Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNumeros26Retour sur…Retrospective on the special Issu...

Retour sur…

Retrospective on the special Issue of Third Republic/Troisième République (1977) “Aspects of the Woman Question during the Third Republic”, 40th anniversary, papers collected by Karen Offen

Retour sur le numéro special de Third Republic/Troisième République (1977) “Aspects of the Woman Question during the Third Republic”, 40e anniversaire, textes réunis par Karen Offen
Karen Offen

Notes de la rédaction

Retour sur… est une nouvelle rubrique offrant une carte blanche à un·e historien·ne qui souhaite revenir sur un moment qu’il/elle juge déterminant ou significatif dans l’historiographie des femmes et du genre. Ce premier « retour sur » évoque, avec Karen Offen, l’émergence de l’histoire anglo-saxonne des femmes et des féminismes sous la Troisième République, avec la publication en 1977 des numéros 3-4 de la revue Third Republic/Troisième République. Ses principaux·les contributeur·rices reviennent sur ce moment lors d’une table ronde organisée pour le 40e anniversaire du numéro en 2017. Le comité de rédaction remercie Karen Offen pour la compilation des textes alors présentés et leur mise en perspective.

Texte intégral

Introduction to TR/TR 40th anniversary, Karen Offen

1The articles published here were first presented at a round table that I organized to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the special issue of Third Republic/Troisième République, no. 3-4 (1977), entitled “Aspects of the Woman Question during the Third Republic”. We presented these reminiscences to our colleagues at the Society for French Historical Studies conference in Washington, D.C., April 20-23, 2017.

Fig. 1 et 2. Table of contents No 3-4 of TR/TR

2[Image non convertie]

3These personal accounts offer readers the career-long reflections of the now-senior scholars who, in the 1970s, as early-career historians and coming from very different perspectives and institutional settings, initiated the English-language study of French women’s history and the history of French feminism(s) during the Third Republic. The original contributors to the TR/TR special issue (Karen Offen, ed., Patrick Kay Bidelman, Linda L. Clark, Charles Sowerwine, Marilyn J. Boxer, Persis [Charles] Hunt, and Steven C. Hause) were all invited to participate in the 2017 round table, and Boxer, Clark, Hause, Offen and Sowerwine agreed to participate. They subsequently agreed to submit their reflections for publication in Genre & Histoire. William Logue, founder of TR/TR - as a journal published in microfiche (which at the time was considered a very innovative format) - agreed to chair and to offer his own reflections on the debut of TR/TR and on the special issue itself. Each of the authors speaks movingly about the difficulties they encountered in pioneering this line of research in French women’s history as well as the thrill of the chase for the sources. In each case, their initial investigations led to major contributions to the history of French women and feminism, socialism and feminism in France, and biographical studies of women’s rights campaigners as political activists.

4The TR/TR special issue is no longer available online, but Karen Offen does have PDF files for all the articles and bibliographies published in the 1977 Special Issue and is happy to share them with those interested.

Presentation of TR/TR, William Logue.


5I would like to begin by welcoming you all to “Aspects of the Woman Question during the Third Republic”: A Round Table Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the special issue of Third Republic/Troisième République, no. 3-4 (1977). As this title suggests, you are probably looking at the most “senior” panel you’ve ever seen, if not the most senior ever at an Society for French Historical Studies (SFHS) conference. My name is William Logue and I was the publisher, editor, and office boy for TR/TR. This coming August I will have been retired from Northern Illinois University for twenty years. I last attended an SFHS conference in Saint Louis (thank you Steve Hause) and am happy to be among you again.

A Few Words about TR/TR

6I am in the habit of describing TR/TR as the first historical journal published exclusively on microfiche. As far as I know it was also the last. If it has had any lasting importance, I have the subject of today’s session to thank. I began teaching in 1962, toward the end of the greatest period of expansion in the history of American higher education. It was also a period in which college faculty were expected more than ever before to be publishing scholars as well as teachers. Opportunities to present papers at scholarly conferences were growing as the SFHS (somewhat reluctantly) began to schedule multiple sessions at the same time and with the creation of the Western Society for French History. Opportunities for younger scholars to publish in refereed journals were growing somewhat more slowly, but the costs of paper publication made the founding of new journals difficult. Thus when I began to think about starting a journal of Third Republic studies I was attracted to the possibilities of micropublication. Computers and the internet were still in the future, but we were high-tech for the time. The published copies of TR/TR were typed on an IBM Selectric typewriter by a moonlighting university secretary and I put in the accent marks with a felt-tip pen. The title page was composed with peel-off letters. This typescript was mailed to Eastman Kodak who returned the microfiche version to me for mailing along with a printed table of contents for easy access to the contents. The whole process was so inexpensive that I was able to charge individual subscribers only $5.00 a year and still make a profit, with only a small university subsidy for letterheads and postage.

7It was typical of the collegiality of our profession that I had no trouble securing a distinguished editorial board: at the time of this issue it was composed of Marvin L. Brown, Jr., John C. Cairns, Joel Colton, Charles E. Freedeman, Doris Goldstein, James Q. Graham, Jr., Carter Jefferson, Harry Paul, Martin Siegel, and J. Harvey Smith, with the recent addition of Pierre Barral from the Université de Nancy as Corresponding Editor. The willingness of colleagues to serve as reviewers of the manuscripts we received made it possible to maintain a high standard of quality for the articles we published. The main obstacle I faced was getting enough scholars to take a chance on publication in a novel medium.

The Special Issue on Women’s History

8Thus when Karen Offen came to me with the idea for a special issue on the “Woman Question during the Third Republic” which she would edit and recruit the contributors I was overjoyed, to put it mildly. It was an area I knew little about (Karen might say nothing), one that my own teachers considered scarcely worth mentioning. The historical profession had been overwhelmingly masculine. Despite the vital contributions of Frances Childs and the Acomb sisters to the founding of the SFHS our organization was still largely a men’s club. Two of the three colleges and universities I had attended had no female historians, and at the University of Chicago there was only the distinguished medievalist Sylvia Thrupp (1903-1997), who soon left. My future wife, Carol Baur, then an MA student, worked for Professor Thrupp and reported that male faculty members had made clear that a woman was not really welcome. As Raymond Grew noted in her obituary “Thrupp had made her way in a scholarly world reluctant to grant women permanent positions, battling without bitterness for ideas more than status.” When Carol announced our engagement to her thesis director, Louis Gottschalk, he told her it was a good match because I was smarter than she was. The only female member of TR/TR’s editorial board, Doris S. Goldstein (1927-2016) was not a women’s historian. Since we are in Washington, I would like to express my gratitude for the advice and support I received from Jean Joughin of American University. SFHS conferences soon revealed that young women were nonetheless entering our field in increasing numbers, reflecting not only the growing demand for college teachers, but a growing awareness that diplomacy and politics were not the only legitimate fields for historical study.

9In France, where women had only received the vote in 1944, their role in the history of diplomacy and politics was necessarily marginal. In literature, historians might give a nod in the direction of Mme de Lafayette or Georges Sand; in the arts a grudging acknowledgment of the talents of Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun or Camille Claudel. More broadly, biographies of queens or royal mistresses were popular, but not considered serious history. Even the rapidly growing field of social history, especially as it focused on the history of revolutions, socialism, and the labor movement, tended to ignore the role of women as insignificant or as aberrant cases like Olympe de Gouges or Louise Michel. The period of the Third Republic was a promising one for the development of the study of women’s history. Women’s roles were changing and expanding: women’s economic role had always been vitally important in a predominantly agricultural country, and with increasing urbanization it was taking new forms. Women’s increasing role in the urban economy brought them into contact with the socialist movement where they encountered the misogynist traditions of Comte and Proudhon. The growing secularism of French society brought to the forefront issues deriving from Roman Catholic traditions about the role of women. The emergence of universal primary education created new opportunities for women to work with their minds, creating a significant social role for the institutrice. The emergence of new work on these and many other neglected subjects would transform the scope of historical studies. To open up new areas for research required the discovery of new source materials and the development of new research techniques, which have benefitted not only women’s studies but many other fields.

10Finally I think it is important to note the preeminent role of American students of French history as exemplified by some of our panelists today.

A Life in History: A Brief Personal and Professional Autobiography, Marilyn J. Boxer

  • 1 “Socialisme, Femmes, et Féminisme” (n.p.: Jaurès Fondation, 2010), pp. 40-41.

