Jenna Nigro: ‘Woman is born free’

Jenna Nigro presented in the ROK speaker series on the role of women in the French Revolution, and the strides they have taken to gain equality. Photo by Ivette Pimentel.

The Roots of Knowledge speaker series introduced Jenna Nigro, professor and historian of modern France and Senegal, who presented her research on women in the French Revolution. 

This semester’s theme for the series is the importance of women in education. All presenters are women educators; check out their website to watch the full video.

Nigro started with the Roots of Knowledge R1 panel and stated that her presentation was on the movement of women when they were first getting involved in politics. 

In 1789, before the revolution, women were excluded from political participation in France. They were given no opportunities to get involved with politics. Nigro claimed that they were interested but were not given the opportunity to exercise their rights.

Nigro explained that most of the debates on women’s rights before the revolution were focused on education and the societal benefits of educating women. 

“Marie Antoinette, was an unpopular figure during her lifetime [because] she was known as someone that would engage in spending and gambling and there were some pretty nasty rumors about her and her supposed romantic relationships,” said Nigro. “[She was not an ideal queen but] she had a role in power, and when the revolution started she anonymously started making demands to the government.”

Marie Antoinette, the youngest daughter of Holy Roman emperor Francis I and Maria Theresa, was the last queen of France before the revolution, according to Britannica. She is famously known for being involved with the decline of the French monarchy. 

According to the 4 Corners of the World International Collections, when the French Revolution began in 1789 French women were largely confined to the private sphere. Domestic obligations and family dictated their behavior and interactions. Professor Nigro focused on how women fought those stereotypes and used their voice to share different narratives. 

To learn more about the speaker series, visit the Roots of Knowledge website.

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