The Quest to Pantheonize Olympe de Gouges

Perched atop the Montagne Saint Geneviève in Paris, The Panthéon is a secular mausoleum for distinguished French citizens. Since 1791, it has been a temple of the nation and an altar to liberty. The building, which had formerly been a church was transformed to a secular celebration with patriotic statuary and murals. To be Pantheonized is to be celebrated by the nation as a hero.

On January 7, 2022, a movement to Pantheonize Olympe de Gouges launched a petition to achieve this goal. According to the organizers, “the political exclusion of women has long persisted and its effects continue to be felt….Olympe de Gouges fought this exclusion at the root, she immediately denounced its injustice and misdeeds.

Olympe de Gouges was is best remembered for championing women’s rights in her Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen (1791). As a humanist, she opposed discrimination, violence and oppression in all its forms.

According to, Olympe was “denied a place in the powerful circles of her day she found her political voice by writing an astonishing number of pamphlets and posters that she freely disseminated around Paris. Her texts chart her battles against injustice and inequality, her belief that solidarity and cooperation should predominate, her hatred of dictatorships and the corrupting influence of power, her profound pacifism, her respect for mankind, her love of nature, and, of course, her desire that women be allowed a worthwhile role in society. She pleaded against slavery and the death penalty, dreamt of a more equal society and proposed intelligent taxation plans to enable wealth to be more fairly divided. She called for a form of welfare state, trial by jury and reasonable divorce laws to protect women and children from penury. Believing in the power of drama to encourage political change she wrote several plays that ingeniously highlight contemporary concerns...For having unreservedly expressed her opinions on democracy she was considered, by those in power during the last years of the French Revolution, to be a dangerous agitator. She was guillotined in Paris on the 3rd November 1793.”

Whether Olympe de Gouges is Pantheonized or not is a matter for the citizens of France. But it certainly seems as though she ought to be a leading contender.

What was Happening in Canada At Those Times?

In Canada in 1793, the Act Against Slavery came into force, making Upper Canada (i.e. Ontario) the first British-based jurisdiction to bring an end to slavery. While the act was a compromise that did not do all that it ought to have done, it remained in force until 1833 when it was superseded by the British Parliament’s Slavery Abolition Act.

Citations, References And Other Reading

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