11Toward the end of her essay, “Socialisme, Femmes, et Féminisme”, Françoise Thébaud points to the importance for women of multiple allegiances and of efforts to integrate action and belief in a search for coherence in their lives1. As I cited her comment in a recent study, it occurred to me to apply it also to my own life and work, including its beginning in a seminar paper that I entitled “Clio’s Foundling,” to indicate how I saw women’s history in the mid-1970s. Throughout a career of more than 40 years, trifurcated into positions in women’s history, women’s studies and academic administration, split further within my identity as professor, teacher, scholar, writer, administrator, program creator, mother, mentor, feminist, leftist or left centrist, all mixed up, I have been very much a product of my times. I want to start this retrospective review of my article in the TR/TR by recalling an event that took place one month before I reentered the university, at age 40, to begin doctoral study. This was the publication in July 1970 on the cover of Time magazine of a photo of Kate Millett alongside a two-word caption of (to me) shocking affect, “Sexual Politics.” What did sex have to do with politics? I soon found out, beginning when a professor with whom I started to study asked me if I were involved in ”women’s lib.” Huh? I said. As a single mother of three trying to survive financially by accepting every offer to lecture for $25 or to teach an evening course at a local community college, the women’s liberation movement had passed me by. But when, simultaneously, I met with some students at that college who had asked me to serve as faculty advisor of their women’s liberation group, and I heard at their meeting a young woman opine that according to Marx and Hegel (pronounced Hee-gel), only through socialism could women gain liberation; and another professor, the only woman on the university history faculty (a lecturer), said, “Of course you’ve read Bebel,” and I replied, “Of course,” I ran to the library to check out his Women and Socialism. That’s how I got into socialist and feminist history. The sexual revolution, historiography in the form of the birth (or resurgence) of women’s history, and my life converged.

12Among the books I soon read was James Joll’s 1966 study of the Second International, which led to my thinking I would do a comparative study, exploring the role of women in several member parties of that organization: France, Germany and perhaps the Low Countries as well. No one, least of all my thesis advisor, for whom it seemed that only traditional politics mattered, knew if there were any useful archival resources. But having learned that the archives of the Second International, including works by Marx, were housed at the International Institute for Social History (IISG) in Amsterdam, in the early summer of 1972 I headed there to begin my dissertation research.

13As we now know, there were immense resources, so many that, after reading variously in French and German papers, including quite a lot about Clara Zetkin as well as many French socialists, I soon realized that I should narrow my study to one country; and—here the personal meets the professional—since I would be accompanied by my 14-year-old son who would need to go to school in the fall, and having heard that the German archival materials were scattered among German cities but that French sources were concentrated in Paris, I opted to do French history. As it turned out, Parisian schools would not accept my monolingual son of lycée age, and I could not afford a private bilingual school, so after two frantic months of working in Paris, we returned to Amsterdam, where he was accepted at the Erasmus Athenaeum whose curriculum included English. (There he studied only four languages; at the gymnasium, he would have had six.) I spent ten months reading in the IISG’s collection of French journals and other works, and only the following summer returned to France, to work for two months before having to head home.

14We survived the next year on a combination of a teaching assistant’s meager salary and a lot of student loans. Then, with only two chapters of my dissertation written, I took a full-time job as chair of the women’s studies program, the nation’s first, at San Diego State University (actually, then-associate dean Joyce Appleby hired me to teach women’s history and thrust that additional job on me in a situation where I couldn’t say no). This was the beginning of my splintered career, though I tried hard to bring the parts together; and ultimately published a book, as well as many articles, about the creation and development of women’s studies as a field in U.S. higher education. But, hanging by my fingertips, I continued my association with French history. And that brings me to my article, “French Socialism, Feminism and the Family”.

15Two trends in the field affected my career. The first, seen here, was the explosion of interest in family history, the academic voice of which, the Journal of Family History, first appeared in September 1976. My work on the relationship of French socialism and socialists to women and to the feminist movement brought me to conclude that the centrality of the family in French culture and its importance in the eyes of working class voters (pères de famille) severely limited the extent to which socialist politicians, whatever their personal views, would depart from traditional attitudes toward women’s roles. As Karen Offen wrote in her comments on my essay, “These social revolutionaries might promise to deliver women from direct male control by transforming private ownership of property into collective ownership and by turning financial responsibility for supporting women and children over to the State, but at no time did they intend to deliver women from their assigned domestic role, that is, from the mothering and nurturing role connected with maternity.” The criticism of leading socialist women such as Léonie Rouzade, Paule Mink, Aline Valette and Madeleine Pelletier meant little, especially since assertions of women’s rights could be dismissed as “bourgeois.” Rereading the article, I was struck by the extent to which it foreshadowed two of my later projects, an NEH-funded research seminar for college teachers on “Motherhood and the Nation-State in Western Societies,” which I co-directed with Karen at Stanford in 2002, and my article, “Rethinking the Socialist Construction and International Career of the Concept “’Bourgeois Feminism,’” published in the AHR in 2007.

  • 2 “When Radical and Socialist Feminism Were Joined: The Extraordinary Failure of Madeleine Pelletier, (...)

16After summarizing various views and visions of the family in France, the article focuses especially on Valette and Pelletier, both socialists and feminists, only two among many, then and later, whose dual commitments led me early on to question the adoption by many socialists, as well as historians of socialism, of the under-examined concept “bourgeois feminism,” about which I would later write. But more than that, my exploration here of the Valette and Bonnier notion of sexualism fit well into the new emphasis in women’s history on women’s culture, which included the history of motherhood and maternalism. My focus on Pelletier similarly, though of course leading in a very different direction, proved good background for work in women’s studies programs, where ideas about socialism, sometimes misconstrued, exerted a great deal of influence. Indeed, somewhere (alas I can’t remember where) I wrote that if one feminist from the early twentieth century were to walk into a women’s liberation meeting today—meaning the 1970s—and take up as if just returning from a nap, that would be Pelletier. This article, followed in 1981 by my book contribution on Pelletier, “When Radical and Socialist Feminism Were Joined,” show why2.

17In the 1980s many feminist scholars turned toward a focus on women’s culture, and women’s history evolved toward the new emphasis on motherhood and reevaluation of maternity. It was also a period in which historiography increasingly stressed the use of quantification. Family history, with its emphasis on demographic data, both reflected and encouraged this trend. Attracted by this development, especially after the Journal of Social History rejected my first-ever article on grounds that as it focused on individuals and their ideas it wasn’t really social history, I switched from writing about socialist lives and thought to counting heads. In 1980 I traveled from San Diego to Stanford to participate in a seminar led by Richard Jensen on the use of quantification in historiography. Unable for lack of time and funds to return to France in the foreseeable future, to check my footnotes, instead of seeking to publish my dissertation, I boxed up a copy and sent it to Chips Sowerwine for his use. When I finally got back to Paris I began a new study drawing on surveys by the Office du travail that had compiled data about women in the Parisian garment trades. This led to an article with sufficient data that it was published in the Journal of Social History. Another, which also drew on those surveys, appeared in French Historical Studies.

18In subsequent trips to Paris, I spent many hours crammed into corners or sitting on stools in the mairies of six arrondissements in Paris struggling with huge ledgers that contained marriage records of couturières and fleuristes, seeking to learn about their social mobility by comparing the occupational status of their fathers and their husbands. In 1982 I gave a paper based on this research at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Its title shows how I was drawn into this kind of history: “The Skillful Bride: Bargaining Power in the Nineteenth Century French Marriage Market.” The following year I was pushed and pulled into becoming a college dean at SDSU, after five years of which I was seduced into taking a job as vice-president/provost at SFSU, attracted also by the natural beauty and cultural charms of the San Francisco Bay Area (and by my now grown-up son’s choice to live nearby). I never finished that project and the research materials I compiled for it now reside in Green Library at Stanford.

19One more turn took me back to my beginnings. Karen and I, wanting to undertake a mutually engaging project, decided to apply to the NEH to co-direct the summer research seminar mentioned above. As we prepared our reading list, I noticed that while abundant material was available in English relevant to the history of motherhood and maternalist thought in Britain, Germany, Sweden and the United States, there was nothing from France. Where was the work of Aline Valette, described by historian Anne Cova as “maternalist to the extreme”? To fill that lacuna, I set out to translate for our use Valette’s tract, Socialisme et Sexualisme, published in 1892 with “Dr. Z” [Dr. Pierre Bonnier].

  • 3 Evelyne Diebolt and Marie-Hélène Zylberberg-Hocquard, Marcelle Capy, Aline Valette: Femmes et Trava (...)

20I finished that task, though only after our seminar was over, and it remains unpublished. What I did publish was an article based on it in which I challenged its dismissal by the French historians Evelyne Diebolt and Marie-Hélène Zylberberg-Hocquard as antifeminist and incoherent3. I argued that it could be understood as feminism in an evolutionary context, and called the article, “Linking Socialism, Feminism, and Social Darwinism in Belle Epoque France: The Maternalist Politics and Journalism of Aline Valette.” Were I to revise my TR/TR article, I would add “evolutionary feminism” to the list of fifteen types I cited in its opening paragraph, and I would put the term “bourgeois feminism” in quotes.

