In her Memoirs Manon Roland questions the idea that it is wrong that women should serve as their husband's official secretaries. It is natural that husband and wife should work together she says. It is better for a woman to use her skills and intelligence drafting political pamphlets and letters than intriguing in her salon. Unfortunately, the other Jacobins did think that Roland was intriguing in her salon as well as drafting documents, and that the documents she drafted she did so in secret. Marat called her study a 'boudoir', suggesting that it was the entrance to her private quarters, where she entertained male visitors. The boudoir (a sort of sitting/dressing room, sometimes with a writing desk) was a boundary between the public and the private domain. While a 'salon' was a room used for entertaining visitors, and was as such very public, especially in the home of politically active people, the boudoir was more private and could only receive personal and close friends. But is was not as private as the bedroom, where only family and lovers could be entertained. The Marquis de Sade exploited this ambiguity of the boudoir in one of his books – La Philosophie dans le boudoir (sometimes badly translated as Philosophy in the Bedroom), the boudoir being the place where we can both debate public ideas, and perform private acts.
This is where I live blog about my new book project, an intellectual biography of three French Revolutionary women philosophers.