The Rise of Professional Women in France: Gender and Public Administration since 1830

The Rise of Professional Women in France: Gender and Public Administration since 1830

The Rise of Professional Women in France: Gender and Public Administration since 1830

The Rise of Professional Women in France: Gender and Public Administration since 1830

Synopsis

This history of professional women in positions of administrative responsibility illuminates women's changing relationship to the public sphere in France since the Revolution of 1789. Linda L. Clark traces several generations of French women in public administration, examining public policy, politics and attitudes, and women's work and education. Women's own perceptions illustrate the changing gender roles and relationship to the state. This study gives unique insights into French history and the history of women, and will interest scholars of European history and specialists in women's studies.

Excerpt

Due to her womanly nature, she [the inspectress] can, without acting contrary to delicacy, without offending the modesty of women teachers and children, deal with the most intimate questions of education. She can do it and she should … because the inspector cannot…

Pauline Kergomard, “Les Femmes dans l'enseignement primaire” (1889)

The gender-specific tasks assigned to the pioneering inspectresses remained predominant in their successors' duties during the Third Republic, but, as we shall see, the retention of the first corps of inspectresses and introduction of new inspectresses also provoked controversies between the 1870s and 1914. Created after the twin traumas of defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 and the subsequent upheaval of the Paris Commune, the Third Republic began with leaders as much preoccupied as predecessors by threats to the social order. Conservative, but not politically identical, tendencies characterized the Republic's first two presidents: Thiers, the former Orleanist who led the newly elected National Assembly from February 1871 to May 1873, and his monarchist successor, Marshal Patrice de MacMahon. After the Assembly finally completed new constitutional laws in 1875, the postwar monarchist majority collapsed, for republicans won control of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower legislative house, in 1876, and the October 1877 elections confirmed their majority in the wake of the Seize Mai (16 May) crisis, whereby MacMahon tried, and failed, to reassert monarchist control. Presidential power then declined and that of the legislature and prime minister {premier) increased; and once republicans also held a majority in the indirectly elected Senate, MacMahon resigned in early 1879, before his seven-year term expired.

The republicans, royalists, and Bonapartists vying for control of the new democratic republic shared the conviction, familiar since the 1789 Revolution, that women, as wives and mothers, influenced the formation of political and social, as well as moral, values. Indeed, violence during the Commune of 1871 heightened concern about suitable . . .

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