21I should add, to pull it all together, that for a conference of the International Federation for Research in Women’s History, on the centennial of Zetkin’s proposal to the Second International’s meeting in 1910 in Copenhagen to establish an annual observation devoted to recognition of women’s rights, an International Women’s Day, I put together an international panel to discuss Zetkin’s legacy. For my own contribution, I returned to those unused notes of forty years earlier, and wrote an essay on “Clara Zetkin and France: Eight Year Exile, Eighty Year Influence.” It was published in 2013 in a little book I co-edited with English historian John Partington. My latest work, a draft finished earlier this month, expands on three pages in my dissertation. Thus does my life and work support the observation with which this presentation began.

Looking beyond my 1977 Article in Third Republic/Troisième République, Linda L. Clark

22Looking back at something written forty years ago can be scary. I knew that I would recognize what I did not know when I wrote “The Molding of the Citoyenne: The Image of the Female in French Educational Literature, 1880-1914” for TR/TR. But I realize that the research for that early article led me into projects that would take up the next decades. This article was my first venture into French women’s history, and it grew out of an accidental discovery of some primary school textbooks on a library shelf. At this point I was aware of the new stirrings of activity in women’s history, but I had not yet identified a new research project after my dissertation on the French debate about social Darwinism.

23One of the first textbooks that I picked up was Mme Henry Gréville’s Instruction morale et civique des jeunes filles, published in 1882. Reading it, I was struck immediately the explicit nature of messages about women’s personalities and societal roles and also by the often contrasting nature of characteristics and roles assigned to men. So I began looking for other textbooks and pedagogical materials. I saw this project as adding something to both the slowly developing history of French women and also to the more established historiography for French education. The gendered messages that I found told me that there was something missing from a statement in Antoine Prost’s still classic Histoire de l’enseignement en France, 1800-1967, published in 1968. Prost commented that the primary school curriculum for boys’ schools and girls’ schools was identical, whereas that was not the case, he indicated, for boys’ secondary schools and the new girls’ secondary schools created in 1880 by the Sée law. Françoise Mayeur’s major study of the specificity of those girls’ secondary schools had not been published when I began my research. Certainly in France’s sex-segregated primary schools the same subjects were taught, with the exception of travaux manuels which did differ by gender. But pedagogical materials told a more complex story. The primary schools of the Third Republic were commonly termed schools for le peuple, as compared to secondary schools with a more middle-class clientele, and textbook authors, in the interest of maintaining social stability, often advised both boys and girls to limit their aspirations for the future. Yet it seemed that more limits were imposed on girls, even as the strengths and virtues of the loyal wife and mother were celebrated.

24Early on I knew of other historians’ important warning that prescriptions for behavior did not necessarily mean that real people followed such prescriptions obediently. Still, I was convinced that widely repeated statements about gender roles were significant for many individuals’ development of a sense of self. In the early 1960s women students at colleges and universities in the United States still discussed whether women should work. By the early 1980s that discussion would become a discussion of how women could combine work and family life, but the earlier debate about whether women should work was a reflection of the continuing weight of cultural messages telling women on both sides of the Atlantic to return to the home after World War II. I can add, incidentally, that during one job interview in 1968 I was told that a department would not consider hiring a woman for the open position. Such statements were not yet perceived to be discriminatory.

25My first foray into textbooks led to presenting a paper in 1976 at the Berkshire Conference on Women’s History, where I met Karen Offen. With a sabbatical leave I could do more research in Paris, and then a new grant and a year at the Radcliffe Institute gave me more time for research and writing. I published two more articles, and then my book Schooling the Daughters of Marianne: Textbooks and the Socialization of Girls In Modern French Primary Schools (1984). By the time that I was writing Marianne I had read many more textbooks and pedagogical journals than was the case in 1977. I was also pursuing what various women educators did with the prescriptive materials on gender roles, and I was seeing complications. The prescriptions conflicted with the reality that many French women did work and at a higher rate than in comparable European countries. Women educators’ attitudes could also be complicated. In Marianne, I used the example of Pauline Kergomard, an inspectrice générale of écoles maternelles who in 1886 became the first woman elected by colleagues to the Conseil Supérieur de l’Instruction Publique. Kergomard repeatedly said that women naturally belong in the home and would prefer to stay there as wives and mothers. But some women, like Kergomard herself, have to work and if they have to work, then, said Kergomard, they should have access to all jobs for which they were qualified. She also argued that women’s maternal nature made her ideally suited for certain types of work, including teaching. Thus explicit messages about women’s nature could sometimes be empowering. Other women educators made similar arguments, which approach some French feminist formulations on “equality in difference,” even as they also accept limitations.

26After Schooling the Daughters of Marianne, I worked on an article about the controversy over whether women should be primary school inspectors, and I titled it “A Battle of the Sexes in a Professional Setting.” Men and women educators who took positions on the issue routinely marshaled assumptions about the gendering of personalities and societal roles, some using them to support inspectrices and others to say the opposite. Kergomard and her allies argued that women, as women, were the ideal inspectors for girls’ schools, as well as nursery schools, and they hoped that each French department would soon have at least one inspectrice. The controversy cost Kergomard her seat on the Conseil Supérieur de l’Instruction Publique in 1892, and as of 1914 there were only five inspectrices primaires, all in the Paris area.

27The arguments about appropriate roles for women in the school inspection controversy led me to look into similar issues for other parts of French administration, and in 2000 I published The Rise of Professional Women in France: Gender and Public Administration since 1830. To group the chapters in the first half of this book on the history of women in higher-level administrative posts, I used the heading “A Public Role for Maternal Authority” as a way of capsulizing arguments for women’s appointments before 1914. Part II, which went beyond World War I, I titled “Steps Toward Equality,” noting that postwar justifications for women’s access to various administrative posts less often used gender-based or maternalist arguments and more frequently made egalitarian arguments focused on women’s possessing the same credentials as men. But of course a tension between the two types of argumentation also continued, and was reflected in the barring of women from certain jobs and the imposition of gender quotas for others. Clearly, the gendered behavioral prescriptions outlined in 1977 in “The Molding of the Citoyenne” still carried weight, even as changes occurred in the social, economic, and political realms.

28From women in French administration I went on to a comparative book, commissioned by the Cambridge University Press, on Women and Achievement in Nineteenth-Century Europe (2008). It gave me a chance to bring together materials I had used in the teaching of European women’s history. As I sifted through a now plentiful array of publications concerning various European countries, I was again struck by the prevalence of the gendered arguments used to advance women’s professional endeavors. For example, there was a presumption that women doctors or lawyers could provide special services for women clients. And of course feminists and suffragists repeatedly argued that if women gained the right to vote, they would bring distinctive insights and values into the public arena.

29Now I have a project focused on the women who directed écoles normales during the Third Republic. I am again studying women’s careers and women’s relationship to the French state. Écoles normales prepared teachers for public schools, wherein they used pedagogical materials like those I discussed in 1977. The normal school directrice was the most prominent woman representative of republican education in many departments, and her position as a leader could be a complicated one, especially when controversies over laïcité in the public schools continued in certain areas. Once again, I find women accepting and also manipulating gender ideology as they sought to broaden young women’s intellectual, professional, and social horizons.

Looking Backward from the Mid-1970s, With a Nervous Glance Forward, Steven C. Hause.

30I first met the notion of a “swan song” through Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus, which I read before seeing Lohengrin and wrestling with the German romanticism of a Wagnerian Schwanenlied. I confess that, despite my remarkably outdated youthful education in the classics, I have never read Aristotle’s discussion of the animals nor (despite six years of Latin before university) wrestled with the ancient concept of carmen cygni. In short, I have a most imperfect sense of singing my own swan song.

31So I wrestled with what to sing today in what are probably my last conference words, knowing that a career which began with a book review in 1958 is surely about spent. I chose to stand in the 1970s, on the eve the TR/TR issue, in which Karen Offen and Bill Logue brought us together for one of the beginning moments of modern French women’s history, and look back. Look back at how I for one wound up writing four books on the subject that I could never have anticipated in those formative years of translating Cicero, Sallust, and Virgil.

32To remind a younger audience of that lost world: I spent nearly a decade attending two of the most expensive and so-called “elite” universities. In that decade, neither Northwestern University nor Washington University in St. Louis had a single woman on the tenure-track faculty. Neither NU nor Wash U offered me a single course in women’s history, nor the slightest programmatic direction towards the subjects discussed in our issue of TR/TR. Both universities were co-educational in an age when Harvard, Princeton, and Yale were all still 100% male. (All three became coeducational between 1969 and 1977.) Young women were often the best students in class, and Wash U had welcomed several outstanding women to doctoral study, but none of us got to study with women professors nor in courses on women’s history.

