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Family Life and Childhood Dr Chris Pearson. Lecture themes Family as: A political and cultural idea A lived reality An object of state policy.

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Presentation on theme: "Family Life and Childhood Dr Chris Pearson. Lecture themes Family as: A political and cultural idea A lived reality An object of state policy."— Presentation transcript:

1 Family Life and Childhood Dr Chris Pearson

2 Lecture themes Family as: A political and cultural idea A lived reality An object of state policy

3 Lecture outline The family during the 1789 revolution The cult of domesticity The experience of family life

4 Mirabeau on women and the family ‘The delicate constitution of women, perfectly appropriate for their principal destination, that of perpetuating the species and of watching over with solicitude the perilous stages of infancy…. this constitution, I say, limits them to the timid chores of the household and the sedentary tastes which these tasks require…to impose heavy tasks on these frail organs is to outrage nature with the most cowardly barbarity.’ Mirabeau, Travail sur l’éducation publique (1791)

5 The women’s place: ‘To keep her mother company, soften the worries of a spouse, nourish and care for her children, these are the only occupations and true duties of a woman. A woman is only comfortable, is only in her place in her family or in her household. She need only know what her parents or her husband judge appropriate to teach her about everything that takes place outside her home.’ Louis-Marie Prudhomme (1791)

6 ‘Women!... The liberty of a people has for its basis good morals and education, and you are its guardians and first dispensers.’ Louis-Marie Prudhomme (1791)

7 Revolutionary laws on the family 1791 constitution: marriage becomes a ‘civil contract’ 1792 law – local mayor to preside over marriage ceremonies Reduced the age of marrying without parental consent to 21 Daughters to get same succession rights as sons Divorce legalized (20 September 1792)

8 ‘We… moved by our own will, unite ourselves for the duration of our lives, and for the duration of our mutual inclinations, under the following conditions: We intend and wish to make our wealth communal, meanwhile reserving to ourselves the right to divide it in favour of our children and of those toward whom we might have a particular inclination, mutually recognizing that our property belongs directly to our children, from whatever bed they come, and that all of them without distinction have the right to bear the name of the fathers and mothers who have acknowledged them.’ Olympe de Gouges’ model for a marriage social contract (1791)

9 Families in the Civil Code (1804) Patriarchal model of family – husband/father has control over wife and children Wife to obey husband under article 213: ‘The husband owes protection to his wife, the wife obedience to her husband.’

10 Article 214 of Civil Code ‘The wife is obliged to live with her husband, and to follow him to every place where he may judge it convenient to reside: the husband is obliged to receive her, and to furnish her with every thing necessary for the wants of life, according to his means and station.’

11 The father’s power over his children under the Civil Code: A child, at every age, owes honour and respect to his father and mother. He remains subject to their control until his majority or emancipation. The father alone exercises this control during marriage. A child cannot quit the paternal mansion without the permission of his father, unless for voluntary enlistment after the full age of eighteen years.

12 ‘Do not forget that it is woman who makes the family, and the more you leave her to her domestic hearth, the more you leave her in her own milieu, the more you assure the peace and the prosperity of the family. Now, the peace of the family is the peace of society.’ Count Lemercier (1891), quoted in Patrick Kay Bidelman, Pariahs stand up!, 27


14 The family as a model for hierarchical society: ‘Nature herself submits woman to man, children to parents, the imprudence of youth to the experience of elders. All men are born in a state of dependence. Obedience is the necessity more than the duty of the early years. Families, like political societies, essentially presuppose authority and submission’ Abbé du Voisin, Défense de l'ordre social contre les principes de la Révolution française (1798)

15 ‘Filial respect constitute[s] good domestic manners just as … loyalty of ministers or agents of authority do toward public power.’ Louis de Bonald (1810)

16 Eugène Pelletan on the family: ‘I would call it constitutional government. The husband minister of foreign affairs, the wife minister of the interior, and all household questions decided by the council of ministers.’

17 ‘What is man’s vocation? To be a good citizen. And woman’s? To be a good wife and a good mother. One is in some called to the outside world: the other is retained for the interior.’ Jules Simon, La femme au vingtième siècle (1892)

18 ‘In the heart of the best of us, there is a sultan.’ Jules Ferry

19 The bourgeois cult of domesticity Family the basis of social order The husband/father governs the family – wife and children depend on him and should obey him Marriage to preserve the family’s reputation and wealth Wife/mother as ‘angel of the hearth’

20 Status and power to be found in motherhood? The ‘cult of the heir glorified the woman who reproduced the father’s image, the receptacle for his capital, his eternal life in the mortal world.’ Bonnie Smith, Ladies of the Leisure Class (1981), 63.

