Role of women in the French Revolution

The French Revolution occurred between 1789 and 1790. During this period of the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte, the French people destroyed and restructured the political landscape of their country. They also uprooted absolute monarchy and such other institutions which had lasted for centuries (Taylor 4). This included the destruction of the feudal system. From early 1750, the art of france was already the subject of discussion among philosophers. This is because the style of art at that time did not seem to have any objective relevant to the French people. The artistic style at that time was only seen, by the philosophers, as a means of pimp to the lavish lifestyles of a nation whose morals were gradually being questioned. The most prevalent style at that time was the Rococo style. This style, according to the philosophers, was meant to reflect the predilections of upper classes. This essentially meant that the lower class were greatly ignored. In the late 18th century the suppression of the poor was a sentiment which was common throughout France and essentially sparked the revolution.

Having been influenced by the notions of popular independence and incontrovertible rights, the French Revolution achieved most of its goals. It played an acute role in modeling contemporary nations. This is because it showed the whole world the supremacy innate in the will of the people. The French Revolution was sparked mainly by the involvement of France in the American Revolution during the 18th century and also due to the lavish spending of King Louis XVI (1754-1793). This saw France plunge into a financial crisis, putting it on the edge of bankruptcy. This was further fueled by twenty years of meager cereal yields, famine, livestock diseases and the rapid increase in the cost of basic commodities (Taylor 15). All the scenarios sparked discontent among farmers and the metropolitan poor. Many of these people conveyed their distraction and bitterness towards a government that enforced hefty excises and yet was not able to offer respite. This they did by demonstrating, prowling and through strikes. In late 1786 a financial restructuring compendium was proposed by the king. This package was to include a common land levy.

As this continued, animosity and fear continued to consume the capital. Rumors of a coup by the military were in the air. On the 14th of June that year, a group of demonstrators stormed the Bastille stronghold in an effort to acquire gunpowder and other weapons. The events of this day which is today a national holiday in France marked the start of the French Revolution. The upsurge of radical zeal and prevalent panic rapidly swept the rural areas (Taylor 53). The peasant farmers set tax collectors homes on fire and looted them expressing their anger against decades of mistreatment. This forced the national assembly to adopt “Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen” of August 4. In this document, the assembly declared its vow to substitute the antique system with a regime based on equity, liberty of expression, common rule, and representative rule.

However, there were some French exiles hibernating in Austria and Prussia, where they were planning anti-revolutionary attacks. Their efforts were thwarted in April 1792 when the new assembly attacked them. This furthered the revolution agenda across Europe. Back at home, things worsened in August 1792 when a Jacobin-led extremist group invaded the imperial home in Paris arresting the king (Frey & Marsha 17). Due to mounting pressure monarchy was abolished and the French republic established. This saw King Louis XVI convicted to death. His wife suffered the same few months later. In June 1793, the Jacobins took control of the National Convention. They put forth several drastic measures. This included establishing a new calendar and the eradicating Christianity. They also released “la Terreur”. This was a period of 10 months during which alleged opponents of the revolt were beheaded under Robespierre’s orders.

Following the killing of Robespierre in July 1794 a modest stage of the revolution occurred. This was termed the Thermidorian Reaction. During this time the peopled revolted against the excesses of the Reign of Terror. In august 1795, the Girondins (survivors of the Reign of Terror) sanctioned a fresh constitution which fashioned the initial two-tier assembly in France. With this, the administrative powers were bestowed upon a Directory consisting of five members. The five-member team was to be parliamentary appointees. The army, under the able leadership of Bonaparte, thwarted the attempts by Jacobins and Royalists to thwart these achievements (Frey & Marsha 49).

Fiscal crunches, widespread dissatisfaction, ineptitude and political fraud greatly riddled the four years of the Directory’s reign. In the late 1790s, the five directors ceded their authority to the military. With this, Bonaparte led a coup d’état. He abolished the Directory and appointed himself as the “first consul” of France. This historic occurrence led to the termination of the French Revolution. France then entered the Napoleonic era (Frey & Marsha 61).

During the revolution, the Baroque and Rococo styles were able to unite casting away there differences. There was an increase in the feeling of liberty and eccentricity in the French community. This sense of freedom was evident in the art as well, especially the art of painting. During this time, the hierarchy which was characteristic of the French art schools was eradicated. There was also a transition from the aristocratic Rococo style towards Neoclassicism, which put more emphasis in the features of Romanticism. Romanticism feted individuality and liberty.

The role of women in the French Revolution cannot be underestimated. Though controversially viewed, they partook in almost every single phase of the Revolution. For a long time, the status and role of women in the society, family and in politics had been a theme of diatribes. Although viewed by chauvinistic men as different from men both biologically and socially, women rose above all the odds to play a critical role in the revolution. Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his book Emile, advocated the need to for women to be raise and educate their children. This was protested by many women. In 1789 when King Louis held a meeting with the clergy and the nobility, he left out the women. Failure to give women a chance to air or rather tabulate their grievances sparked anger amongst the women. Most women took the issue into their hands and decided to petition the king.

Eventually, women started holding riots to put forth their grievances. They also held demos to achieve this mileage. They started attending political meetings and clubs to push for their rights. In July 1790, Marie-Jean Caritat printed an article in the newspaper which supported total political rights for women. This triggered responsiveness. In his article, Caritat reasoned that the women of France ought to enjoy the same political privileges as men. Soon afterward, a group of supporters of rights of women acquired form in the spheres round, Condorcet. This team met and propelled a movement for the rights of women. A leading member of this team was Etta Palm d’Aelders, a Dutch woman. She had earlier condemned the biases against women.

In 1793, the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women was set up by a small group of outspoken women campaigners. This was used to gain education of political matters and also offer a platform for women to express themselves (Godineau & Katherine 119). The men who attempted to oppose such moves were met with maximum force. Women rejection and suppression thus reduced and was not as automatic as it used to be. As the political state became further stormy and perilous towards the end of 1793, the radical administration developed suspicion on the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women. This was due to the society’s alignment towards the opponents of the then regime. These critics grumbled mainly because of food shortage.

With these achievements, seasoned with ups and downs, women eventually became ciphers of radical values such as freedom, parity, society, logic, the Republic, and renewal. Though women had not got the liberty to ballot or holding public office, they succeeded in making their presence well-known during the Revolution (Godineau & Katherine 130).

In conclusion, the French Revolution had far-reaching impacts across France and Europe. It altered the progression of human account. It also brought to a close feudalism. The French Revolution also laid a pathway for yet to come developments in the largely demarcated liberty of individuals.

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