"Woman is born free and remains equal to man in rights. Social distinctions may only be based on common utility."
―Olympe de Gouges in the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen, 1791.[src]
PW Olympe de Gouges

An illustration of Olympe de Gouges

Olympe de Gouges (7 May 1748 – 3 November 1793), born Marie Gouze, was a French playwright, actress and political activist during the French Revolution, writing in support of feminism and abolitionism.


Although women were present at many key events of the revolution, they did not have the same political power as men. The otherwise lofty-principled Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen did not extend its promsied equality to women, who were only granted suffrage 150 years later. In response to this, de Gouges wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen in 1791, stating that woman were born free and were equal to men in rights. Despite the strong message of the Declaration, it was supposedly written as a "parody".[1]

De Gouges was guillotined in 1793 during the Reign of Terror for criticizing the revolutionary regime and siding with the Girondists. Following her execution, de Gouges' head was given to Marie Tussaud, who was charged with creating a death mask of the former.[2]

However, LeNôtre, a captain guarding the Sainte-Chapelle had been in love with de Gouges from afar. Wanting her head, he stole it from Tussaud. LeNôtre then locked it inside a chest and hid it at the Conciergerie. He also hid the stolen head of Jacques Pierre Brissot at the prison on the behalf of Lemaitre, a politician proud of his role in overthrowing the Girondists.[2]

The Assassin Arno Dorian later stole LeNôtre's key to the chests holding the heads. Infiltrating the Conciergerie, Arno retrieved the heads and returned them to Tussaud.[2]