The Pantheon, a classically inspired monument in the latin quarter of Paris, was first built as a church, but because it was completed during the French Revolution, became instead a monument to the ‘great men of France’, where their remains, ashes, or sometimes cenotaphs could be kept and visited.
Although Gouges has been put forward as a candidate for inclusion in the Pantheon, she has not, so far, been successful.
There are women in the Pantheon. The first to be buried there was Louise Michelet (1905) who was transferred to the Pantheon because her husband refused to be buried without her. Ninety years later, a second woman was transferred to the Pantheon, this time on her own merit: Marie Sklowdoska Curie. Twenty years after that, two women who had distinguished themselves during the resistance came to join the first two: Germaine Tillion and Genevieve de Gaulle-Anthonioz (niece of the General). Three years later in 2018, Simone Veil the health minister responsible for the legalization of abortion was transferred there, a year after her death. Last year, the remains of Josephine Baker, whose participation in the French resistance was recently recognized, joined the others, making it a total of six women for eighty-five men.
Were Olympe to be brought to the Pantheon, she would be joining old friends, colleagues and enemies: Condorcet, Gregoire, Mirabeau, Marat, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. She would enter only as a commemorative plate, as her remains were first disposed of in a common grave, then removed to the Paris Catacombs, they would be tricky to identify.
If you would like to see Olympe de Gouges honored as a ‘great man of France’ (so that perhaps, eventually, we can begin to think of ‘great people’ rather than great men), please sign the petition started by Sylvia Duverger and presented in Le Monde on 7 January 2023 (behind a paywall).
In order to sign, please send an email firstname.lastname@example.org with the heading ‘panthéonisation d’Olympe de Gouges’, stating your name and title in the body.