33Instead, my education (and I assume many others at this table) was dominated by a different tradition with courses in European Diplomatic (or political, or military) History, in British Constitutional History, in European Intellectual History (never cultural nor social history), etc. Take a look at the list of the presidents of the American Historical Association during my formative years to see what our profession esteemed. All of the presidents were men -- ça va sans dire? The European historians included several national historians of France (from Louis Gottschalk of the University of Chicago in 1953, to Crane Brinton of Harvard in 1963, to my predecessor teaching French history at Wash U – albeit much longer at Yale – R.R. Palmer in 1970 and Gordon Wright of Stanford in 1975). Note that during the period of my training, all of the historians of France were historians of the French revolution.

34But during my undergraduate education the dominant, glamorous field of modern European history was diplomatic history, especially of the era before World War One. The leading historian of nationalism in that epoch, Carlton J.H. Hayes of Columbia University, and the author of the first monumental history of the origins of the war, Sidney B. Fay of Harvard, were among the most prominent historians of my childhood (more on that later). When I undertook historical study at Northwestern, not one but two more historians of the diplomatic origins of world war one (William L. Langer of Harvard in 1957 and Bernadotte E. Schmitt of the University of Chicago in 1960) were elected to the presidency.

35I read the works of all of these men, I wrote term papers on kindred subjects, and my senior thesis at Northwestern was an analysis of the post-Bismarck, post-Bülow Austro-German alliance entitled “The Riderless Horse.” In that innocent naïveté of the young, I understood that I knew the via regia to academic success. Which led directly to a doctoral dissertation on Théophile Delcassé and to a seriously unimpressive beginning of my career. Where was Marx’s famous comment in the preface of volume one of Das Kapital (“There is no royal road to science”)? For that matter, where was my classical education and Euclid’s similar comment (“There is no royal road to geometry”)? I found myself on a rutted road that wiser folks avoided.

36Thus, when the events of the late 1960s and the early 1970s – a world of anti-war protest, of civil rights and women’s rights radicalism – transformed my world view they also totally changed my view of my career. The work of diplomats in the Vietnam era repulsed me. The desire to attend to human rights filled the vacuum. Hence, a turning to women’s history. I lacked the imagination or instinct of the women who might turn to the wonderful social history of Rachel Fuchs, or the wisdom of Linda Clark in turning to education, or the insight of Karen Offen in producing such remarkable essays as her AHR work on depopulation. Between my very traditional education in political history and my anti-war radicalism, I groped towards two possible approaches: women in radical movements and women in politics. Marilyn Boxer and Chips Sowerwine (still paying an absurd price for his student radicalism) both covered the former choice. Ergo, I inched towards being an historian of women’s political rights in France.

37When Karen and I made contact in (I think) 1975, I had discovered how damn little was available in the US to read about my topic and how utterly undeveloped the work, and even the sources, were in Paris. I had taken a course in statistical analysis in the social sciences, and so, brimming with Multiple Regression Analysis and the Rice Index of Cohesion I decided to write for TR/TR on one original document I did possess, the parliamentary roll call vote rejecting women’s suffrage.

38By the time the journal appeared, I had spent a lot of time climbing that last flight of stairs to the cinquième étage of the mairie of the Fifth Arrondissement and walking across those creaking wooden floorboards into the often empty Bibliothèque Marguerite Durand. Or sitting on the floor of the upper-level of the stacks at the Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris, despairing at making sense out of the dozens of cases of the papers of Hubertine Auclert, then still totally non-classé.

39I knew that my life in diplomatic history was interred. I knew that I had an exciting topic with huge amounts of evidence. But there was still little encouragement. When I consulted a prominent Sorbonne historian for advice, he said, “It is a good thing that you are an American and will publish there. No one in France would want to read this.” He must have sent this message to my dean who begrudgingly accepted my tenure but insisted that it be as an assistant professor, to give time for future evaluation of my serious research. Perhaps to the editor of one major journal, who returned my essay on women’s suffrage with virtually no comment except the opening of a poem:

“As I was going up the stair
I met a man who wasn't there!
He wasn't there again today…”

40Mercifully, the editor omitted the next line (“Oh how I wish he'd go away!"), but his rejection certainly appeared to have that intent.

41Clearly, I could neither have guessed nor dared wish for what followed. Shortly after my rather amateurish essay for TR/TR, my work on women’s suffrage was appearing in the AHR. Almost immediately, Princeton, then Yale, and finally Harvard approached me. Four books on women’s suffrage later, it turns out that there was a via regia in my career which led me first to a generous named professorship and then to a wonderful position back at Wash U.

42But. Here I close with my promised “nervous look forward.” As I reflect on my route forward from TR/TR, I find that one of my conclusions is the opposite of bragging about career success. For some time, I have been and I remain, disturbed by my lack of success, indeed “failure” may not be too strong. Not within the cursus honorem of academia, but in the larger culture, where my work would appear to be close to meaningless. I give two illustrations of failure to touch a larger public. A few years ago, the departmental government of the Allier discovered their daughter, Hubertine Auclert, then (to their astonishment) that the authority was both a man and an American. They cheerfully invited me to visit and they were wonderfully welcoming and generous in their reaction. I asked for a couple of current reference books – French biographical dictionaries. Then I showed them how little the culture had learned from women’s history. None had an entry for Auclert. Indeed, I offered a dozen names from the women’s movement (Durand, Madeleine Pelletier, Avril de Sainte Croix, etc.) Not a one yet existed at the level of numerous medieval counts.

43I offer you a similar gauge of our success. I recently basked in the halls of books at Strand’s in New York. There sat a stack of the most recent excited popular tome on the belle époque. All of the usual suspects of literary and artistic culture had been rounded up, with a nice dollop of the naughtiness of the demi-monde. It will undoubtedly sell better than my books at Princeton and Yale. A few moments in the index, however, were not encouraging. There was no entry for feminism or women’s rights. None for Durand, or Pelletier, or Avril (well, except for Jane Avril). And, of course, it was still a Belle Epoque in which Hubertine Auclert did not exist. Keats might have said more than my name was written on water; so were my books.

“Questions, and Along the Way, some Answers” Karen Offen

  • 4 I have discussed the steps in this intellectual trajectory in “Going Against the Grain: The Making (...)
  • 5 Simone de Beauvoir, Le Deuxième Sexe, vol. 1 (Paris : Gallimard, 1949, 1976), p. 17.

44It all began with a question: “was there ever a women’s movement in France?” As many of you may – or may not know, I began my graduate research in French history by studying the political career of a male politician – a right-wing one at that – Paul de Cassagnac. Yet, I kept stumbling across fragments of information in the French press and in the Paris police archives concerning women and, by the 1890s, feminism. The more I looked the more I found4. I started filing notes about it. But, of course, I had no framework readily available in which to interpret what I had found; nothing concerning the woman question had made it into our earlier textbooks. And, of course, Simone de Beauvoir had told us in her book, The Second Sex, that “they [women] have no past, no history, no religion of their own.5” Thus, when I embarked on a more sustained inquiry in 1972, I knew next to nothing about the woman question debate or the feminist campaigns in France, but I had clues and, thus, reason to suspect that there was a story to be told.

  • 6 The fruits of this comparative study include Women, The Family, and Freedom: The Debate in Document (...)

45The result of that post-dissertation inquiry, was a never-published 1972 manuscript of 80 pages (and 190 endnotes). I called it “The Woman Question as a Social Issue in Republican France, 1870-1914.” Already, as you can see, my question had already changed: from this point on, it was the “woman question” debates that intrigued me. I began to circulate it privately to friends, family, and a few colleagues whom I had recently met. One good friend and colleague said to me at the time: “what you’ve written is either too long to be an article or too short to be a book. But it looks like a book (in embryo) to me.” Others said, yes, but… how does the debate on the woman question in France compare with that in America or England? Or Germany? Or Russia? Or, for that matter, Japan or China? It was this quest that launched me in the direction of comparative history, and explains to some degree why my project on France and the francophone world took so long to complete6. I would be greatly aided in this comparative work from the late 1980s on by my colleagues in the International Federation for Research in Women’s History, many of whom also studied the history of women’s rights/feminism and the woman question debates in their respective countries. I wanted to understand what was “singular” about the Francophone debates. [Gallic singularity!]

