The Condition of Women in France, 1945 to the Present: A Documentary Anthology

The Condition of Women in France, 1945 to the Present: A Documentary Anthology

The Condition of Women in France, 1945 to the Present: A Documentary Anthology

The Condition of Women in France, 1945 to the Present: A Documentary Anthology

Synopsis

Claire Laubier brings together documentary and statistical material; extracts from newspapers and journals, literary texts, advertisements, manifestos, and personal testimonies. Each extract relates to the different experiences of women in France at work, in politics, at home and in the family. Together they offer a direct and thought-provoking chronological and thematic account of women's lives in post-war France.

Excerpt

It is obviously impossible to give a complete picture of the condition of women in France over four decades. One can only attempt to offer insights into certain areas, focusing on the periods of greatest change or on the themes that seem most representative. This book treats the subject both chronologically and thematically. The first four chapters give a historical perspective of the years up to 1968, dealing with the post-war period, the 1950s, and the 1960s. The year 1945 seems an obvious point at which to begin, not only because this was a major turning-point in French history, but also because it marked the beginning of French women's emancipation in terms of obtaining the vote. The second chapter-Le Deuxième Sexe-fits in historically, both because it was a product of post-war existentialism and because critical reaction to it was typical of its time. It also acts as a link with chapter five, which deals with the 'new' French women's movement that began in 1968, offering areas of comparison between de Beauvoir's stance and the 'new' feminist ideology. Chapter five is the longest, due to the complexity of influences and events in the 1970s; it is also the key period as regards the development of women's condition in France, as is reflected by the abundance of new legislation pertaining to women introduced at this time. Chapter five thus acts as a kind of pivot to the whole book.

The next four chapters are arranged thematically. Chapter six deals with language, a predominant theme in French discourse relating to women, and chapter seven with work, politics, and power-a vast area, to which more pages are devoted for this reason. As in chapter eight on home life, a substantial proportion of the texts are interviews with women about general or personal aspects of their work and role in the home. Chapter nine, the final chapter, deals with modern French women's writing, concentrating on literature written in the 1980s, and echoing areas touched on in chapters five and six. It highlights many themes relevant to women's condition in France, but adds, I think, a different slant.

On a linguistic level, the book is designed to offer as wide a variety of styles and registers as possible: newspaper articles, literary texts and poems, interviews, dictionary extracts, statistics, and other documentary material. It thus allows varied types of language practice, e.g., comparison of texts, summary of statistical information, literary analysis, vocabulary study, etc. Texts may either be used in isolation for intensive linguistic study or in combination with other texts for comparison and more general discussion work.

Regarding the content of the texts, these have been carefully chosen so as to give as balanced as possible a view of women's condition, covering a wide spectrum of political opinion and a broad area of issues, from political and socio-economic questions, the role of the sexes in public life, the home and the family, to birth control, cinema, and fashion.

The introduction to each chapter is intended as a historical or factual background to the texts. The organization of texts follows the same progression of ideas as the introduction. It thus acts as a guide, as well as offering necessary additional information.

Although individual chapters may be studied in isolation, especially chapters six to nine, which cover specific themes, it is hoped that the book will be read and used in its entirety, as the historical perspective offered in the first four chapters should help in the overall understanding of developments in the condition of women in France up to and including the present day.

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