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Expectations of Aging as Gendered Political Discourse in 19th-century France

Stacey Renee Davis
Traduction(s) :
L’anticipation de la vieillesse, le rôle du genre et le discours politique en France au dix-neuvième siècle

Résumés

Cadre de la recherche : En 1881, la Troisième République française allouait des pensions viagères à presque 25 000 vieux citoyens, comme réparation de l’oppression politique qu’ils avaient subie trente ans auparavant sous le régime précédent. Afin de recevoir une pension, chaque ancien proscrit, sa veuve ou ses enfants, devait décrire sa peine et les répercussions multigénérationnelles de ce châtiment dans une pétition.
Objectifs : Cet article décrit le consensus de l’administration républicaine et d’une partie de ses fidèles partisans (artisans, paysans ouvriers et commerçants des petites villes) sur la définition de la vieillesse, sur ce qu’on espérait du bon déroulement des dernières années de la vie, et sur la façon dont le genre affectait à la fois l’anticipation et l’expérience de la vieillesse.
Méthodologie : L’analyse historique et qualitative des fonds aux Archives nationales de France et aux Archives départementales de l’Ain, de l’Allier, de la Drôme, de l’Hérault, du Rhône, de la Saône-et-Loire, du Vaucluse, et de l’Yonne.
Résultats : L’analyse montre que les demandeurs de pension orientaient leur pétition sur une idée précise des rôles de genre et d’âge pour renforcer leur droit à une pension basée sur leur double statut de héros républicain et vieillard indigent digne de l’aide gouvernementale.
Conclusions : L’analyse montre que les demandeurs de pension s’appuyaient sur une vision commune de la vieillesse, dont le point de départ était lié au sexe de l’individu. Cette conception de la vieillesse comprenait l’attente que les vieillards devaient travailler sans relâche, jusqu’à épuisement physique total, alors que l’idée de vieilles femmes au travail était gênante et entachait les valeurs républicaines. Les demandeurs de pension estimaient que les pensions procureraient une vieillesse digne aux proscrits autant qu’à leur veuve, en annulant l’instabilité des rôles de genre enclenchée par l’oppression politique trente ans auparavant.
Contribution : Cet article contribue à l’avancement des recherches sur la perception de la vieillesse et des rôles de genre à la fin de la vie en France à l’orée de législations sociales sur le continent européen.

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Notes de la rédaction

All citations from archived documents were originally in French and were translated by the author.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Petitioners often wrote in the third person, probably in attempt to make their letters seem more of (...)

1On October 15, 1881 in Southern France, Thérèse Marc wrote the Prefect of the Vaucluse to explain her desperate predicament: “Today, my husband, having lost his intellectual faculties, lies bedridden in agony, and his wife, herself having just left the hospice still suffering, has neither help nor resources because my son died during the army’s return from Crimea. I dare hope that you will take pity and compassion upon two poor elders who, in the decline of life and no longer able to work, are obliged to hold out their hands.”1 The next February, Joseph Monneau penned a similar letter which concluded: “...finding himself in the most pitiful advanced age, which no longer allows him to work, and having no resources, he asks you to include him on the list of the most impoverished...” (Archives départementales [hereafter AD] Vaucluse, 1 M 805).

  • 2 The full title was La loi de réparation nationale du 30 juillet 1881 en faveur des victimes du 2 dé (...)
  • 3 Essentially none of the former political prisoners worked in any sector of large industry – which h (...)
  • 4 Thérèse Marc's husband received 1200 francs per year in compensation for his 1851 exile; Joseph Mon (...)

2Although Marc’s and Monneau’s requests were replete with language used by elderly French men and women seeking private charity or assistance from public communal bureaux de bienfaisance in the latter half of the 19th century, their letters had a different aim. Both wrote to establish rights to life-long state pensions due to staunch erstwhile defenders of the Republic created by the 30 July 1881 Law of National Reparation.2 Under that law, more than 26,000 aging French citizens applied for reparations for the political oppression they had endured thirty years earlier after they had opposed Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte’s 2 December 1851 coup d’Etat,when these primarily small-town artisans, shop keepers and peasants had been arrested for marching on local town halls to protest the coup, or merely for being known democratic sympathizers; over the course of 1852 they had been sentenced as political prisoners, or proscrits.3 Many suffered the consequences of their punishments for years until they received individual pardons from the then Emperor Napoléon III or benefitted from a general amnesty in 1859. To receive a pension in 1881, each former proscrit, his widow or children, wrote letters to the republican government describing not only experiences in the 1850s of imprisonment, police surveillance, forced exile, or deportation to penal colonies in Algeria and French Guiana, but also the wider multi-generational social, financial and emotional impact of those punishments.4

  • 5 Roughly 9,000 pension request letters exist in the National Archives; information on all pensioners (...)

3As men and women like Monneau and Marc wrote their petitions, and as departmental commissions comprised of both functionaries and former political prisoners themselves investigated the backgrounds of those petitioners and assigned pension levels for each individual, they contrasted their lived experiences as they reached old age against an implicit counter framework of “acceptable” life trajectories disrupted by political persecution. Republican legislators, departmental pensions committees, and individual aging applicants themselves collectively developed a set of understandings about the relationship between citizenship, the duty of the state towards its elderly members, and experience of the hardships of old age. 5

  • 6 Generally, requests by widows comprised between 19 and 22% of total applications. 13-14% of request (...)

4The pensioning process had a specifically gendered aspect. Only 169 of the 26,884 individuals punished after the coup (or 0.6%) were women, and except for 14 females deported to Algeria, those 169 had suffered the lowest levels of punishment, namely imprisonment for a month or two, compared to the more than 6,000 men deported to penal colonies and thousands more exiled or forced to live for years under police watch far from their hometowns. However, in 1881 thousands of widows themselves requested pensions as heirs, or "indirect victims" of the oppression which had befallen their now-dead husbands. For example, of the 106 existing files for pensioners from the department of the Ain, 20 were for proscrit widows, while in the Saône-et-Loire, 80 of 368 files were letters written by widows.6 Proscrits and their widows both furnished details of their family life, work and living conditions in oppression and old age; thus, the pension requests open a window onto the images and realities of aging for both women and men in 1880s France.

Old-Age Pension or Recompense for Oppression?

