at the time and acknowledges the strength and value of women. The title and general organization of the document into seventeen articles makes a direct reference to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen from 1789, which listed the rights of men in the new French Republic.
Translated by Maggie O’Brien & Lily Zenger
Women are born, live, and die with the right to speak. They are equal in their ambition in this regard. Distinctions, among them, can only be founded on their more or less great command of speech.
1. Original footnote reads, “The history of the Revolution teaches us that some women gathered in a mob around the building where elections were to be be held and quarrelled with all those who approached; the fire department was called, and they hosed them down; then the women disappeared.”
November 1792, the first year of the Republic
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