Women's rights in France: 5 emblematic dates

La lutte pour les droits des femmes en France

Since 1977, March 8 has been officially recognized by the United Nations as International Women's Day . In France, as in many other countries in the world, it is an opportunity to raise awareness and mobilize the entire population in the fight for equality between women and men . But beyond March 8, what are the highlights of the evolution of women's rights in France ? Telling you the story of women's emancipation in its entirety is an impossible task to accomplish here. But to give you an overview, we have chosen 5 key dates . 5 benchmarks which allow us to realize the recent and laborious aspect of progress in this area, and to measure the numerous efforts deployed for this fight.

March 8, International Women's Day
March 8, International Women's Day

1. 1791: the Declaration of the Rights of Women and Citizens

In response to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789, the universality of which she contested, Olympe de Gouges wrote and published in 1791 the Declaration of the Rights of Women and of the Female Citizen . This woman of letters and political activist, engaged in particular in the fight for the liberation of women, affirms equality between the two sexes. In the first article, she writes: “Woman is born free and remains equal to man in rights. » She also urges her female compatriots to reclaim their freedom: “Woman, wake up; the tocsin of reason is heard throughout the universe; recognize your rights. Whatever barriers are placed against you, it is in your power to overcome them. » Words which made this writing a reference text in the history of women's rights in France, and Olympe de Gouges a pioneer of feminism.

The Declaration of the Rights of Women and Citizens of 1791 by Olympe de Gouges The Declaration of the Rights of Women and Citizens of 1791 by Olympe de Gouges

Despite this, the French Revolution will not be favorable to the cause of women. In 1804, their domination by the man was established in the Civil Code: “the wife must obedience to the husband”. And it was not until 1946 that the principle of equal rights between women and men was included in the preamble to the Constitution of October 27 : “The law guarantees women, in all areas, rights equal to those of man. »

2. 1944: the right to vote granted to women

“Women are voters and eligible under the same conditions as men. » This is what stipulates article 17 of the order signed by General de Gaulle on April 21, 1944 , thus granting the rights to vote and to be elected to women in France. Before this date, and since 1848, a century, universal suffrage was male, reserved for men of French nationality aged 21 or over.

On April 29, 1945, it was the first round of municipal elections, the first post-war vote. The many French voters – more than 12 million – finally have the opportunity to exercise their new right, acquired a year earlier. For the very first time in French history, women are going to the polls. Political figure and French Resistance, Gilberte Brossolette speaks of this historic day in these terms: “I thought that, finally, we had the right to give our opinion. Finally, we were full human beings. »

3. 1967: legalization of contraception

The Neuwirth law authorized the contraceptive pill in 1967 The Neuwirth law authorized the contraceptive pill in 1967

The first contraceptive pill was marketed in the United States in 1957. At that time, the use of contraception was penalized in France. Indeed, the law of July 31, 1920, passed in a context of reviving the birth rate following a devastating First World War, prohibited both the use of contraceptives and the use of abortion. It was the deputy Lucien Neuwirth who tabled a bill in May 1966 aimed at authorizing access to contraception. It is very strongly criticized by opponents of the project, in particular the Catholic Church and certain political representatives. He is in turn described as “Immaculate contraception”, “gravedigger of France” or even “bastard ". Despite this, the Neuwirth law was finally adopted by the National Assembly and the Senate on December 19, 1967, then promulgated by General de Gaulle on the following December 28. This victory in the fight for women's rights in France opened the way to another equally fundamental reform: the law authorizing the voluntary termination of pregnancy, known as the "Veil law", adopted on January 17, 1975.

4. 1995: Marie Curie at the Pantheon

Portrait of Marie Curie, pantheonized in 1995 Portrait of Marie Curie, pantheonized in 1995

“It is not normal that no woman as such, and not just because she was the wife of a great man, was admitted to the Pantheon, which represents national memory. » These are the words spoken by the President of the French Republic François Mitterrand on March 8, 1994 on the 8 p.m. news on France 2. A year later, on April 20, 1995, Marie Curie was the first woman to enter the Pantheon because solely of his own labors and merits. Sophie Berthelot has been resting there since 1907, but only to accompany her famous husband, the chemist Marcellin Berthelot. Since then, 4 women have come to join them: the resistance fighters Germaine Tillion and Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz in 2015, Simone Veil in 2017 and Joséphine Baker in 2021. Far from being anecdotal, this posthumous recognition highlights the illustrious female figures of the history of France and contributes to promoting the place of women in society. But the balance is still far away : in 2022, the Pantheon will have 75 men and… 6 women.

5. 2017: freedom of speech following the Weinstein affair

Portrait of Harvey Weinstein

In October 2017, American film producer Harvey Weinstein was accused by several women of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape. As the days and revelations pass, the Weinstein affair grows. French actresses, such as Léa Seydoux and Judith Godrèche, testify to the reprehensible actions of the Hollywood mogul. Moved by the event, thousands of women, themselves victims or witnesses of sexual assault, dare to recount their own experiences on social networks. The keywords #BalanceTonPorc and #MeToo are flooding the Internet. We are talking about the freedom of speech movement. The consequences are numerous: several influential men are denounced for their inappropriate behavior; street harassment is condemned by the law of August 3, 2018; the first Grenelle against domestic violence was launched in September 2019.
Now, the number of plaintiffs against Harvey Weinstein stands at 90 women. In 2020, he was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

#MeToo, a hashtag for the freedom of speech of women victims of sexual assault #MeToo, a hashtag for the freedom of speech of women victims of sexual assault

The history of women's rights obviously does not stop with these 5 events. Rich in a complex and turbulent past, it continues to be written, marked by small and large dates. P erdième , on its own scale, wishes to make its (small) contribution to the building, by offering women safe and healthy periodic protection , by contributing to the diversity of technological innovations in femtech , by seeking to provide information on the rules and menstrual hygiene , by highlighting inspiring women and by simply being part of this positive and inclusive movement.

Written by cd