5On the surface, the reparations were political and celebratory in nature. Although the Third Republic had been established in 1870, the regime only shook off threats from the anti-democratic right in 1877, and only in 1879 did national elections give moderate republican legislators the clear upper hand. By pensioning common people who had risen to defend the “violated constitution” of the Second Republic, Third Republican legislators in 1881 created a visible group of patriotic national heroes, as well as a founding myth for the regime, which was symbolically useful since the actual birth of the Third Republic during France’s rout in the 1870 Franco-Prussian war had been rather inglorious (Davis, 2004). The pensions were also useful in establishing the new regime's concern for its loyal citizens. Officials and pensions applicants alike stressed that reparations righted a decades-old political injustice and, as such, were the Third Republic's duty to its supporters of old. Republican newspapers and the proscrit circles which formed in bigger cities like Paris, Lyon and Marseille consistently highlighted the fundamental justice of reparations (Archives nationales, Paris [hereafter AN], F15 3972).

6From the beginning, however, the reparations had social as well as political aims, and concerns over the nexus of old age and poverty lay at the heart of the 30 July 1881 legislation. The impetus for the law came from the former proscrits themselves, who intertwined notions of political justice and social aid in their calls for reparations. Once the republican nature of the Third Republic was secured in the late 1870s, groups of proscrits in Paris and Lyon, and their supporters in the radical newspapers like Le Rappel began to petition legislators and the Interior Ministry for reparations based on notions of political justice, but also to save old-time republicans who, as a February 25, 1881 article in Le Rappel reported, “now vegetate under the weight of the most profound misery…no one has more right to aid…than these courageous and devoted men, the untiring sowers of republicanism now too old to begin a new career, reduced finally to distressing poverty” (Le Rappel, February 25, 1881).

7National administrators agreed. As legislators drafted the 1881 pensions law, the Interior Minister, moderate republican Emile Constans, sent “very confidential and urgent” missives to the prefects (or governors) of France’s 88 departments, informing them that “…the government is concerned with the situation of the citizens who suffered from persecution after the coup d’Etat. We intend to come to the help of those among them who are needy, by giving them aid... to preserve from indigence those whose personal fortune, their own labor or that of their children is not enough to assure they have life’s basic necessities” (AN F15 3971). Constans instructed prefects to draw up lists of indigent former political prisoners and “those of their widows who have no children with the means to help them,” to whom the Ministry of the Interior would distribute cash aid of 100 francs. By February of 1881, 1,137 individuals had received these one-time funds.

  • 7 As a comparison, in 1881 a retired school teacher might receive 500 francs yearly as a pension, whi (...)

8Once the Law of Reparations passed, this tension between the pensions' political and social goals deepened. On the one hand, the 1881 law clearly established the annual pensions as just reparations for past political oppression. Constans made this clear in a directive sent to prefects: “As to which persons will benefit from this law, there will be neither categories, nor distinctions. It suffices, for a demand to be accepted, that one was personally a victim of the coup d’Etat…in any fashion. In a word, wherever there was persecution, there will be reparation” (AD Allier, 1M 1320). Yet there were very real distinctions in the pension levels, which ranged from a minimum of 100 francs a year to 1200.7 Many departmental commissions quickly established a hierarchy of allocations, explicitly linked to the depth of political oppression each applicant had experienced. For example, the commissioners in the Gard adopted “general guidelines” by which they awarded 1200 francs per year to men deported to Algeria, 600 francs for those punished by police surveillance, and 100 francs per year for those who had hidden to avoid arrest after the coup. Such allocations highlighted the symbolic nature of the reparations, whereby men and their heirs who had suffered the most persecution deserved the most compensation (AN F15 3972).

  • 8 Well-off men applied for pensions alongside their impoverished comrades, but pensioning commissions (...)

9But most departmental commissioners did not simply allocate pensions according to an applicant’s 1852 sentencing. As the Gard commissioners explained, their general categories of pension levels were “modified by the diverse circumstances of each particular case” (AN F15 3966). The initial directions from the Interior Ministry specified as much: “The commission will take into account the punishments suffered, the damages caused by the [punitive] measures against each applicant, their career and resources, their age and their morality” (AD Allier, 1M 1323). The official coversheet the departmental commissions filled out for each applicant, which accompanied the justifications for the pension amount awarded, included space not just for the name, birth place and date, profession, residence, punishment and political character of each applicant, but also for his “morality,” “family charges” and, finally, his “infirmities.” In practice, this meant commissions explicitly factored an applicant's age, poverty and physical state into their pensioning decisions.8

10Individual men and their widows who requested pensions were keenly aware that to maximize their future revenues they must base their applications on their double status as ex-political prisoners or their heirs and as members of the needy and deserving poor, and most wrote letters clearly underscoring the hybrid nature of their rights. To do so, they crafted accounts not only of their initial punishments, but also of the thirty-year span of their lives that had passed since the fateful coup. Former foundry owner Alphonse Brun, writing from the Hôpital de la Charité in Marseilles, exemplified this strategy when he wrote, “Sent to Africa, where he spent two years...he returned to France having suffered all the tortures and the pains of exile.” As he told it, Brun’s entire life course had altered irrevocably: “During his deportation, his workshop had been sold and he lost all he possessed…[since] without credit, without resources he could not create a new career, he was obliged to do a day’s labor here, a day there to get a bit of bread. Finally, old age arrived, no one wanted to hire him, and he was obliged to enter Charity, where he has been for the last five years.” Brun calculated his losses as multi-generational: “All these miseries caused the death of his two children,” he concluded, “who were his only hope for the future, since he no longer has relatives, nor any other support of any kind at the age of 75 years, he is reduced to the greatest of misery and obliged, he, a worker, to eat the bread of the poor” (AN F15 4019).

A Primary Source for Experiences of Aging

11Alphonse Brun’s letter, with its tale of physical pain and humiliating, isolated old age, demonstrates why these pension requests are a goldmine for scholars of the history of aging. For, as Peter N. Stearns famously noted, “Old workers seldom speak to us directly” (Stearns, 1976). Even so, historians have struggled to hear their voices. The history of the elderly, their aging bodies, and their relationship to the state, particularly in the era before the onset of social welfare legislation in the mid-1880s, has been both a fruitful and a frustrating topic for study. Beginning in the late 1970s, historians like David Troyansky analyzed changing attitudes towards old age in 18th- and early 19th-century France, including how the concept of old age itself was defined, using mostly published philosophical, literary and medical sources. Peter Stearns analyzed the public agendas and platforms of late 19th-century labor unions and left-wing political groups to determine organized labor and socialist attitudes towards aging and the roles, needs and rights of the elderly. Since the mid-1980s historians interested in questions of gender have turned attention to the creation of a durable state social welfare system in late 19th-century France to supplant or augment earlier local and private charities for the indigent, the infirm, and poor families with children (Troyansky, 1989; Stearns, 1976; Nord, 1994; Accampo and Fuchs, 1995; Adams, 2010).