46But back in the early 1970s, another question arose: who else was “out there” – was anybody else interested in French women’s history – or for that matter, in the debates on the woman question? Following the 1974 Berkshire Conference and the second meeting of the Western Society for French History in San Francisco, I launched a survey to find out. I composed a questionnaire and distributed it to those I had so far encountered, asking about research in progress and publications to date. I received over 50 responses from scholars whose work ranged over seven centuries. For the Third Republic period, some now very familiar names appeared: some had already published an article (or two), e.g., Angus McLaren, Sandra Horvath, Theresa McBride, & George Sussman; others were just beginning dissertations, e.g. Elinor Accampo. Others with research “underway,” e.g., Joan Scott, Louise Tilly, Leslie Page Moch & Claire Moses. Completed dissertations were reported by Charles Sowerwine (1973) and Marilyn Boxer (1975), but not by others. I was one of the few (along with Steve Hause) who had already submitted a dissertation on a completely different subject and only then turned to women’s history. I published the results of this survey (updated through 1976 conference contacts) in the second issue (Winter 1977 [early 1978]) of a brand new multidisciplinary journal, Contemporary French Civilization, and I sent photocopies to all those who had responded. I have no idea who else may have seen this survey in a little-known journal. Nevertheless, a network was emerging.

47In the meantime, I fell into discussion (WSFH in 1974 – San Francisco) with Bill Logue, who was just launching TR/TR – as a paperless (microform) journal – an idea that (even in an age of burgeoning online journals) still seems very ahead of its time. I agreed to coordinate a special double issue no. 3-4, as (being new to the publishing game) I had no better idea about where to publish such a collection of articles on topic that was still “unfashionable” but (we thought) held much promise for the future. I had recruited a group of historians whose names are all very familiar to us now, some of whom -- Linda, Marilyn, Steve – have kindly agreed to join this roundtable and talk about their scholarly trajectories since TR/TR. We regret the physical absence of Chips Sowerwine, who has nevertheless sent his contribution to be read (by Bill Logue), and that of Pat Bidelman and Persis Hunt. When Chips published his book on women and socialism in France in 1978, it was a “first” – it was focused on “femmes oubliées” (his article and enormous bibliography in TR/TR were foundational). It is worth emphasizing that the subject of women’s history had not really yet caught on in France; we Americans, with a few Canadians and Australians, were the pioneers in the field. And the TR/TR special issue marked the beginning of the answer to my questions. And to my realization that this history was fundamentally “political” or “sociopolitical” rather than strictly “social” – and that the stakes for women were very high.

48Our contributors demonstrated that it was no longer a matter of deciphering “women’s silences” but of acknowledging multiple voices, articulate, well-informed – indeed, even eloquent. We were finding that women, historically, and especially in France, had some very important things to say – and they expressed their ideas eloquently, just as have the much better known men (who included both feminists such as Ernest Legouvé and raging antifeminists such as P.-J. Proudhon). Their views, both pro and con, on the subject of women’s emancipation, have been published in tracts, novels, poetry, legal, economic, educational, and medical treatises, the proceedings of learned societies, art and music critics’ reviews, the records of learned societies, organizational publications, parliamentary debates, daily and weekly newspapers as well as thick bi-monthly reviews and yearly almanachs; indeed the list of sources spans the gamut– and there are still many more published (not to mention archival) sources to be mined.

49My own investigations have uncovered the origins and international trajectory of the French terms “féminisme” and “féministe”, have defined feminism in a comparative, historical manner, and have singled out the French approach of “equality-in-difference”. I have analyzed the contributions of one very influential nineteenth-century male-feminist and revealed the true identities and life-stories of two major contributors to the woman question debates – Jenny Poinsard d’Héricourt (1808-1874) and Ghénia Avril de Sainte-Croix (1855-1939).

50Even so, studying the historical progression of a still mostly unexplored multifaceted debate entailed asking a new set of questions: exactly who was speaking to whom, when exactly, why, and in what order. This could take years to figure out – which it did. I now think I am able to explain the singular features of the French debates on the woman question over time, with due respect for the historical context that made them so unique. And now for the answers: I am pleased to announce that the results of what had become a 40+ year quest are forthcoming, in two volumes, from Cambridge University Press, toward the end of this coming summer [2017]. [The woman question in France, 1400-1870 and Debating the woman question in the French Third Republic, 1870-1920]

51Between those early TR-TR days and now, of course, many new possibilities for research have opened up. For one thing, the accessibility of sources has vastly improved. Publications are now available on the internet that were formerly only available on microfilm, and even that was an improvement over seeking out the originals (often in bad shape and “unconsultable”) in the monumental Bibliothèque Nationale (rue de Richelieu), or consulting them at the Réserve where photocopying was both expensive and vigorously controlled. This was decades before the BN’s successor, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF), sprouted its air-conditioned book towers, dauntingly steep escalators, and deeply submerged (and, for me, claustrophobic) reading “caves” on the Left Bank of the Seine. My American colleagues from the 1970s ordered quantities of very pricey microfilm (and, sometimes, were willing to loan it to those of us who couldn’t get to France for a few years – I thank Claire Moses in particular). Then we discovered the microfilms collections of RPI and the Gerritsen Collection. Meanwhile we worked in the precious smaller (and more personable, friendly) libraries, particularly the Bibliothèque Marguerite Durand (BMD; where I met Marilyn Boxer in 1972), the Bouglé collection at the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris (BHVP), the Musée Social, (and, for the twentieth century, the BDIC) and from the 1990s on, the newly developed Archives du Féminisme at the University of Angers. In the meantime, I revisited the Paris police archives and investigated libraries and archives in Switzerland, Belgium, and The Netherlands, seeking additional traces of the francophone debates on the woman question. The traces soon became a deluge! Now, ironically, much of the Francophone periodical press (now including the feminist press) is now easily consultable online through Gallica.

  • 7 The allusion here is to the title of Marilyn Boxer’s fine book, When Women Ask the Questions: Women (...)
  • 8 See the forthcoming special issue of Women’s History Review. All eight essays are now online at the (...)

52In the course of these forty-old years, we have all discovered that there is a “politics” of knowledge and that it is deeply gendered, and we have arrived at an understanding of those earlier decisions as to what gets included and what gets left out in any given historical (or, for that matter, contemporary) account. Which is perhaps an explanation as to why we never learned about either the woman question – or, for that matter, the man problem (as such) – in our schoolbooks, at our universities, or in graduate school. At that time, we did not know to ask those questions7. Today that has changed dramatically, and textbook authors (and teachers) must necessarily take into account the scholarship on the woman question debates if they wish to be considered “up-to-date.8” We now know that the French debates circulated not only in the immediate geographical area of France and its French-speaking neighbors but influenced emerging feminist projects well beyond – in Russia and Poland, in Armenia, in Egypt, in Lebanon and Syria, in the new countries of Latin America – and even in the United States and Canada. Both Mary Wollstonecraft and John Stuart Mill, from England, were highly attuned to the Francophone debates on the woman question and can be considered (through their French translations) as participants.

53In conclusion, I want to reiterate that it was because Beauvoir’s highly influential book, Le Deuxième Sexe, was so dismissive of women’s history that, having tripped across evidence to the contrary, I began to ask: “was there ever a women’s movement in France?” and to launch my inquiry that led to the recovery of the very long (six centuries) and dense history of the published woman question debates themselves, the challenges to masculine domination on all fronts (and the concerted efforts to quell those challenges) that now seem (to me at least) central to understanding the history of France and the Francophone world. The fruits of that quest, to which our special issue of TR/TR contributed foundationally, and to which each of you on this panel has since that time supplemented immensely, have deeply informed my two forthcoming books. Consider them a very Long Prolegomena to The Second Sex. If only Beauvoir had lived to read these books, she would have been very surprised indeed.

Reflections from Down Under on My Contributions to the history of socialist feminism, Charles Sowerwine

54I’m sorry not to be with you on this occasion. My thanks to Karen Offen for organising this session and for having brought together the TR/TR issue back in 1977.

  • 9 Susan Faludi, Backlash : the undeclared war against American women (New York: Crown, 1991).
  • 10 Thomas Piketty, Le capital au XXIe siècle (Paris: Seuil, 2013); Capital in the twenty-first century(...)

55I expect you’ve all had as much fun as I in re-reading our youthful work. We were excited about the triumph of what we today would call gender justice and about the discovery of women acting in history. Today, of course, we are less optimistic. Reaganism/Thatcherism, which we now call neo-liberalism, brought a backlash identified by Susan Faludi 16 years ago (yes it was that long ago)9. That has proved more durable and dangerous than many of us expected. The triumph of neo-liberalism and the consequent increase of inequality identified by Thomas Piketty10 and decrease of solid employment opportunities has also brought a class and race backlash in the form of Trump, Brexit, and Le Pen. Piketty’s work leads to the conclusion that the mid-twentieth century was not the dawn of a new era of decreasing inequality and increasing social justice on all fronts, but rather an historical parenthesis; the trend turns out to be toward growing inequality. To me all this is a salutary reminder of the need to keep class in the mix of our analytical tools. I was therefore pleased to discover that we all wrote then (although some have since diverged) from a common basis combining and highlighting the tensions between class and gender analysis.