21 Idealizing mothers Berthe Morisot, Le berceau, 1872


23 ‘We turn now to the role the dog plays within the home. Good to all those who approach him, always ready to defend the weak, and the children, friend of the house and recognizing only the friends of the house, he plays a large part in family life. Often he proves himself not only a supporter, but a consoler. More than any human being, the dog is able to give his master, after the most dreadful misfortune, brief moments of joy.’ Alfred Barbou, Le chien: Son histoire, ses exploits, ses aventures (1883)

24 “Now he’s one of the family, he needs his picture too,’ Honoré Daumier cartoon, Le Charivari (1856)

25 Pierre Auguste Renoir, Madame Georges Charpentier et ses enfants (1878)

26 Opposing the patriarchal family (1): Jenny d’Héricourt

27 Opposing the patriarchal family (2): Madeleine Pelletier

28 Beyond the cult of domesticity (1): Female power in the household Bourgeois women controlled household budgets, supervised servants, oversaw running of household and children’s education Had freedom and independence within household despite 1804 Civil Code (Edward Berenson, Trial of Madame Caillaux, 1992) Female power in families evident across social classes

29 The end of the patriarchal family? Law courts end father’s monopoly over his children – in certain circumstances other family members granted rights (1857) Married women allowed to open own postal accounts and withdraw money without their husband’s permission (1895) Mother’s granted equal rights over children (1907) Paternity suits allowed – fathers would be forced to assume financial responsibility for their illegitimate children (1912)

30 The legalisation of divorce Divorce banned in 1816 – finally legalised in 1884 Alfred Naquet and supporters of the divorce bill saw it as part and parcel of the secularization of France Catholic critics saw divorce law as an attack on the family, and by extension, France

31 Beyond the cult of domesticity (2): Women and work Working class women worked! Women heavily involved in running artisan workshops and other businesses, such as cafés Throughout 19 th century half of workforce in textile industries were women Social reformers and commentators alarmed by the mixing of work and family life within the home

32 ‘The slum is black and smelly; torn wallpaper is peeling off the humid walls…The women is at her work. In the crib, a four-month-old baby is whimpering. The baby is barely alive; skinny, anemic, with a large boil on its head. On the double bed three children are crawling around, whining. Their clothes are in tatters, their hair unkempt. Two have the whooping cough, the other has a fever – probably the beginning of scarlet fever.’ 1906 newspaper report, quoted in Coffin, ‘Social Science meets sweated labour,’ Journal of Modern History (1991), 255

33 Changes in working class family structures Spread of industrialization and wage economy Man tended to work in factory, woman stay at home and only work sporadically 1906 survey: women contributed 8.6- 14.5% of the family budget Shift from family as unit of production to unit of consumption

34 “Living in Sin?” Bourgeois commentators scandalized by low rates of marriage amongst working class couples Catholics particularly upset about couples “living in sin” Société de Saint-François-Régis founded to help couples marry – legalised 42,000 unions by early 1850s

35 ‘The working-class household was held together by strong emotional as well as economic ties and the devotion of its members to one another was no whit inferior to that to be found in the “modernised” middle-class family.’ James McMillan, Housewife or Harlot (1981), 44

36 Beyond the cult of domesticity (3): Single Mothers 1 in 4 births in the Seine département to single mothers (Rachel Fuchs, Poor and Pregnant in Paris [1992]), 4 Often recent migrants to the city Perilous situation due to poverty and lack of family networks

37 A. Demerest, Sortie de Maternité (1900)

38 A poverty- stricken single mother in Paris: Fantine in Hugo’s Les Misérables (1862)

39 Beyond the cult of domesticity (4): Depopulation Before the 1789 revolution, France was the most populous nation in Europe but declining population vis-à-vis Britain and Germany by end of 19C 1850-1910: France’s population increased from 35.7 million to 39.1 million In same period, Britain’s went from 17.9 mil to 36 mil and Germany’s from 33.4mil to 58.4mil Source: Offen, ‘Depopulation, Nationalism, and Feminism,’ American Historical Review (1984), 651

40 Birth Control and Abortion Motherhood and multiple pregnancies posed a risk to woman of all classes “Coitus interruptus” the most common form of contraception Abortion illegal but widespread, according to estimates Women sought to limit family size, despite cult of domesticity (McLaren, ‘Abortion in France,’ French Historical Studies, [1978])

41 Legislating for more children Restrictive hours legislation for female workers (1892) which was designed to protect children as much as women The establishment of a maison maternelle in each département, where mothers and mothers to be could consult doctors and social workers (1904) The family allowance bill – cash subsidy for families with 4+ children (1913) Maternity leave for women (1913)

42 ‘What counted most to French legislators was not high-minded moralizing but the proliferation of children, and whatever measures might serve that end were justified. Did a women have babies? That was what mattered, not whether she was wed or unwed.’ Philip Nord, ‘The Welfare State in France,’ French Historical Studies (1994), 831

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