12France in 1881 was a society undergoing major socio-economic change. Thanks to the relatively late flourishing of the second industrial revolution, the population was in the midst of a massive and long-lasting shift from rural to urban areas, while at the same time, due partly to lower childhood mortality rates and partly to low birth rates, the French were gradually becoming the oldest people in the world: in 1790, 8.5% of the French were aged 60 or older; by 1851 this group made up 10.2% of the general population, and it would hit 12.2% in 1911. (Feller, 2005) Those who reached their 60thbirthday could expect, on average, to live 14 more years in 1851, but 16 more years in 1895, with women at 60 having about a year longer end-of-life expectancy than men. Finally, although civil servants including teachers and postmen, career soldiers, and some workers in big industries like mining had access to pensions after thirty or so years of work for the same employer, the proportion of French folk who were able to pass on any inheritance to their descendants fell by 1/5th over the course of the 19th century (Bourdieu and Kesztenbaum, 2007).

13Against the backdrop of these changes, historians have crafted a picture of a 19th-century French society in which elderly people in good health were only gradually considered to be a category apart from other adults; of an urban working class with no expectations of “retirement” as a normal phase of life; and of a slowly emerging Third Republican welfare state more concerned with neo-natalist policies than with protecting the older generations (Weiner, 1993; Ackerman, 1990; Pedersen, 1993). Yet most scholarship on common people’s attitudes towards the links between aging and their need to cease work and secure financial support at the end of their lives, as well as on how they experienced and understood moments of illness and debilitation, relies largely on statistical evidence, analysis of testaments and notarized property transfers, and on the ways those attitudes were reflected in the writings of “experts” like medical theorists, hospital, communal and private charity board members and politicians. This is where direct testimony of men and women like Alphonse Brun is so valuable.

14Like the 75-year old Alphonse Brun, the majority of pension requestors were elderly. Of the 26,884 individuals punished after the coup in 1851, 52 had been children younger than 16, 1253 had been adolescents between 16 and 20, and only 344 had been over 60. Most had been adult men: 8332 between the ages of 21 and 30; 9648 between 31 and 40; and 5373 between 41 and 50 at the time of arrest (AN F15 3871). Thus, thirty years later in 1881, the vast majority of individuals requesting pensions were between 51 and 81 years of age, with only a maximum total of 2226 former proscrits possibly still alive and over 81 and around 1300 potentially younger than 50. Although the exact ages of proscrit widows is harder to determine, for reasons discussed below, the vast majority of these women had also reached their 50s and beyond.

  • 9 Given their personal histories, proscrits likely were more politically attuned than most farmers, d (...)

15To mine the pension files for definitions and expectations of old age is not to argue the proscrit applicants transmitted spontaneous assumptions in an unfiltered, unreflective way, nor, indeed, to assume that any members of France's working classes would have done so naively given the opportunity to characterize their life trajectories for the state.9 To the contrary, as social historians emphasize across a variety of contexts, common people are the "authors of their lives" as they craft narratives of their own positions in response to family, communal and societal expectations, especially in their interactions with the state, but even in private correspondence with loved ones (Gerber, 2006; Davis, N.Z., 1987; Troyansky, 1995). Scholars have developed the notion of "gender as performance" to explore how women fashion their own stories in light of socio-cultural expectations in ways that both adhere to, and push against, the roles in which they are placed (Margadant, ed., 2000). Similarly, analysis of proscrit pension applications demonstrates that former political prisoners and their widows both underscored and helped shape the understanding of the nexus between old age, poverty, gender roles and the state that they shared with republican legislators, some of whom were themselves members of the proscrit ranks. In this way, in their pension requests, proscrits and their families performed republican citizenship, gender and old age.

16The ceremony which opened the reparations process itself invited proscrits to partake in a political ritual, a vote, which drew upon intertwined images of republicanism and aged wisdom. Studies of representations of old age in 19th-century literature and theatre have highlighted fundamental tensions between images of the elderly as venerable and wise, “blessed with a rich experience as the guarantors of family fortune and family traditions,” and contrasting negative stereotypes of miserable and even ridiculous poor old men “isolated, mistreated, roughed up and sometimes forced to beg” or laughable in their pretentions (Pollet, 2001: 34). The Law of National Reparations highlighted the first, positive image as it lauded proscrits as founding elders of the Republic worthy of the nation’s honor, but coupled this praise with serious financial efforts to erase the counter-image of the miserable, forgotten old man. The text of the law itself, republican newspaper articles and speeches by legislators in favor of the reparations all focused on the symbol of the worthy, aged proscrit as a repository of patriotism and democratic sentiments.

  • 10 The other three commissioners were departmental General Councilors appointed by the prefect: they w (...)

17The process by which the “victims of the coup d’Etat” formed the departmental commissions responsible for determining pension levels purposefully honored the very oldest of the applicants. On 9 October 1881 in each departmental capital city across France, proscrits gathered, summoned by official letters of convocation, to elect three of their own as members on their department’s pensioning committee10 (AD Vaucluse, 1M 804). Before the assembled crowd, the prefect named an election oversight group consisting of the two oldest men present and the two youngest, who together counted the ballots and confirmed the election results. To insure the legitimacy of the proceedings, the oldest proscrit present was entrusted with the key to the ballot box. In the symbolically laden, highly democratic process that unfolded that Sunday morning, age and youth working together guaranteed the justice of the proceedings.

  • 11 Only individuals sentenced for political crimes themselves after the coup d’Etat had the right to v (...)

18The former political prisoners took the elections extremely seriously and many traveled up to one hundred kilometers to vote.11 The turn-out in most departments was quite high given the electors’ age and financial means, but not surprising in light of the proscrits’ identity as self-proclaimed defenders of universal suffrage and democratic institutions: in the Vaucluse, for example, 370 individuals voted of the 427 convened, in the Drôme 542 voted of 666 electors, while in the Maine-et-Loire, 63 of 73 participated (AD Vaucluse, 1M 804; AD Drôme 1 M 1352/1; AN F15 3968A). Some who could not attend the election wrote to explain their absence. These letters, like the pension requests themselves, give us clues to the proscrits’ answer to a fundamental question about aging: when does old age begin, and how does that threshold differ by gender?

Gendered Definitions of Old Age

  • 12 Scholars often base statistical studies of old age on theoretically justified “beginning points,” s (...)