56These issues have confronted me as I struggle to complete the third edition of my France since 1870. This has forced me to confront my inner Whig. Reading these pieces from 1977, therefore, brings me back to the optimism of my youth.

57We were all optimists then. We were all empiricists too, and the major theoretical contributions that feminist historians would make were in the future. But we were explorers clearing the bush and signaling what we found. I am proud of our archival work, reflected in our long footnotes!

58The basis on which we stood, that the issue of justice for women was as fundamental as that of justice to workers or subaltern races, has become the orthodoxy, in history if not in current political debate. We can be proud of our individual contributions. We all did solid work and contributed to the inclusion of women’s contributions to society and struggles for justice into mainstream French history. No reviewer is likely to say now, as a critic said of my Les femmes et le socialisme (published by Sciences Po the same year as our TR/TR issue), ‘no one would be interested in these women’.

59In a perverse way, I am pleased that there are many valuable contributions made in our collection still to be brought into mainstream and in that our work then is still relevant today.

60Karen Offen’s introductory essay was, to my knowledge, the first statement of her argument about the woman question over French history, which culminated in two major works (2000 and 2010, see bibliography). But has mainstream history yet paid sufficient attention to this strand of “big” French history?

  • 11 Patrick Kay Bidelman, Pariahs stand up! The founding of the liberal feminist movement in France, 18 (...)

61Pat Bidelman’s essay marked the beginning of his effort to rescue Maria Deraismes and Léon Richer from near-oblivion11. But has mainstream history paid sufficient attention to these pioneers and to the existence of a French feminist movement in the early Third Republic?

  • 12 Joan Wallach Scott, Only paradoxes to offer: French feminists and the rights of man (Cambridge, MA: (...)

62In Linda Clark’s study we see the germs of her insightful Schooling the Daughters of Marianne, but the essay offers other riches. It shows how republicans were struggling with the tension between equality and difference: Francinet thinks little girls “have as much intelligence as little boys,” so difference has to be established in social practice, leaving open the inference that it could be changed. This work has become more relevant as we have struggled to understand the “paradox” of Enlightenment views of equality and of sexual difference12.

63Marilyn Boxer’s piece complements Linda’s, showing how socialists and feminists struggled over the nature of the family, using a sensitive and even-handed approach.

64Persis Hunt’s article takes us to the heart of another aspect of the struggle, as played out by feminists in the Instituteurs’ Syndicat. I especially appreciated her subtle analysis of the many shades of feminism (and anti-feminism) involved.

  • 13 Charles Sowerwine, “Revising the Sexual Contract: Women's Citizenship and Republicanism in France, (...)

65Steve Hause’s analysis of the rejection of women’s suffrage remains especially relevant today. The responsibility of the Radical republicans has been recognized, but, as I have argued, theoretical work is required to explain republican opposition to women’s suffrage13. Others of Steve’s conclusions should open thought for scholars today: “northern France supported the bill quite strongly, while southern France was solidly opposed;” “doctors, teachers, and mayors” were hostile; and the youngest senators “voted overwhelmingly against.”

66My own piece still seems to me to be useful. To be sure, it is too detailed; like any explorer, I put in all the landmarks. But I thought then and think now that it is historically significant that the explicit basis of the key schism in the history of pre- World War I French socialism was the issue of women’s rights. And I’m proud to have unearthed Léonie Rouzade’s candidature in the 1881 Paris Municipal Elections, especially since her votes were recorded officially and published as part of the results. It may well have been the first women’s candidature treated so seriously.

  • 14 Charles Sowerwine, France since 1870 : culture, society and the making of the republic (2nd edn; Ba (...)
  • 15 Sowerwine, “Revising the Sexual Contract.”

67I think that the hard, empirical work I, like the rest of you, did to bring women’s history in from the cold laid the basis for my later efforts to mainstream women’s history. In France since 1870, I tried to set out and analyze “gender struggle,” as I referred to it, in parallel with other struggles, particular class struggle and colonial/racial struggle14. And in a recent theoretical article, I sought to explain continued republican hostility to women’s suffrage in the context of the cultural work necessary to construct and maintain republicanism15.

68It is good that, in these darkening times, we can celebrate intellectual endeavor, especially when at the service of the cause of social justice. I wish you joy in your fellowship together.

Bio-Bibliographical Notes, by Karen Offen

69Readers of Genre & Histoire may be intrigued to learn how the careers of these historians developed over the forty-plus year period since 1977. Each one has enjoyed (or endured) a different trajectory inside of (or on the fringes of) academia and each has produced landmark works of history. As historians we are colleagues – and we remain friends as well.

70Marilyn J. Boxer developed an early interest in the condition of working women in nineteenth-century France and the fraught relationship between feminism and socialism. She is perhaps best known as one of the founding “mothers” of women’s studies in America. At San Diego State University, she chaired and developed the first women’s studies program in the United States, leading it to departmental status. As a dean, she pioneered major changes in the teaching load to give professors more time for research. Moving to San Francisco State University in 1989, she served as vice president and provost and is now professor of history emerita. Her book, When Women Ask the Questions: Creating Women’s Studies in America (1998) provides an excellent account of the development of this major new field of study. Her full bibliography can be consulted on her website at San Francisco State University:​people/​emeriti/​marilyn-boxer Marilyn’s professional papers have been deposited in the Stanford University Special Collections archive. E -mail:

71Linda L. Clark is professor of history emerita at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, where she taught from 1970 to 2003, and also served twice as acting dean of Humanities and Social Sciences (1987-89, 1994-96). She has served on the editorial boards of French Historical Studies and the History of Education Quarterly, and was executive director of the Society for French Historical Studies from 2008 to 2014. She now lives in Long Beach, California. Her article in TR/TR (1977),“ The Molding of the Citoyenne: The Image of the Female in French Educational Literature”, was one of her earliest publications and her first foray into the history of French women’s education, professional employment, and achievement. Linda Clark’s current projects are “Women and Educational Politics in Third Republic France: the Directrices d'ecoles normales” and “The Ecoles normales d'institutrices in Colonial Algeria, 1875-1940”. Her works are the result of meticulous archival research in France.

72Steven C. Hause is professor emeritus at both the University of Missouri – St. Louis (where he began his career in 1969) and at Washington University in St. Louis (where he last taught in 2015). At Washington University, he served as a Senior Scholar in the Humanities and co-director of the European Studies Focus Program. He is a past president of both the Society for French Historical Studies (2008-2009) and the Western Society for French History (1987-1988). He was named a Thomas Jefferson Fellow of the University of Missouri System. Steve’s professional papers have been deposited in the archives of Washington University, and can be consulted there. E-mail:

73William Logue is Professor Emeritus of History at Northern Illinois University where he served several years as assistant chair and director of graduate studies in the History Department. He now resides in Delanco, New Jersey. He is the author of Léon Blum: The Formative Years, 1872-1914 (1973), From Philosophy to Sociology: The Evolution of French Liberalism (1983), and Charles Renouvier, Philosopher of Liberty (1993) as well as numerous articles on modern French history. He served terms on the editorial board of French Historical Studies and on the executive committee of the Western Society for French History, and was the founder and editor of Third Republic/Troisième République. In addition to the Western Society and the Society for French Historical Studies, he was at various times a member of the American Association of University Professors (NIU chapter president), the Société d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, the Société des amis d’Emile Durkheim, and a life member of the Société des amis de Léon Blum. We are grateful to him for being receptive to publishing the special issue of TR/TR on French women’s History. He has donated all his professional files, including the files on TR/TR to the archives at Ohio State University. E-mail:

74Karen Offen is a historian and independent scholar, affiliated with the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. She has served on the board of the Society for French Historical Studies and the Western Society for French History, the editorial board of French Historical Studies, and the executive board of the International Committee on the Historical Sciences, where she worked hard to promote the inclusion of women’s and gender history in its quinquennial congresses. She is also a co-founder and past officer of the International Federation for Research in Women’s History/Federation internationale de recherche en histoire des femmes ( She has taught and lectured widely throughout Europe and the United States. Karen’s professional papers have been donated to the Stanford University Archives-Special Collections, and transfer is still in progress. She continues to live in northern California and to attempt to finalize a number of smaller projects. E-mail: Website:

