More Minerva Than Mars

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More Minerva than Mars: The French Women's Rights
Campaign and the First World War

This essay examines the role of French women during and after the First World War based on Steven Hause's article "More Minerva than Mars: The French Women's Rights Campaign and the First World War". He claims that the World War I in many ways set back the French Women's Right Campaign.

During the First World War, many French feminist leaders believed that women would gain right to vote by next elections. Their confidence was based on many changes that were happening during the war and strong feminist movements. Since the most men were on the battlefields, women started entering economy and labour market, gained some legal rights and changed social attitudes by accepting the role of women as necessary. Women contributed to the war by producing munitions, serving as doctors and nurses, clerical workers, majors and etc. All this led them to believe that by the end of the war they would have equal rights as men and be important part of French society.

But, the reality was different. The country had to provide jobs for all those men who fought in the war and therefore dismissed or demoted most of the women. Furthermore, the country was experiencing so called "depopulation" due to the loss of thousands of men in the war and wanted women to bear children and not to work. Veterans were asking why were they going through all that suffering if not to keep the country and tradition the same as before the war. There were also political reasons for antifeminism. Ministers had to rebuild the country, economy, protect and accommodate the veterans and didn't want to lose their votes because of minor issues such as women's rights. The Russian Revolution also had influence on antifeminist's movement, dividing bourgeois feminists and socialist women.

After the war, the French Women's Rights Campaign was weakening significantly. Many of the leaders retired or died; magazines and...
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