19Old age is defined differently for different social groups, and those definitions can be based on chronological age, functional age, or cultural age12 (Thane, 2003). Classical, Renaissance and Enlightenment treatises posited widely divergent numbers for the advent of old age. Nineteenth-century sources indicate that workers considered themselves old at different ages, usually from 50 to about 65, depending on the physical demands of their jobs, but many charity hospitals refused to admit indigent patients on the basis of age alone, rather than infirmity, unless the applicant was over 70. When the Third Republic finally passed its first blanket welfare law guaranteeing state aid to the indigent elderly in 1905, for the first three years even destitute French men and women over 70 had to prove their inability to work to receive help; only after 1908 did obvious poverty plus 70 years of life automatically qualify one for state assistance. Yet medical and literary sources and even some politicians recognized that different segments of the population might “age” at different rates: women were often considered by doctors to enter old age upon menopause, and workers in heavy industries like mining were commonly referred to as “used up” in their 50s. On the other hand, in public affairs, wealth and social position often insulated aging men in particular from being considered “old” (Stearns, 1976; Thane 2003; Minois, 1989; Feller, 2005; Pollet, 2001).

20A study of letters written by proscrits in the department of the Drôme who could not attend the elections provides evidence that concurs with the generally sliding scale of “old age” described by scholars. Eighty-one year-old Laurent Mathieu Guende wrote, “I would attend the convocation with pleasure, but, given my state of old age and my poverty, I cannot,” while 78-year-old Ferdinand Vachon begged off “due to my age and my misery.” Yet, in a trend repeated in the pension requests themselves, very few letter writers relied on their age alone to provide a sufficient excuse for not participating in an honor that they also felt was their republican duty. Seventy-one-year-old forest guard Jean Joseph Gory “based his decision” not to attend the election “on his already advanced age and the pains in his head and legs.” Seventy-five-year-old farmer Pierre Pont, who was probably illiterate, had the local mayor write for him that “due to his infirmities, it is impossible for him to travel to Valence,” without mentioning his age at all. For them, age was not enough of a justification on its own to excuse their attendance.

21These letters reflect a more general trend in both the pension requests and the departmental commission’s pensioning decisions: men over 75, and certainly in their 80s, were specifically labeled as “old,” while those from about 65 to 75 might or might not receive this designation, depending on the individual letter writer or departmental commission. Pension requesters never mentioned their age in their letters if they were younger than 55 in 1881, except to note if they had been arrested at the tender age of adolescence, thus rendering their punishment all the more cruel. Applicants between 55 and about 65 tended to link their age to infirmities or illness to describe a combination of reasons explaining their lack of employment and their resulting indigence in 1881, or, if they made a claim based partly on their age, they couched this information in the context of their particularly exhausting profession. Thus, Joseph Archinard, a 65-year old farmer from the mountainous village of Saillans ended his pension request describing the years he had spent in hiding in the hills to avoid political persecution with a plea for “some little aid that would allow him to support more patiently this mountain life initiated by his flight which is so difficult at his age” (AD Drôme 1 M 1352/1). Only individuals in their late 60s and beyond, like Alphonse Brun who, at 75, wrote that he had “reached the state of old age” several years earlier, made their advanced years an integral part of their petitions. The tone of such letters clearly indicates that their authors believed that extreme age in and of itself rendered their claims to a pension more pressing.

  • 13 Commissioners' stated motives for decisions in other departments follow similar trends. (AN F15 396 (...)

22The departmental pension allocation commissions defined “old age” similarly. Analysis of the 668 pensions allocated by the departmental commission of the Yonne indicates that for these commissioners, the old age of an applicant in and of itself was a key factor in their determinations.13 The Yonne commissioners decided to generally “fix base allocations as guides to help them get through the maze of numerous and diverse files they need to examine,” yet to “depart from these bases, according to the spirit of the law, for reasons of the age of the petitioners, their infirmities, their family’s needs, the losses they have suffered, their present fortune, and the physical and moral suffering they underwent…” (AN F15 3969).

23Yonne commissioners never mentioned the age of former political prisoners who were younger than 64 in 1881, and never once gave the age of the adult sons or daughters of deceased proscrits, except if they were still children. The ages of adults in their 20s through early 60s were in no way seen as special factors influencing decisions: individuals in these age brackets were simply normal. Often the commission did not cite age as a “motive” for men younger than 70, except in light of aggravating circumstances like those of carpenter Joseph Devillaine, who, at 65, supported his own 80-year old blind father, or for ditch digger Dominique Goguet who, at 68 “suffering from hernias barely makes his living in complete misery.” Only for men in their seventies and older did commissioners highlight age as a sufficient factor in their decisions to augment pensions, as when they noted that mason François Bougier was 73, had “a few revenues, but no family to support,” or that Pierre François Frou was “an old octogenarian.” For Barthélemy Sauron, a locksmith deported to Algeria after the coup, the commission made explicit their general sentiments that true old age began in the 70s: in describing Sauron’s predicament, they noted, “has no savings, [with] one of his orphaned grand-daughters in his care, so old age will be a misery for him,” as if the 68-year old had not yet reached that threshold (AN F15 3969).

24The Yonne pension decisions show that the commissioners had a different understanding of the chronological on-set of old age for women than for men. This is harder to determine, since the pension files do not systematically indicate the exact age of widows who applied for pensions based on their husband’s political oppression, whereas even those male petitioners whose age was not a stated factor in the commission’s decisions had their birthdates included elsewhere in their files. Under “motives” for pensioning widows, the commissioners often merely cited “old” [vieille] or “very old” [très agée] as they did for Elisabeth Paquet, widow of Jean Béchereau, without specifying an exact age. Across all departments, widows themselves rarely mentioned their exact age in their pensioning requests, but similarly referred to “old age” [vieillesse] in a more general manner. However, when they did mention the specific age of female petitioners as a reason for their motives, the Yonne commissioners often marked as “old” women in their early 60s, as with the widow of Philippe Pescherie, who was “sickly, 62 and worthy of interest” and Julie Hournon, widow of Laurent Benoît Dorothe, a pieceworker who was “in the most complete misery, infirm and 61 years of age,” as well as women in their late 60s and beyond whose ages matched those of male pensioners considered “old.” Such a lowering of the threshold for entrance into old age corresponds with the findings of scholars like Elise Feller, who emphasize that 19th-century women were often seen as old once they reached menopause or no longer had minor children in their care (Feller, 2005).

