Teaching Students About De Gouge


De Gouge, born Olympe de Gouges in 1748, was a prominent French playwright and political activist whose works played a significant role in shaping the French Revolution. While her life and works may not be as well-known as those of her contemporaries, De Gouge’s contributions to literature and social change are certainly worth exploring in the classroom. To spark students’ interest and foster a deeper understanding of French literature, teachers can use a variety of engaging methods to teach about De Gouge and her writings.

Highlighting Historical Context

To help students truly grasp the importance of De Gouge’s work, teachers should begin by providing some historical context. Understanding the tumultuous time in which she lived will help students better appreciate the significance of her contributions. Students should learn about key events leading up to and during the French Revolution, such as the financial crisis, Enlightenment ideas, and political unrest. By doing so, they will have a solid foundation on which to build their understanding of De Gouge’s work.

Introducing Major Works

De Gouge authored numerous works throughout her career, many of which addressed various social issues and called for reform. Some key pieces include:

  1. “The Slave’s Woman,” a play addressing the immorality of slavery.
  2. “Reflections on Black People,” an essay supporting the abolition movement.
  3. “Declaration of Women’s Rights,” an influential document advocating for gender equality.

Teachers can select one or more of these works to analyze in-depth with their students. They can encourage discussions about the themes presented within each work, as well as ask students to consider how De Gouge’s ideas contribute to promoting social change during her time.

Encouraging Critical Thinking

To promote critical thinking skills and foster appreciation for De Gouge’s work, teachers can assign various activities such as:

1. Debates: Split students into groups and have them debate various issues raised by De Gouge’s writings. This will help students see multiple perspectives and grapple with complex societal issues.

2. Creative Writing: Ask students to write their own play or essay inspired by one of De Gouge’s works, incorporating themes and ideas relevant to today’s society.

3. Analyzing Primary Sources: Provide students with primary source documents (letters, diaries, newspapers) from the time period to analyze in conjunction with De Gouge’s works.


Olympe de Gouge, as an influential figure in French literature, deserves a prominent place within the curriculum. By teaching students about her life, historical context, major works, and encouraging critical thinking activities, educators can inspire a new generation to appreciate and engage with De Gouge’s work. Ultimately, this will give students a broader perspective on the French Revolution and the power of literature in promoting social change.

Choose your Reaction!