chapter  5
Resistances
Pages 27

The last chapter showed the ways in which women m ight be brought to take a position of collaboration towards the Vichy regime or the Germans. The choice to resist was, on the whole, a more difficult one as it was dangerous and life-threatening no t only for the indi­ viduals concerned bu t also for those around them . Resistance to Vichy and the Occupation, like collaboration, operated on several levels and, in the same way as for collaboration, women could be pushed towards resistance th rough structures in their everyday lives. Through its analysis of motivation, this chap ter will argue that there were specifically gendered issues which mobilized women to take an attitude towards Vichy and the Occupation authorities. Women reacted to issues which concerned them directly, and these were often (but no t always) different from the issues which affected men. 1. Chez mes parents, mon pere etait resistant, communiste officiel, alors il recevait

Defining women s resistance The participation of the French people in the Resistance movement is an area about which m uch has now been written. The postwar assumption that the mayor part o f the population engaged in antiO ccupation acts has now been more o r less shaken off, although certainly many French people had opted for an anti-German position by the latter m onths o f the war. A ttempts to quantify the numbers o f people involved have mostly been based on those who appeared in the dossiers of the CVR (Combattants Volontaires de la Resistance) which were established in the immediate postwar years. In o rder to appear in these dossiers, individuals had to be nom inated by a recog­ nised Resistance organization and have a m inimum active involve­ m ent of ninety days. According to these figures, women generally made up between 7 and 12 per cent of the Resistance population. The figures recorded in Ille and Vilaine were relatively high: here women represented 12.75 per cent of those involved;2 in the Herault, 10 per cent;3 in the Haute-Garonne estimates vary from 9 to 11.5 per cent;4 in the Alpes Maritimes, 9 per cent; ’ in the Aveyron, 8 per cent and in Corsica, ju s t 7 per cent.h These figures seem low, particularly when we consider that women represen ted more than 51 per cent of the population at the time. The same story is true where we have figures of women within the different movements. Few were involved in Combat, less than 10 per cent in Franc-Tireur, 12.5 per cent in Liberation-Sud, 14 per cent in the network Jade Fitzroy1 and 16.89 per cent in Defense de la France.8 The figure of ju s t under 25 per cent participation in Temoignage Chretien is quite exceptional. However, recen t studies of women’s resistance, and most espe­

cially work by Paula Schwarz, has shown that the very character of

women’s resistance m eant that only a fraction o f those involved are represented in these figures.9 Women who have talked and written about their own involvement in the Resistance have complained that there has been a tendency to concentrate on the more spec­ tacular side of the Resistance in the textbooks, which has no t only served to give a distorted picture of what the Resistance was about on a day-to-day basis bu t has also given priority to the kind of ‘military’ resistance which involved men. Some women did become involved with activities on the same basis as men, bu t although some women were involved in transporting and sometimes even taking up arms, as Paula Schwarz has shown, most o f the evidence indicates that women who were involved in ‘active’ resistance tended to have a more secretarial, caring and nu rtu ring role. This was no t because this role was considered to be less im portant, bu t because it was felt that everyone had to be mobilized and a woman m ight have easier access to a typewriter and the skill to use it. Women often engaged in activities which would allow them to continue to fulfil their roles as wives and mothers, incorporating their resistance into this p ro­ cess. They centred their resistance activities on the home, and their resistance work became an extension of what they were doing anyway to keep the home running, procuring food and providing shelter. The home m ight also be used as a post-box, for holding meetings or stocking arms. The nature of this kind of activity m eant that it rem ained unknown both at the time and subsequently. The home camouflaged these activities, and the assumption that the home was essentially private was an advantage to these women since public activity (i.e. Resistance activity) was no t expected if there was plenty of evidence of domesticity (small children, washing etc.). As Lucie Aubrac has confirmed, keeping an appearance o f normality was one o f their main worries.10 But once the home was discovered to be a cover for public activity, the punishm ent could be very violent and dangerous.