Gendered Expectations of Life Trajectories in Old Age

25What were pensioners’ expectations of what the end of life would hold for them? Historians have demonstrated that by mid-century, aided by an 1853 law instituting yearly payments for individuals who had worked 30 years in administrative jobs, French civil servants and members of the liberal professions crafted a notion of a Ciceronian-style retirement for themselves in which they withdrew from their careers to enjoy a few years of rest and reflection supported by state pensions, amassed capital or the sale of their practices. In parts of France rural farmers had a centuries-long tradition of ensuring a stable old age by passing land and goods on to their children in return for legally-binding support from one offspring, often in the form of yearly pensions and co-habitation in the family home. But most French men and women at mid-century had no expectation of “retirement,” or a period of able-bodied but non-working adult existence, as a normal phase at the end of life (Stearns, 1976; Troyansky, 1989). Most adults assumed they would work unto death, and viewed with fear the encroachment of physical weaknesses that hindered their abilities to earn a living. The two alternatives to continued work, namely reliance on the good graces of adult children or recourse to public and private charities, were seen as shameful options, with only the most desperately isolated of the impoverished poor ending their days in state hospices for the indigent elderly.

26The pension requests support this interpretation, at least for these rural and small town non-industrial working class republicans who were approaching the end of their lives in the early 1880s. If we return to Alphonse Brun’s letter, we can see he crafted a narrative that demonstrated how his punishment after the 1851 coup d’état destroyed three of the five possibilities for “surviving in old age” mapped by scholars Jérôme Bourdieu and Lionel Kesztenbaum: living off one’s savings, living off one’s work, and living thanks to family support. First of all, the 75-year old Brun presented himself as fundamentally “a worker,” and not as a man willfully retired. Since Brun had lost his workshop and slipped into day labor after his deportation to Algeria, thirty years later he could no longer get jobs because of his advanced age. The closing of his shop had entailed the loss of all Brun’s savings, leaving him no investments to fund his old age.

  • 14 No pension requests mentioned the other path to a secure old age popular in mid-19th-century France (...)

27Finally, Brun linked his punishment directly (but non-specifically) to the death of his two children, tragically cutting him off from the type of “family cooperation” so crucial to the survival of many common folk throughout the 19thcentury. Thus, political persecution had pushed Brun into the least desirable of Bourdieu and Kesztenbaum’s five possibilities for survival, the humiliating recourse to public charity, where, in the aptly named Charity Hospital in Marseilles, Brun was obliged to “eat the bread of the poor.” However, Brun hinged his request, as did all petitioners, on the possibility of financial salvation based on the right to Bourdieu and Kesztenbaum’s fifth recourse in old age: living off a pension (Bourdieu and Kesztenbaum, 2007). Brun demanded a funded retirement in which the Third Republic recognized his right to a pension, not as a handout, but as the just reward and repayment for his self-sacrifice for the good of the state. This recompense would be a form of justice to substitute for the happy old age surrounded by his descendants, secure from the fruits of his own labor and the revenues from his foundry, that Brun might have enjoyed had the coup never taken place.14

28Like Brun, other former political prisoners painted the picture of their misery in light of the shadowy alternative existence they might have known free from political persecution. This did not mean they expected an old-age free of work, however. To the contrary, petitioners and commissions both assumed men would work well into their 60s, stopping only when too ill or infirm to continue. When the prefect of the Hérault forwarded a list of indigent former political prisoners to Paris so that those needing emergency aid could get support until their annual pension funds were formally authorized, it contained identical notes for the indigent Joseph Viguier, a 51-year old farmer, Augustin Thomas, a 60-year old carpenter, and André Delbès, a 66-year old day laborer: “Lives only off his work.” Scores of the notes in the “motives” column justifying the Yonne commission’s pensioning decisions similarly emphasized the continued labor of elderly petitioners: Louis Garnier, at 70 “lived off of his little grocery,” while 67-year old weaver Paul Gabelle “only has his work to survive” as did farmer Julien Colas, even though at 69 he was “exhausted from labor” (AN F15 3969).

29Clearly, it became harder for these men to find work as they aged. A similar list of desperately needy pension requesters from the Ain noted that Joseph Billiemaz, a 60-year old tailor “is in the most complete indigence and lives from day to day selling a few caps that he makes himself,” while Claude Gervais, a day laborer of 65, “can no longer perform any work since he is cross-eyed and asthmatic" (AN F15 3971). Even a former political prisoner’s obvious disability and old age did not change the terms in which local commissioners couched their assessment: Jean Grand’s account of the rheumatism he contracted in Algeria, crippled legs and old age did not prevent the Allier pensioning committee from filling out his file in the following manner: to the question of “Resources?,” they wrote, “His arms,” and then added, “almost blind, pains contracted in Africa, can no longer see clearly and cannot work,” as if there was some expectation for a 76-year old farm hand to do so (AN F15 3978).

30 The picture shifts for female petitioners. Of the 63 widow applicants considered impoverished by the Yonne departmental commission, only nine of them, like vest maker Henriette Breton, were listed by their profession or with the term “lives only from her work.” Fifteen other Yonne widows, like Caroline Nicols, aged 72, were completely dependent on their children or other relatives for food and lodging, while five others received some support from the local bureau de bienfaisance. For the remaining 34 impoverished Yonne widows requesting pensions, the commission listed neither their job, nor any help they received from family or state: these women, like Rosalie Martin Juerre, were simply “completely indigent” (AN F15 3969). In comparison, only a handful of the nearly 500 men demanding pensions in the Yonne were not identified by their profession, and for only six of them did the Yonne commission mention their children as potential means of support. The notes of these commissioners, then, reaffirms general 19th-century gendered assumptions about the relationship between work and subsistence: men were associated with their profession even as they grew too elderly to exercise it, while women, many of whom worked throughout their lives, were described primarily in relationship to their husbands and children.

31Petitioners and commissioners both depicted a widow’s misery, then, as spurred by the breakdown in the family support system that was supposed to sustain her. The letters from widows themselves reinforced this image, as when Jeanne Dumonteil from the Lot wrote her prefect to get an advance on her 800-franc pension: “I am absolutely without resources since I must stay continuously beside the bed of my only son, sick these last two years, without hope of recovery,” she explained. Before his illness, she continued, her son had made a good living of 2800 francs per year as a telegraph employee, but now all funds having run out, “already at the age of 72 and incapable of working, I have been forced to resort to the charity of my acquaintances” (AN F15 4217).

