Gender and revolution in Europe, 19th-20th centuries

Eugène Delacroix, La Liberté guidant le peuple [Liberty Leading the People] (oil on canvas, 1830). Paris, Louvre Museum.
Demonstration by workers from the Poutilov factory, February 23, 1917, in Petrograd.© Commons Wikimedia.

The concept of revolution refers to periods of socio-political transformation brought about (or simply initiated) by militant action and centred on the paradigm of equality and liberty. All revolutions since the French Revolution in 1789 have been events in which gender relations have been negotiated and sometimes redefined. They left a deep imprint on nineteenth-century European history and marked the birth of bourgeois modernity as well as its conceptions of the gender order. The gender order that emerged in the late eighteenth century defined male and female roles by linking them to specific spaces of action: women were excluded from institutionalized politics, the sciences, and the army, while a family law inscribed within civil codes made them subordinate to men. The revolutions of the nineteenth century challenged these inequalities. While revolutionary militancy reinforced the male gender, uncountable legal discriminations that had persisted for women were abolished after revolutions of the twentieth century.