Uniform TitleBetween war and revolution: French women and the sexual practices of everyday life, 1952-1967
NameKreisel, Cynthia Sharrer (author), Smith, Bonnie (chair), Davis, Belinda (internal member), Kaplan, Temma (internal member), Wall, Irwin (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
DescriptionFrench women of all classes made everyday decisions in the postwar period in an effort to preserve their personal and sexual autonomy. They wrote letters to journals and papers, they read the works of scientists, doctors, and other women like themselves; they formed networks; they fought to free themselves from the bonds of sexual slavery; they found abortionists either clandestinely in France or abroad; and they fought for and obtained the right to family planning and the right to control their own bodies and lives.
This project sheds light on the debates over sex, the activism surrounding sex, and the experiences of sex, all of which remain unexplored in the historiography of the immediate postwar years. Whereas many historians consider the postwar, pre-revolutionary period as one of "silence" regarding sexual and personal freedoms, the sources I have located indicate that women in fact actively created many key debates over fertility, sexuality, and sexual freedom that raged in this postwar environment.
My thesis overturns the traditional view that students were the catalyst provoking revolution in May of 1968, by showing that women's struggles to control their own bodies and sexualities lay the groundwork for more radical rebellion in a conservative post-war world, in the two decades prior to 1968. This project proposes a paradigm shift that changes the definition and periodization of the "sexual revolution." Although there occurred a well-documented explosion of conversation and group formation based on identity politics after 1968 that has been described as a "sexual revolution," this older definition ignores the actions of women in the two earlier decades. These women's efforts successfully culminated in the Loi Neuwirth of 1967, both legalizing contraception and implementing a program of sexual education in French schools--a full six months before students and workers erupted in protest in May of 1968. French women's everyday resistances to the conservative and traditional postwar social order paved the road to revolution, however this study will also explore the complications and contradictions inherent in the complex postwar sexual world in which these women lived, loved, and agitated.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 415-432).
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.