32Even as they emphasized their dependence, women as well as men couched their requests for pensions against the specter of an alternate, more secure existence that had been destroyed by the Empire’s persecution of their husbands. For example, the widow of tile maker Joseph Michalon contrasted her husband’s good job and “relative comfort” before his punishment with her current distress as an aged concierge of an apartment building, “lodged freely, but of such an advanced age she can no longer work and is aided by the local charity office” (AN F15 4077A). However, men resorted to this tactic much more frequently, and in greater detail, especially when they could quantify their losses.

33Claude Arrivat described how his imprisonment and fifteen subsequent police interrogations had shattered his future: “Tracked by the police over eight consecutive years, without being able to remain in the same workshop, I was forced to eat up my small capital of 1500 francs and my little house with some land, in order to raise my family.” Before the persecutions began, Arrivat had worked in the same job for fourteen years, participating in a system of pay withholdings towards a future retirement, but his rights to that savings were lost as he changed employers. Were it not for the 1851 coup d’état, he concluded, “Today I would have a retirement, and I would not be obliged at the age of 62 to work as a boilermaker” (AN F15 4077A). Similarly, cobbler Jean Ville wrote from Lyon that his internment after the coup had cost him “about six thousand francs, since I lost all my clients.” Ville added that the punishment itself had been so rough that “while in the prison blockhouse, I acquired pains that still affect me and now keep me from working, which has greatly hurt my revenue, since I made 3 francs 50 centimes a day” (AN F15 4078). Ville’s fellow Lyon proscrit, tailor Louis Audouard, chronicled his own troubles triggered by imprisonment and several subsequent arrests for his republican leanings: “All these persecutions forced me to abandon my business during the two years I was a fugitive and in prison and above all upon the confiscation of my business ledgers resulted in my complete ruin out of which I have never been able to pull myself. Now, at 58, with ever-weakening vision and almost unable to work at my profession, without any resources, without even my own domicile, and forced to work as a simple laborer for others, I hope…my just reclamation [will] be classified amongst the victims of the coup d’État of 2 December who receive an indemnity” (AN F15 4077A).

34Even petitioners who could not put precise figures on the revenue lost through political oppression, explained that a pension would give them independence in old age, as when Alphonse Brun insinuated that an indemnity would let him leave the charity hospital, or when former Algerian deportee Eugène Berthélémy Wenger wrote that a pension would end his and his “very old” wife’s reliance on their adult son (AN F15 3971). Similarly, the widow of Louis Chéry, upset to learn she would only get a pension of 300 francs per year, wrote in protest: “I nourished myself with the hope of having at least 600 francs, which would have permitted me to live independently and would have been a great consolation in my old age, since all my misery flows from the arrest and internment in Lille of my poor husband.” (AD Allier, 1 M 1311) Thus, conforming with the general picture historians have of ideas about the nature of labor, old age and retirement from the mid-19thcentury, although pension applicants characterized work for wages as a something common people were expected to do until infirmity or the physical decrepitude of extreme old age overtook them, they did not see work-unto-death as the only endpoint. As men like Brun and Wenger made clear, the notion of an independent existence in extreme old age was not unthinkable. The possibility of yearly indemnities for life presented new hope for a dignified future for many aging petitioners as they imagined the reparations would lift them into the category of those Bourdieu and Kesztenbaum called “living off one’s retirement” (Bourdieu and Kesztenbaum, 2007; Pedersen, 1993).

Corporeal Metaphor and the Re-establishment of Gendered Norms

35The documents produced as a result of the 1881 reparations law reaffirm historians’ general analysis of concepts of old age during the late 19th century in France: letter writers showed that they thought of old age not as a specific number of chronological years, but as a continuum, and that the real problem, especially for men, was dependence, rather than aging itself. One final characteristic of the pension process deserves attention, because it reveals the crucial gendered aspects of the applicants’ understandings of old age: their tendency to write of their suffering in embodied terms. For example, seventy-six-year-old farm laborer Jean Grand described thusly the results of the two years he had spent in an Algerian penal colony as an enemy of the Empire: “In the camps of Africa, he contracted rheumatism, which forced him to remain hospitalized for three months. He returned [from Algeria when pardoned in 1853] on crutches and since this time he has never been able to pull himself upright, since his body is deformed and bent with pains. He hopes to count on a just and fair indemnity…” For proof, Grand attached to his letter a 1853 certificate from the Algerian hospital which identified him as “a convalescent with chronic fibro-muscular rheumatism of the lower limbs, who need[ed] some means of transport” to return to Algiers (AN F15 3976).

36Grand’s corporeal “proof” of his past political oppression was not unusual. Many proscrits and their heirs described how chronic illness, disability, or physical weakness struck men upon their deportation to Algeria or French Guiana, their exile to England, Switzerland or Belgium, their forced relocation as internés to towns inside France far from their homes, or even their sentencing to police surveillance in their local community. The widow of Pierre Pacaud described the result of her husband’s 1852 imprisonment in language, like Grand’s, that linked punishment to illness and years of poverty:

“He was arrested at Cusset December 4, 1851 and sent to the prison at Moulins, where he was one of the most mistreated, and he contracted an illness which made it impossible to continue any serious work. This illness turned chronic and made him suffer until his death in 1871. It was so bad that the prison doctors would not allow him to be deported to Lambessa [Algeria] and wracked with pain he was relocated to Clermont Ferrand, where he lived with me until his return to Vichy long afterwards, helped by my son-in-law and my daughter, until he died in 1871 from the sickness he contracted in prison.” (AD Allier, 1 M 1312)

37In such accounts, the body, especially the body of previously virile, strong, physically capable men, was portrayed as a problem, and political oppression was described as having hastened the physical decline of these formerly independent men.

38This expression in physical terms of ideological and political suffering was particularly useful for the poorest of the former proscrits. For men from the liberal professions, propertied farmers, or skilled artisans, the economic impact of their oppression under the Second Empire was relatively easy to demonstrate: the cost of a shuttered law practice, a closed café, a disbanded workshop, or an abandoned family farm was clear. But for unskilled laborers, artisans who worked for wages and farm hands, who had possessed little property or savings to lose before the coup, there was only one sure way to represent the long-term financial impact of their oppression: as punishments which destroyed their very bodies, the only stable resource they owned and the source of their day-to-day existence in the past, the present, and the future. Language of the body became the only way to convincingly speak the language of financial ruin.

