chapter  8
Women Gain New Rights and Become Citizens
Pages 26

The impact and importance of women’s political experience du r­ ing the war cannot be properly situated w ithout exam ining their reaction to the re-establishment o f peace and the re-emergence of party politics. Paradoxically, at the same time as some women were being punished during the purges, legislation was being passed which was to enable women to become citizens and to participate fully in the democratic processes for the first time; universal suffrage had at last arrived. The acquisition of this right, along with their wartime involvement in the Resistance, an involvement which had become to some extent apparen t during the events o f the Liberation, seemed to herald a prom ising new direction in terms of women’s political participation. At a time when women represen ted more than half o f the population of France, it would seem no t unreasonable for contemporaries to have anticipated that their vote m ight bring major change to the dom inant French political culture (although this had no t been the case elsewhere in Europe). Indeed, one police repo rt asked whether women were going to push France into a new political era .1 However, the au tho r o f this repo rt was no t articulat­ ing a concern that preoccupied the majority o f the French people, no t least women themselves. Despite the initial prom ising signs, this chapter will argue that women did no t find gaining the vote to be particularly empowering, that little was made of it in French society, and that then, as now, few political parties m ade a serious attempt to court their vote and women made only lim ited impact on the immediate postwar political scene.