Women's History
Book Reviews


The Woman Question in France, 1400-1870 and Debating the Woman Question in the French Third Republic, 1870-1920

by Karen Offen

Historian Karen Offen’s two books offer new research in the history of France from the perspective of female/male interactions. The books explore exchanges around women’s influence; their exclusion from authority; concerns about education; motherhood; the politics of women’s work; the extent of new ideas about equality and women’s claims for emancipation. In Debating the Woman Question, for example, teachers and students will learn how the expansion of economic opportunities for women and the drop in the birth rate further exacerbated the debates over their status, roles, and possibilities. With the onset of the First World War, these debates were temporarily placed on hold, but were revived by 1916 to gain momentum during France's post-war recovery.

Karen Offen’s ability to uncover and present women’s voice in debates about subjects of importance to them is invaluable, as is her use of primary source pro and con arguments regarding women not only at different periods in France’s history, but in Europe and beyond.

We think that pairing one or two of the historical issues presented in the Offen books with a contemporary look using a visual from Joni Seager’s book could be a valuable teacher tool or student research project.

Lyn Reese is the author of all the information on this website
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Women in World History Curriculum