Chaumette, Speech at City Hall Denouncing Women’s Political Activism (17 November 1793)

When a group of women appeared at City Hall wearing red liberty caps, Pierre–Gaspard Chaumette denounced them and all political activism by women. He held out the examples of Madame Roland and Olympe de Gouges as warnings.


I demand a special mention in the proceedings for the murmuring that has just broken out; it is a homage to good morals. It is shocking, it is contrary to all the laws of nature for a woman to want to make herself a man. The Council should remember that some time ago these denatured women, these viragos [noisy, domineering women; amazons], wandered the markets with the red cap in order to soil this sign of liberty and wanted to force all the women to give up the modest coiffure that is suited to them. . . . Since when is it permitted to renounce one's sex? Since when is it decent to see women abandon the pious cares of their household, the cradle of their children, to come into public places, to the galleries to hear speeches, to the bar of the senate? . . .

Remember that haughty wife of a foolish and treacherous spouse, the Roland woman [Marie Jeanne Roland, wife of a minister in 1792], who thought herself suited to govern the republic and who raced to her death. Remember the shameless Olympe de Gouges, who was the first to set up women's clubs, who abandoned the cares of her household to involve herself in the republic, and whose head fell under the avenging blade of the laws. Is it for women to make motions? Is it for women to put themselves at the head of our armies?

Source: The materials listed below appeared originally in The French Revolution and Human Rights: A Brief Documentary History, translated, edited, and with an introduction by Lynn Hunt (Bedford/St. Martin's: Boston/New York), 1996, 138–39.