Women and the Second World War in France, 1939-1948: Choices and Constraints (Women And Men In History)

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9780582299092: Women and the Second World War in France, 1939-1948: Choices and Constraints (Women And Men In History)

This is the first book (in either English or French) to offer readers an overview of women's experience of the Second World War and its immediate aftermath in France. It examines objectively the part that women played in both collaboration and resistance, synthesising much recent scholarship on the subject in French and English, and drawing on the author's own extensive research (including oral testimony) in Toulouse, Paris, and West Brittany. The findings are complex, and the immensely varied testimony challenges easy generalisation. This will be relevant for courses on French studies, French and European history and Women's studies.

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This latest addition to the Women and Men in History series explores French women s experiences during and just after the Second World War. The book analyses the disruption the war brought to their everyday lives; explores the political choices they made during the war and shows how the war did not simply end for them with the Liberation in 1944. What were women s circumstances and what were their constraints? In its analysis of collaboration and resistance, this book offers the first overall examination of women s wartime political involvement and shows how this translated into the postwar period when French women were finally able to vote.

After a scene-setting introduction the main text is divided into two parts: part one examines women s lives during the war and occupation, while part two is concerned with women s experiences after the occupation and questions how far it was a liberation for them. The author takes a thematic rather than a chronological approach and there are chapters devoted to women s paid employment, every-day life and the struggle to survive, collaboration with the occupying forces, women s involvement in the resistance movement, femmes tondues and women s experience of the purges, and the role of women in immediate postwar French politics. A chronology of the main events supports this thematic approach and a glossary and bibliographical essay is also provided.

Accessible, engaging, and often moving, individual women s voices can be heard throughout the text as the author draws on a considerable bank of oral testimony from Paris, Toulouse, and the Finistere (West Brittany). The book also draws on Hanna Diamond s new archival work as well as providing a synthesis of existing research on the subject. Its main objective is to show that there was no homogenous women s experience. The material collected here reveals the complexities of women s lives and suggests new perceptions of gender relations and identities in the war years.

Written with a non-specialist audience in mind, the book will appeal not just to students, postgraduates and scholars in the field, but also to the general reader. Combining social, political, and gender history this book is a must for anyone with a serious interest in the period.
Back cover illustrations by Danuta Mayer

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"well-researched and clearly-argued"Journal of Contemporary History

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