France was the first country to establish male universal suffrage but one of the last Western states to institute Universal Suffrage: French women were not granted the right to vote before 1944. Many historians have pointed out this apparent anomaly and have used the idea of le retard français, the French delay. International comparisons support this idea
[...] Since their importance is muted with time, they account only partially for the rejection of the bill granting women the right to vote just before the war and in the inter-war years. Therefore, this essay will then give a specific analysis of this period. One of the recurrent explanations of the late enfranchisement is the weakness of French feminism. Indeed, although France did have a relatively large, organized and active women's suffrage movement, it was indisputably weaker than Anglo-American mass movements. [...]
[...] Firstly, since it did not regard the idea of a French delay, it had to examine why women did not get the vote around the same time as men and not simply after the war. More importantly, all of these forces of resistance I have described, although subdued in the 20th century still partly explain what otherwise is incomprehensible: why a majority of the population still opposed the vote in the inter-war period, and why successive governments would not take any risk to impose a measure they favored. [...]
[...] This also partly accounts for the division of feminists on the vote in the late 19th century: the logical trend was to put women out of their dependence before fighting for the vote. In brief, Roman law, codified by the powerful “Code Civil”, is one of the main factors of the conservatism of French people regarding women because it established family (rather than the individual) as the fundamental social unit and proclaimed the principle of male dominance The Catholic Church held the same positions and was even more influential. [...]
[...] The idea of reward (to resistant women) is not convincing simply because it was difficult to claim that most women were in the Resistance. While some have dismissed the role of feminists in the final decision, Karen Offen reminds that feminists, being there mattered” because of the influence of Lucie Aubrac. More importantly, communists have argued strongly in favor of it, perhaps released from revolutionary prejudices and considering women as “individuals”. In support of Smith's thesis, it can be noted that women's suffrage came when the influence of the Radical and Radical- socialist was truly diminished. [...]
[...] It may also be argued that political contingencies in the inter-war years did not favor women's right to vote (depopulation, national security, Hindenburg's myth, domestic fascist threat . Confronted by major threats, the Republic came first (and women's suffrage after) in the mind of most politicians, and even in the mind of feminists like Cécile Brunschvicg. In fact, while many politicians said they favoured women's suffrage, no one considered it a priority; the SFIO, for instance, “unequivocally pro-suffrage offered many words and little action”. [...]
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