Madame de Beaumer (d. 1766) was the first of three women editors of the Journal des Dames, a newspaper founded in Paris in 1759 to encourage women to write seriously. Little is known about her, perhaps because she was a Calvinist and Calvinists in France had to marry and baptize their children clandestinely. In this editorial and in many others, Beaumer defended her sex against its detractors.
The success of the Journal des Dames allows us to triumph over those frivolous persons who have regarded this periodical as a petty work containing only a few bagatelles suited to help them kill time. In truth, Gentlemen, you do us much honor to think that we could not provide things that unite the useful to the agreeable. To rid you of your error, we have made our Journal historical, with a view to putting before the eyes of youth striking images that will guide them toward virtue; it is for virtue that we are formed, and only by aspiring to virtue can we be esteemed. An historical Journal des Dames! these Gentlemen reasoners reply. How ridiculous! How out of character with the nature of this work, which calls only for little pieces to amuse [ladies] during their toilette. Well! It is precisely this that I wish to avoid. A female philosopher seeks to instruct; she makes too little of the toilette, in order to contribute to its pleasures. Please, Gentlemen beaux esprits, mind your own business and let us write in a manner worthy of our sex; I love this sex, I am jealous to uphold its honor and its rights. If we have not been raised up in the sciences as you have, it is you who are the guilty ones; for have you not always abused, if I may say so, the bodily strength that nature has given you? Have you not used it to annihilate our capacities, and to enshroud the special prerogatives that this same nature has bounteously granted to women, to compensate them for the material strength that you haveadvantages that we surely would not dispute youto truly appreciate vivacity of imagination, delicate feelings, and that amiable politeness, well worth the strength that you parade about so.
We would be well avenged, Gentlemen, if today, like our ancient Amazons, we could make you spin or make braids; especially you, the Frivolous Gentlemen, so enamoured of yourselves, just like Narcissus, you pass part of your time trying on the latest styles, artistically powdering and rouging yourselves, and placing beauty spots artistically; you chatter continually while you pick at your plates; yes, you are even more effeminate than the Coquettes you are seeking to please. Inasmuch as heaven has given you strength, do not debase it; use it in the service of the King and for the fatherland; become good Compatriots; Go to the battlefields, confront and confound our enemies; throw yourselves at the feet of the French Monarch, who is worthy to be king of the entire universe, and leave to us the task of cultivating belles lettres. We will prove to you that they are in good keeping in our hands. In this certitude, we will continue the new Journal des Dames and we will do everything in our power so to render it as to leave nothing to be desired in its execution.
Source: Reproduced from WOMEN, THE FAMILY, AND FREEDOM: THE DEBATE IN DOCUMENTS, vol. 1, 17501880, edited by Susan Groag Bell and Karen M. Offen, with the permission of the publishers, Stanford University Press. ©1983 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights are reserved by the publishers, 2728.