How did the French Revolution affect the roles of women in society?
Effect of the French Revolution on the Role of Women in a Society
The French Revolution affected the roles of women in society in several ways. The revolution marked a time of change for the majority of people in France. During the revolution, most women were forced to participate in various activities that were geared at compelling the government of France to provide for its citizens. Some of the activities in which women participated include joining other protesting citizens over high food prices, forming and joining of human rights clubs and societies. Before this period, women entirely depended on their men counterparts since they were considered passive citizens, and they had no say in public or private affairs. Harsh economic conditions during these periods due to bad harvests and high taxes imposed by the government subjected revolutionary women to more suffering. The women who joined the French Revolution resolved to join hands with fellow citizens in fighting for rights such as democratic rights but all these attempts made by women were hindered by revolutionary leaders (Hunt, Martin, and Rosenwein).
Providing Family Basic Needs
The harsh economic conditions were the major reason that pushed the French women to come out and speak about their poor living conditions. For instance, poor harvest led to food shortages that in turn led to high costs of living. Women struggle to provide and protect their children by engaging in bread riots. As the prices of grains rose, women were forced to gather in groups and force their way into the local bakery and demand fair prices for bread. Women would constantly threaten to riot if they would not be given fair prices. Providing for the family was considered the responsibility of women, and they had to do anything to fend for their children. All over the country, bread riots eventually turned into a more organized small revolution fighting for the rights of a common people including men who eventually became part of the revolution (Hunt, Martin, and Rosenwein).
Petitioning of the Government
During the period, most women of the third estate were more concerned with seeking opportunities to improve their living standards and self-worth in society. To realize this, women were involved in petitioning the king directly. Some of the demands women wanted from the king were to be given job opportunities so as to become independent and better education opportunities. The women were satisfied with their demands to the king, and they were not ready to get involved in the political affair of their country. The king, after serious consideration of their demands failed to grant them their request that led to a misunderstanding between the king and women of the third estate (Hunt, Martin, and Rosenwein).
Participation in Creating the New Constitution
During the period, most women ended up participating in political matters of the country and joined hands with other political figures in pushing for a new constitution. Some women were involved in writing petitions, creating and organizing political clubs, and publishing materials. Women continued pushing for their rights as they wanted to be given equal rights to hold positions in public offices and the right to own property as their male counterparts. They were ready to be treated more equally and therefore subjected to the same punishments and payment of taxes. The leaders of the French revolution were reluctant, and they continue denying women the right to social and political equality to the French women (Hunt, Martin, and Rosenwein).
French collaborated with the British in the American War of Independence against Britain. King Louis XLI levied high taxes that brought suffering and hunger to the women and their families. The only means to change their living standards was through a revolution. The French revolution made women struggle to meet family demands. It became the responsibility of women in the French revolution to reduce the family strain in getting food. The struggle and hard work to cater to the family resulted in suffering and tribulation, but the revolution made them aggressive in improving their standards of living. The French revolution initiated the role of women in society as family breadwinners. The fight for equal rights and the need for uplifting their living standards gave rise to the need for women’s economic independence in society (Hunt, Martin, and Rosenwein).
It was through the French revolution that women agitated for equal rights and justice. Women were not involved in the legislation and government issues. Every struggle for their rights met a strong opposition from men and political leaders in the French government. Any effort for equal rights met opposition from the political leaders of France. The government was a male dominated administration. The legislature favored men, and all public decisions were left to them. Family common property were owned and controlled by men. The role of women then was to perform household chores such as cleaning, attending to children and reinforcing family qualities. Their participation in the revolution made them realize that their rights and education should be relative to those of men. The revolution was an eye opener, and they fought for involvement in society and governmental decisions. The revolution educated them that apart from doing family chores, they have the right to make decisions, own property, and to participate in governmental legislature process (Hunt, Martin and Rosenwein).
Active Participation in Political Issues
The revolution gave rise to women participation in political issues. After the revolution, they had a right to form political parties and contest in political elections.When the Jacobins came to power in 1792, women got the chance to participate in affairs relating to the government. The role of women in the society increased beyond merely family activities to broad and inclusive participation in politics. Although men who participated in the FrenchRevolution had a stereotypic thought that women were the weaker sex, the outcome of the revolution did not limit the women participation in political life. Women inclusion in government issues and participation in politics safeguarded the family integrity and virtues of the French People (Hunt, Martin and Rosenwein).
In conclusion, women of the French Revolution lacked basic education and voice in the male-dominated French government. Their social and political issues were not addressed appropriately. It was, therefore, difficult to make and adjust decisions regarding their lives. Independence in social and economic aspects was difficult to achieve even after the French revolution, but their fight for equal rights and education rekindled their hopes. The French revolution expanded their roles in the society from the mere obligation to domestic virtues to participation in government issues. Access to education after revolution their political and social knowledge. Scholars shifted their attention from offering advice to women about issues concerning cooking, cleaning, and maintaining household activities were to educating them on matters regarding equal rights. Although the overall roles of women did not change meaningfully in the course of the French Revolution, it impacted and encouraged them to fight for equal rights and justice.
Hunt, Lynn, et al. The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures. Fourth edition. Vol. Volume II. Macmillan Higher Education, 2009. Print.