75Charles (Chips) Sowerwine is Emeritus Professor of History, University of Melbourne, and Adjunct Professor of History, La Trobe University. Since 2003 he is a Professorial Fellow, Institut d’études culturelles, Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, where he introduced courses in gender history. An American settled in Australia, Chips has lived in Melbourne for many years, with frequent extended visits to France. He made two contributions to the 1977 TR/TR volume: the article “Women and the Origins of the French Socialist Party: A Neglected Contribution,” and his massive bibliography, “Women, Socialism, and Feminism, 1872-1922,” both of which prefigured the imminent publication in France of his Wisconsin doctoral dissertation. His article, “Workers and Women in France before 1914: The Debate over the Couriau Affair” (1983), won the Koren Prize (for best article) of the Society for French Historical Studies in 1984. His PhD thesis (University of Wisconsin, Madison) was translated and published in France as Les Femmes et le socialism: cent ans d’histoire with a preface by Madeleine Reberioux (1978). It was the first work of an English-language author to be published by the Presses de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques. A substantially revised English version appeared as Sisters or Citizens? Women and Socialism in France since 1870 (1982, 2008). With Claude Maignien, he wrote a biography of the pioneering socialist feminist, Dr. Madeleine Pelletier. His is currently preparing a third edition of his Palgrave textbook, France since 1870: culture, society and the making of the republic (2001, 2009). E-mail:

76In concluding, I would like to say a word about the two colleagues who were missing from the TR/TR celebration – Patrick Kay Bidelman and Persis Charles (then Persis Hunt). Patrick’s contribution to the 1977 publication was an essay on “Maria Deraismes, Léon Richer, and the Founding of the French Feminist Movement, 1866-1878”, which became a chapter in his important book Pariahs Stand Up! The Founding of the Liberal Feminist Movement in France, 1858‑1889 (1982), based on his dissertation at Michigan State University. Subsequently Pat left the history profession and moved to Florida, where he taught for a number of years at a community college. My last contact with him indicated that he had established a business manufacturing pitching machines for baseball teams – baseball was always his great passion. His professional papers and sources have found a home at Stanford University in the Special Collections archives. Persis Charles Hunt originally contributed an article, “Teachers and Workers: Problems of Feminist Organizing in the Early Third Republic”. This was related to her thesis at Tufts, “Revolutionary syndicalism and feminism among teachers in France, 1900-1921.” Following a name change – she reverted to Persis Charles – she taught at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, but did not become a widely published scholar. In 2019 she retired following 42 years of teaching, notably in women’s history and global studies.

77Such are the variations and vicissitudes of careers as historians for members of our cohort.

Haut de page


Selected Bibliography (by author alphabetically, in chronological order of publication):

Marilyn Jacoby Boxer:

1975. “Foyer or Factory: Working Class Women in 19th Century France”, in Brison D. Gooch, ed., Proceedings of the Second Annual Meeting, Western Society for French History. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press): 193-203.

1977. “French Socialism, Feminism, and the Family,” Third Republic/Troisième République, nos. 3/4 (1977), 128-167.

ed. 1978. Socialist Women: European Socialist Feminism in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries (Elsevier, 1978)

1981. “When Radical and Socialist Feminism Were Joined: The Extraordinary Failure of Madeleine Pelletier,” in Jane Slaughter and Robert Kern, eds., European Women on the Left: Socialism, Feminism, and the Problems Faced by Political Women, 1880 to the Present (Westport, CT: Greenwood), 51-73.

1987. Connecting Spheres: Women in the Western World, 1500 to the Present (New York & London: Oxford UP,1987); reissued in 2000 as Connecting Spheres: European Women in a Globalizing World, 1500 to the Present, with several additional essays.

1995. “Placing Madeleine Pelletier,” (review-essay) History of European Ideas, 21:3 (1995), 421-438.

Boxer, Marilyn J. 1998. When Women Ask the Questions: Creating Women’s Studies in America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998)

2001. “Les Women’s Studies aux Etats-Unis: trente ans de succès et de contestation”, Clio: Histoire, Femmes, Sociétés, numéro 13 (2001): 211-238. 

2007. “Rethinking the Socialist Construction and International Career of the Concept ‘Bourgeois Feminism’,” American Historical Review, 112:1 (February 2007), 131-158.

2012. “Linking Socialism, Feminism, and Social Darwinism in Belle Epoque France: the maternalist politics and journalism of Aline Valette,” Women’s History Review, 21:1 (February 2012), 1-19.

2013. “Clara Zetkin and France: Eight Years Exile, Eighty Year Influence,” in Clara Zetkin: National and International Contexts, eds. Marilyn J. Boxer, & John S. Partington. Occasional Publications Series, no. 31 (London: Socialist History Society, 2013).

2019. “Denouncing War Before, During, and After: The Antimilitarist Passion of Marianne Rauze, Officer’s Wife, War Widow,” French Historical Studies, 41:1 (February 2019), 101-125.

Linda L. Clark:

1977. “The Molding of the Citoyenne: The Image of the Female in French Educational Literature,” Third Republic/Troisième République, nos. 3/4 (1977), 74-103.

1988. “Le Darwinisme social en France,” La Recherche, no. 196 (février 1988), 192-200.

1989. “A Battle of the Sexes in a Professional Setting: The Introduction of Inspectrices Primaires, 1889-1914,” French Historical Studies 16 (Spring 1989): 96-125.

1995. “Bringing Feminine Qualities into the Public Sphere: The Third Republic's Appointment of Women Inspectors,” in Gender and the Politics of Social Reform in France. 1870-1914, ed. Elinor Accampo, Rachel G. Fuchs, and Mary Lynn Stewart (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), 128-56.

1998. “Les Carrières des inspectrices du travail (1892-1939),” In Inspecteurs et inspection du travail sous la IIIe et la IVe république, ed. Jean-Louis Robert (Paris: Documentation française, 1998), 128-135.

1999. “Higher-Ranking Women Civil Servants and the Vichy Regime: Firings and Hirings, Collaboration and Resistance,” French History 13 (September 1999): 332-59.

2011. Preface to L'Éducation des mères: Olympe Gevin-Cassal, inspectrice générale de l'enfance (1859-1945) (P.U. Rennes, 2011), 7-13.

2015. “Les femmes dans les professions qualifiée et le féminisme, des années 1880 aux années 1930,” in Les Féministes de la première vague, ed. Christine Bard (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2015), 119-29.

Steven C. Hause:

1977. “The Rejection of Women’s Suffrage by the French Senate in November 1922: A Statistical Analysis,” Third Republic/Troisième République, nos. 3/4 (1977), 205-237.

1979. “Women Who Rallied to the Tricolor: The Effects of World War I on the French Women's Suffrage Movement.” Proceedings of the Western Society for French History, San Diego, 1979, pp. 371‑378.

1980. with Anne R. Kenney. “Women's Suffrage and the Paris Elections of l908,” Laurels: A Magazine Devoted to French-American Friendship, 5l, no. 1 (Spring 1980), 2l‑32.

1981. with Anne R. Kenney. “The Development of the Catholic Women's Suffrage Movement in France, 1896‑1922.” Catholic Historical Review, 67, no. 1 (Jan. 1981), 11‑30.

1981. with Anne R. Kenney. “The Limits of Suffragist Behavior: Legalism and Militancy in France, 1876‑1922.” American Historical Review, 86, no. 4 (Oct. 1981), 781‑806.

1984. “Citizeness of the Republic: Class and Sex Identity in the Feminist Career of Hubertine Auclert, 1848‑1914.” Proceedings of the Western Society for French History, Albuquerque, 1984, vol. 12, pp. 235-242.

1984. with Anne R. Kenney. Women's Suffrage and Social Politics in the French Third Republic. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

1987. Hubertine Auclert: The French Suffragette. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

1987. “More Minerva than Mars: The French Women's Rights Campaign and the First World War,” in Behind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars, ed. Margaret Higonnet, Jane Jensen, Sonya Michel, & Margaret CollinsWeitz (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press), pp. 99-113.

1994. with Jennifer Waelti-Walters. 1994. Feminisms of the Belle Époque: A Historical and Literary Anthology. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Karen Offen:

1977.“Introduction” and “The ‘Woman Question’ as a Social Issue in Nineteenth-Century France,” Third Republic/Troisième République, nos. 3/4 (1977), 1-19 and 239-299.

1983. “The Beginnings of 'Scientific' Women's History in France, 1830‑1848,” Proceedings Of The Western Society For French History, 1983, vol. 2 (Lawrence, Kansas, 1984), 255‑264.

1983. “The Second Sex and the Baccalauréat in Republican France, 1880‑1924,” French Historical Studies, 13:2 (Fall 1983), 252‑286.

1984. “Depopulation, Nationalism, and Feminism in Fin‑de‑siècle France,” The American Historical Review, 89:3 (June 1984), 648‑676.

1987. “ Qui est Jenny P. d'Héricourt? Une Identité rétrouvée”, 1848: Révolutions et Mutations au XIXe Siècle, no. 3 (1987), 87‑100.