39The recourse to physical descriptions of political oppression was highly gendered. It is not that widows of proscrits never resorted to descriptions of embodied suffering. Women like the wife of Louis Chéry explicitly did so, as she summarized her life after she followed her husband during his internal exile:

“With…three young children, one at the breast…they made us travel like criminals, in stages. Once arrived at our destination, I contracted typhoid fever, and for six months I hovered between life and death. We found ourselves without any funds, having spent all during my sickness. Several years later, I lost my husband; here I am a widow far from my home. I work as I can to raise my family, and to what can I attribute all this unhappiness! if not the coup of December 2. Now I am old and can no longer work. One of my daughters has taken me in. Where would I be without her?” (AD Allier, 1 M 1311)

40But far more frequently, women suffered differently, as when the news of a husband’s arrest led to the immediate complete disability from shock of a prisoner’s mother or wife, or to an unspecified slow wasting illness linked to a woman’s unrelieved worry and poor diet once the head of the household had been imprisoned. Gabrielle My, the daughter of a former tailor arrested in December 1851 and forced to relocate as a political prisoner and abandon the shop where he had employed twenty-two artisans, described the larger impact of her father’s persecution on her family by detailing her mother's reaction: “The arrest of my father caused our suffering mother such distress that she was struck by an incurable illness. After having languished and suffered for five years, she died from the effects of this shock.” (AN F15 3979) Since they weren’t breadwinners, the physical ailments of mothers and wives seemed symbolic indicators of the general condition of the oppressed family, rather than specific injuries, like an injured leg or damaged hand, that directly affected the income of the male proscrit. Because during the early Third Republic popular literature like sensational accounts of crime in the press, melodramatic novels, and medical advice manuals all emphasized the susceptibility of women to languishing diseases, hysteria and other physical ailments linked to mental distress, these accounts of fragile coup victim wives followed both their writers’ and readers' expectations for female illness (Shapiro, 1996; Gullickson, 1996).

41Both men and women linked injuries and illnesses contracted in the 1850s to present-day woes. François-Fleury l’Hopital, for example, wrote that “all the legal measures of which I was an innocent victim put me in the state of misery I have been in since that era. I brought back from Africa pains I suffer still, and I felt the effects of those pernicious fevers for years; in addition, I’m suffering from a chronic sickness from a germ I picked up in Africa, and at this moment it is almost impossible for me to make a living” (AN F15 4077B). The linkage of physical infirmity to punishments suffered thirty years earlier might not have sounded incredible to 19th-century ears. Despite advances in clinical understandings of bacteriology and the links between poor hygiene and disease, throughout the century small-town doctors and their clients still tended to see disease in terms of a Hippocratic system, with the idea that sickness was caused by an imbalance in the body’s metabolism. Such traditional explanations emphasized environmental factors as triggers for both acute and chronic illnesses – as mere exposure to the air, wind, water, temperature and humidity of a place could have disastrous physical repercussions (Troyansky, 1989; Ackerman, 1990). In light of these ideas, the notion that shock at her husband’s arrest might have caused a permanent, deadly imbalance in Gabrielle My’s mother, or that men like Jean Grand were permanently physically weakened by diseases triggered when they changed climates, either to Africa or merely by spending many nights sleeping on the run outdoors, were culturally acceptable explanations. The former proscrits and their families wrote that political oppression had triggered physical decay because the links seemed obvious both to them and to their readers, their fellow provincial republican departmental commissioners.

  • 15 The identification of work as a moral imperative and badge of honor for men, who were simultaneousl (...)
  • 16 Thousands of proscrit wives had been de facto heads of household for years in the 1850s when their (...)

42But this emphasis on the physical weakness, inability to work, and general state of dependence of the victimes du coup threatened gender norms at the very heart of the republican enterprise. Ever since the early years of the French Revolution that began in 1789, the political rights and legal equality so dear to Republicans and at the core of the values of universal male suffrage and democracy the proscrits had defended, were based on definitions of masculine civic virtue that linked maleness with work, financial independence and virility15 (Hunt, 1992; Landes, 1988; Surkis, 2006). Now, in 1881, not only did male pension applicants write that oppression had stripped them of their work and their independence, the letters of widows and daughters suggested that female gender roles and family solidarity, too, had been upended by the punishments. Rather than spending their last years secured by the savings left them by their husbands, thousands of proscrit widows faced old age with no visible means of support. Daughters like Gabrielle My were forced into piecework upon the death of their fathers. And some women, like Thérèse Marc, whose letter opened this article, were forced to take up the pen to write of politics in their feebleminded husbands' names.16

43In a perhaps paradoxical twist, by emphasizing their physical suffering, proscrits were able to reclaim their masculine republican identity even as their incapacity to work and obvious needs threatened to destabilize it: through their bloodshed for the nation they reaffirmed a republican tradition stemming back to the great French Revolution itself. The 1881 pensions were clearly modeled on military pensions, which had existed since the 18th century (Troyansky, 1989; Stearns, 1976). At the height of the radical Revolution, with the call for a levée en masse (or mass enlistment) and hundreds of thousands of volunteers fighting for the very existence of the new regime in wars across Europe, the government gave retirement pensions to all soldiers, volunteers and career military alike, who had war wounds preventing their continued service. A June 6, 1793 decree established a hierarchy of wounds, whereby soldiers who lost two limbs or their sight in battle received more than those crippled in only one limb or one eye. In addition, mutilated volunteers were automatically promoted to the rank of officer. Thus, “…Year II created a new type of relationship between citizens and the State, founded on the single criteria of their patriotism, or better yet, their civism, as measured on the battlefield…a new type of reciprocal obligation was born, between the State and the citizen, concretized in this wound-pension relationship” (Bois, 1990 :383). Although later laws restored the system of pensioning career soldiers after thirty years of service, French military pensions retained the hierarchy of different pension levels for distinct battle-caused disabilities.

44This principle of the justice of rewarding the revolutionary soldier based not on his battlefield valor, but on the magnitude of the war’s destruction of his body as a symbol of the depth of his political virtue, fit well with the needs of Napoléon III’s erstwhile political prisoners. In 1881 the former political prisoners who had acted decisively during the anti-coup movement, as well as those men who had distinguished themselves by escaping from Algerian or French Guianese prisoner camps and men who had continued to agitate for the republican cause during the dark days of the Second Empire, all proudly proclaimed these details in their pardon requests. But the emphasis on a proscrit’s physical infirmities, in keeping with the revolutionary republican tradition of honoring (and glorifying) physical sacrifices as a sign of masculine civic duty, allowed a political prisoner with no particular tale of valor to turn his story of suffering into a patriotic narrative as well. Just as the emphasis on the embodied signs of political oppression allowed day laborers and artisans to compare the economic consequences of the anti-coup oppression with the financial blows suffered by men with property, businesses and savings, so too did the emphasis on the body allow the average proscrit to spin a tale just as heroic as the story of a local republican leader who had distinguished himself through his actions during the coup or his agitation while in exile or in Africa. The recourse to the imagery of the body leveled the playing field even among the former political prisoners themselves. Like the republican dream, this embodiment was radically egalitarian itself, and it was explicitly masculine.

