National Organization for Women

Gender equality has often been alluded to in our course thus far (Vindication of the Rights of Women), and continues to be a discussion topic and issue today, especially in the workplace. While women’s rights were slowly improving throughout the 1900s (finally allowed to vote in 1944), there was still much work to be done. In 1966, a stance was taken with the formation of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination of sex was supposed to be outlawed. However, many of the cases brought force were not enforced or taken seriously enough. An excerpt from NOW’s Statement of Purpose reads as such: “We expect to give active support to the common cause of equal rights for all those who suffer discrimination and deprivation, and we call upon other organizations committed to such goals to support our efforts toward equality for women.” NOW focused on bringing together other groups who have faced discrimination such as African Americans, and directly spoke out for the rights of black women. There had been no real movement up until this point for the equality of women, and the time was NOW.


A Supportive and Integrated Revolution

The French Revolution was in itself, a catalyst for political and cultural change. The classes; clergy, nobles, and third estate were amongst a ruler that had no interest in creating change that benefited all. Thus, the third estate and other groups banded together to influence the changes in their society. These changes were a necessity to bring about the new political and cultural views that were seen in this new society, from a new calendar system to the way individuals wore their clothing. These individuals wanted no reminder of what oppression was before them, they only wanted to alter their culture for future generations to come.

Robespierre argued in “The Cult of the Supreme Being”, that this revolution attempted “to totally transform human society in every way”. His piece instilled in the people, more of the will to fight by believing in a higher power, no matter what religion an individual followed. The same argument goes “La Marseillaise”, as the writing in this French national anthem allows an individual to hone in on their own experiences and express a sense of pride for what they may be fighting for. In this case the third estate saw to it to take a stand on what they thought was right. Moreover, inverting the power system was a great shift in control for the third estate, since they were the minority and became the majority. The core concept of equality became a more integral part of the French society. This French revolt was a classic example of a strong catalyst for a necessary change.

Questions to Consider:

1.) What would it take for the minority to overthrow or influence the majority?( i.e What other lingering factors must a one group do to influence the other?)

2.) What examples of revolt, depicted in the French Revolution do we see in a more modern society?

Independence and the Third Estate

After years of British tyranny over the colonies, a call for revolution was drafted to grant freedom and equality to all. A government was established that gave power to the people. As a result of restrictive British control, the writers of the declaration declared, “that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive, it is the Right of the people to alter or to abolish it” (Blaisdell 64). Jefferson and his counterparts believed that all men were equal and attacked British tyranny over the colonies, listing a number of facts of their tyranny to be read by the rest of the world. As representative of the United States, they conclude “these United Colonies… are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown… and that all political connection between them… is ought to be totally dissolved… as Free and Independent States… they have full power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce” (Blaisdell 66). Breaking away from British control would allow an entire new nation to take form built on its own beliefs and policies, different from those seen previously in Europe (absolute monarchs).


According to Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes, in order for a nation to survive “it needs private and public services” (Blaisdell 71). These activities are needed to support a society, without them a nation would crumble. In his work, What is the Third Estate?, Sieyes claims that the Third Estate is the group that performs “nineteen-twentieths” (Blaisdell 72) of these activities. Without this group, society would not exist. The very importance of the Third Estate constitutes its power it should have within a given society. They should have more rights than others, including nobility, because they are the glue that keeps society together.


In Mary Wollstonecraft’s The Vindication of the Rights of Women, she postulates that women are seen as being “under men” as they have been viewed as less important since the dawn of time. While I understand what she is saying and completely agree that women need to have more rights (especially in this day and age), women in general have let this “discrimination” happen to them over the course of history. What we think of as the classic housewife was what a woman strived to be for the majority of human history – a baby factory that would take care of the kids, clean the house and prepare the meals. It was only until the Age of Enlightenment where women became outspoken about their position in the social sector, and it wasn’t until much later (early 1900’s) where they began to make some serious progress in terms of being able to vote and garnering basic rights. This is obviously a topic that needs time to transform into a stronger entity before it can really push for more equality, but we are already starting to see some of the effects. There are more women CEO’s and managers of American business, and women salaries are as high as they have ever been. This is a process that will continue to evolve throughout time, but we can say without a doubt that the women of the world are finally getting recognized as “true members” of society (which is funny, because they outnumber the men).

Revolutionaries in France and America

De Gouge was a playwright and a political activist in 18th century France. In her “Declaration of the Rights of Women,” she addresses the unscrupulous oppression under which women have endured and the prejudice that have surrounding prejudice implemented by their male counterparts. De Gouge renounces the male-written law not only in the private sphere but also in the public sphere by stating that “our French legislators have long ensnared by political practices now out of date.” She requests women to question what they have gained from the revolution and asks them to acknowledge all that they have been denied. De Gouge suggests several ways in which women (who are willing to do so) can free themselves from the chains society has imposed on them. She states that women can be “prepared through national education, the restoration of morals, and conjugal conventions.” Her idea of an effective social contract between men and women would include communal wealth and the passing down of family wealth to the respective kin. De Gouge calls for a “fraternal union” for her belief that it will consequently “produce at the end a perfect harmony.” Most importantly, de Gouge offers the social contract as a way to elevate the latent souls of women and to have them conjoined with those of man. She acknowledges that upon writing this document, she will encounter vehement opposition, mostly by “hypocrites, prudes, and the clergy.” De Gouge contract is intricate and comprehensive but her message is simple: once prejudice is exterminated, morals are sanctified, and nature returns to its original state, man and woman can enjoy equal privileges and freedom.


Similarly to the way to de Gouge condemns the ways in which man has utilized societal norms to sustain the oppression of women, the Declaration of Independence denounces the tyrannical politics of Great Britain. This document outlines specific ways in which the people have been denied their natural rights and freedom, along with the ways in which the British governors have failed to serve for the public good. The document states “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” and whenever these natural rights are denied, it is the “right of the people to alter or abolish it” and to implement a new form of government, and one that offers the most democratic way of life to ensure that all citizens are provided with security and equality.


While both documents were derived from different authors and places, each text was created to inform and inspire those who were denied their freedom to form unity and regain their natural rights.