1987. « Sur l'origine des mots ‘Féminisme’ et ‘Féministe ‘», Revue d'histoire Moderne et Contemporaine (Paris), 34:3 (July‑Sept. 1987), 492‑496.

1988. “Defining Feminism: A Comparative Historical Approach.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 14:1 (Autumn 1988), 119‑157. In French: in Bulletin d'information des Études Féminines, nos. 20‑21 (Dec. 1988), 7-27.

1998. “Les Femmes, la citoyenneté et le droit de vote en France, 1789‑1993”, in Le Processus D'intégration Des Femmes Au Politique : Féminismes Et Cultures Nationales, ed. Yolande Cohen & Françoise Thébaud, pp. 44-70. Lyon: Centre Jacques Cartier, 1998.

2002. “Femmes et suffrage ‘universel’ : Une comparaison transatlantique”, in 1848: Actes du colloque international du cent cinquantenaire, tenu à l’Assemblée nationale à Paris, les 23-25 février 1998, ed. Jean-Luc Mayaud, pp. 29-45. Paris: Société d’histoire de la révolution de 1848 et des révolutions du XIXe siècle et CREAPHIS, 2002.

2004. “Pionnière de l’histoire des mères et de la maternité : La contribution de Yvonne Knibiehler”, in Femmes, Familles, Filiations: Societé et Histoire. Études réunies par Marcel Bernos et Michèle Bitton en hommage à Yvonne Knibiehler, pp. 185-192. Aix-en-Provence: Publications de l’Université de Provence, 2004.

2004. “Des modèles nationaux (1900-1945)?” in Le Siècle des féminismes, ed. Éliane Gubin et al, pp. 65-79. Paris: Les Éditions de l’Atelier, 2004.

2009. “ ‘Flux et éruptions‘: réflexions sur l’écriture de l’histoire comparée des féminismes européens, 1700-1950”, in Histoire comparée des femmes: Nouvelles approches, ed. Anne Cova, pp. 45-65. Lyon: ENS Éditions, 2009.

2010. “Is the 'Woman Question' Really the 'Man Problem'?” in Confronting Modernity in Fin-de-Siecle France: Bodies, Minds and Gender, ed. Christopher E. Forth & Elinor Accampo, pp. 43-62. London: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2010.

2011. “Feminism and the Republic,“ in The French Republic: History, Values, Debates, ed. Edward Berenson, Vincent Duclert, & Christophe Prochasson (Ithaca, NY : Cornell University Press, 2011), pp. 289-298.

2015. “‘La plus grande féministe de France’ : pourquoi a-t-on oublié l’inoubliable féministe international française Ghénia Avril de Sainte-Croix ?” in Les Féministes de la première vague, ed. Christine Bard (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2015), 181-194.

2017. The Woman Question in France, 1400-1870 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2017)

2018. Debating the Woman Question in the French Third Republic, 1870-1920 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP 2018).

2019. with Chen Yan, eds., Women’s History at the Cutting Edge. London: Routledge.

Charles (Chips) Sowerwine:

1975. “Le Groupe féministe socialiste, 1899‑1902”, Le Mouvement social, 90 (Jan.‑Mar. 1975), 87‑120.

1977. “Women and the Origins of the French Socialist Party: A Neglected Contribution.” Third Republic/Troisième République, nos. 3/4 (1977), 104‑27.

1977. “Women, Socialism, and Feminism, 1872‑1922: A Bibliography. ”Third Republic/Troisième République, nos. 3/4 (1977), 300‑366.

1978. Les Femmes et le socialisme. Paris.

1979. “Women Against the War: A Feminine Basis for Internationalism and Pacifism?” Proceedings of the Western Society for French History, San Diego, 1978, vol. 6, 361‑70.

1980. “Socialism, Feminism, and Violence: The Analysis of Madeleine Pelletier.”
Proceedings of the Western Society for French History, Eugene, 1980, vol. 8, 415‑22.

1982. Sisters or Citizens? Women and Socialism in France since 1876. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

1983. “Workers and Women in France before 1914: The Debate over the Couriau Affair.” Journal of Modern History, 55, no. 3 (Sept. 1983), 411‑441.

1985. with Aude Sowerwine, eds., L’Opposition des femmes. Vol. 2 of Le Mouvement ouvrier français contre la guerre, 1914-1918. Paris: EDHIS.

1986. with Darryn Kruse. “Feminism and Pacifism: 'Woman's Sphere' in Peace and War,” in Australian Women: New Feminist Perspectives, eds. Ailsa Burns & Norma Grieve. Melbourne & New York: Oxford University Press.

1988. « Madeleine Pelletier (1874‑1939): femme, médecin, militante », L'Information psychiatrique, 9 (Nov. 1988), 1183‑93.

1991. “Militantisme et identité sexuelle: la carrière politique et l'oeuvre théorique de Madeleine Pelletier (1874‑1939) ”, Le Mouvement social, no.157 (Oct.‑Dec. 1991), 9‑32.

1992. with Claude Maignien. Madeleine Pelletier, une féministe dans l'arêne politique (Paris: Éditions ouvrières, 1992).

2001 (and subsequent editions). France since 1870: Culture, Politics and Society. Houndmills, UK, & New York: Palgrave.

2010. “Revising the Sexual Contract: Women’s Citizenship and Republicanism in France, 1789-1944,” in Confronting Modernity in Fin-de-Siècle France: Bodies, Minds and Gender, ed. Christopher E. Forth & Elinor Accampo, pp. 19-42. Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Haut de page


1 “Socialisme, Femmes, et Féminisme” (n.p.: Jaurès Fondation, 2010), pp. 40-41.

2 “When Radical and Socialist Feminism Were Joined: The Extraordinary Failure of Madeleine Pelletier,” in Jane Slaughter and Robert Kern, eds., European Women on the Left: Socialism, Feminism, and the Problems Faced by Political Women, 1880 to the Present (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1981), pp. 51-73.

3 Evelyne Diebolt and Marie-Hélène Zylberberg-Hocquard, Marcelle Capy, Aline Valette: Femmes et Travail au dix-neuvième siècle (Paris: Syros, 1984).

4 I have discussed the steps in this intellectual trajectory in “Going Against the Grain: The Making of an Independent Scholar,” in Voices of Women Historians, ed. Eileen Boris & Nupur Chaudhuri (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999), pp. 86–101

5 Simone de Beauvoir, Le Deuxième Sexe, vol. 1 (Paris : Gallimard, 1949, 1976), p. 17.

6 The fruits of this comparative study include Women, The Family, and Freedom: The Debate in Documents, 1750-1950, 2 vols (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1983), with Susan Groag Bell, European Feminisms, 1700-1950:A Political History (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), and Globalizing Feminisms (London: Routlledge, 2010).

7 The allusion here is to the title of Marilyn Boxer’s fine book, When Women Ask the Questions: Women’s Studies in America (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1998).

8 See the forthcoming special issue of Women’s History Review. All eight essays are now online at the WHR (Taylor & Francis) website, including the position paper I authored jointly with Chen Yan for the 2015 ICHS/CISH and IFRWH conferences in China, “Women’s History at the Cutting Edge.”

9 Susan Faludi, Backlash : the undeclared war against American women (New York: Crown, 1991).

10 Thomas Piketty, Le capital au XXIe siècle (Paris: Seuil, 2013); Capital in the twenty-first century (tr. Arthur Goldhammer; Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014). For an analysis of the impact and reception of Piketty’s work, see my “The Far Right in a Neo-Liberal Age: ‘Pessimism, Sexism and Racism in Modern French Thought’ ”, French History and Civilisation: Papers from the George Rudé Seminar, forthcoming at

11 Patrick Kay Bidelman, Pariahs stand up! The founding of the liberal feminist movement in France, 1858-1889 (Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1982).

12 Joan Wallach Scott, Only paradoxes to offer: French feminists and the rights of man (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996).

13 Charles Sowerwine, “Revising the Sexual Contract: Women's Citizenship and Republicanism in France, 1789-1944,” in Christopher E. Forth and Elinor Accampo, eds, Confronting Modernity in Fin-de-Siècle France: Bodies, Minds and Gender (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 19-42.

14 Charles Sowerwine, France since 1870 : culture, society and the making of the republic (2nd edn; Basingstoke [England] ; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); 3rd edition forthcoming late 2017.

15 Sowerwine, “Revising the Sexual Contract.”

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Karen Offen, « Retrospective on the special Issue of Third Republic/Troisième République (1977) “Aspects of the Woman Question during the Third Republic”, 40th anniversary, papers collected by Karen Offen », Genre & Histoire [En ligne], 26 | Automne 2020, mis en ligne le 01 mars 2021, consulté le 05 juillet 2022. URL :

Haut de page


Karen Offen

Stanford University ;

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
Genre & histoire est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

Haut de page
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search