45Thus the 1881 Law of Reparations for former political prisoners-turned-Republican heroes worked to rectify the damage done to the Third Republic’s self-proclaimed founding foot soldiers through a de facto retirement system that re-emphasized these men’s masculine civic duties even as it recognized their de- masculinizing old age, infirmities and economic instability. Furthermore, the process by which widows and children of deceased proscrits applied for pensions stabilized traditional family hierarchies shaken by the inability for erstwhile politically oppressed men to provide for their heirs by re-linking those mainly female heirs’ financial well-being to the rights acquired by their dead husbands and fathers. Pensions thus solidified expected gender roles even as they allowed these men and women to survive old age in a dignified independent manner without having to work or fall back upon public charity, thus giving them a secure future not available to many common artisans, laborers and farmers in 1880s France. By linking concerns for a respectable old age of thousands of poor citizens with notions of a “deserved” state-funded retirement, the Law of Reparation anticipated an era of more active government support for the aged with the 1905 legislation, sponsored by radical Republicans themselves heirs to the visions of the 1851 proscrits, that would turn the official support of all indigent elderly into a state duty.

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Notes

1 Petitioners often wrote in the third person, probably in attempt to make their letters seem more official. Given the low or nonexistent level of education of most proscrits, the excerpts from their letters reproduced in this study contain numerous grammatical mistakes and some awkward phrases.

2 The full title was La loi de réparation nationale du 30 juillet 1881 en faveur des victimes du 2 décembre 1851 et des victimes de la loi de sûreté générale du 27 février 1858. (Devos, 1992)

3 Essentially none of the former political prisoners worked in any sector of large industry – which had established only a minimal foothold in France in 1851- and so these letters offer a portrait of a left-wing subsection of rural laborers, the artisanat, and of small town petit bourgeois in a France on the cusp of massive socio-economic change. 22,834 pensions were awarded. Of those apprehended in 1851, 5978 worked in the agricultural sector, including 4956 farmers, 111 gardeners and 80 shepherds; 1249 were in "diverse commerce" including 229 innkeepers; 1609 worked in the building trades, including 670 masons, 266 roofers and 129 plasterers. (Farcy and Fry, 2013)

4 Thérèse Marc's husband received 1200 francs per year in compensation for his 1851 exile; Joseph Monneau could not prove he had hidden after the coup to avoid arrest, and was not pensioned. (AD Vaucluse, 1M 803)

5 Roughly 9,000 pension request letters exist in the National Archives; information on all pensioners is in departmental archives across France. This project included research in Paris, the Ain, Allier, Drôme, Gard, Hérault, Rhône, Saône-et-Loire, Vaucluse et Yonne, including analysis of 8373 pensioning commission decisions and 350 individual pension requests.

6 Generally, requests by widows comprised between 19 and 22% of total applications. 13-14% of requests came from children, who could apply as heirs only if both parents had died; analysis of this second generation falls outside the scope of this essay.

7 As a comparison, in 1881 a retired school teacher might receive 500 francs yearly as a pension, while artisan laborers in small towns earned between 1 and 5 francs a day. Individuals helped by local bureaux de bienfaisance usually received less than 20 francs a year.

8 Well-off men applied for pensions alongside their impoverished comrades, but pensioning commissions reduced amounts for individuals deemed "living in ease" or "with revenues." (AN F15 3972) It is difficult to estimate how many of the pension applicants could be considered "well-off," but the majority of proscrits survived on wages, not savings. The prefect of the Pyrenées-Orientales described 168 of 792 applicants from his department, or 21%, as "well-off," by which he meant they could live without fear of hunger or debt. (AN F15 3968B) The commission for the Yonne described 17% of their 805 applicants as "having some resources" or "well-off;" most of the other 83% they described as "indigent," "living poorly off his work," "miserable," or "possessing nothing." These descriptors cannot be categorized simply according to an applicant's profession: for example, Yonne farmer Jean Baptiste was "well-off," while farmer Claude Cammeau "barely lives from his work;" and locksmith Olivier Chataignier was "well-off" while locksmith Adolphe Jérôme Clairet was "completely indigent." (AN F15 3969)

9 Given their personal histories, proscrits likely were more politically attuned than most farmers, day laborers and artisans in 1881, but, in light of the Third Republic's emphasis on universal male suffrage, the rise of ceremonies and symbols tying ordinary people to the nation, the upswing in literacy rates, the expansion of newspapers of all stripes after the Empire, and, finally, the increasingly common use of group petitions as means of transmitting collective demands to legislators, average citizens from all social backgrounds were less and less isolated from political discourse and contexts. (Lehning, 2001)

10 The other three commissioners were departmental General Councilors appointed by the prefect: they were staunch supporters of the moderate republican administration.

11 Only individuals sentenced for political crimes themselves after the coup d’Etat had the right to vote, not their heirs.

12 Scholars often base statistical studies of old age on theoretically justified “beginning points,” such as 60 or 65. (Bourdieu and Kesztenbaum, 2007)

13 Commissioners' stated motives for decisions in other departments follow similar trends. (AN F15 3969)

14 No pension requests mentioned the other path to a secure old age popular in mid-19th-century France: participation in a mutual aid society. Such participation meant regular payments during one's working life in exchange for a society-funded pension; proscrits' arguments hinging on their indigence would not have made sense if they mentioned membership in such societies. (Saint-Jours, et.al; Hatzfeld)

15 The identification of work as a moral imperative and badge of honor for men, who were simultaneously seen as capable of the civic broadmindedness necessary for political participation, grew from the 1789 Revolution’s abolishment of aristocracy and shunning of idle nobles who, in the centuries of French monarchy, had prided themselves on their non-working status. (Hunt, 1992)

16 Thousands of proscrit wives had been de facto heads of household for years in the 1850s when their husbands were deported to penal colonies or sentenced to live far from the family home.

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Référence électronique

Stacey Renee Davis, « Expectations of Aging as Gendered Political Discourse in 19th-century France », Enfances Familles Générations [En ligne], 27 | 2017, mis en ligne le 31 août 2017, consulté le 15 novembre 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/efg/1470

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Auteur

Stacey Renee Davis

Professor of History, The Evergreen State College, davisst@evergreen.edu

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Enfances Familles Générations est mise à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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