Gallica Friday: Women in Politics

In June 1936, the cover of L’Illustré du Petit Journal, the magazine of the popular newspaper Le Petit Journal, featured the first women who held government positions in France: Suzanne Lacore, Cécile Brunschvicg, and Irène Joliot-Curie. They were appointed in 1936 by the left-wing Popular Front — a rather radical idea at the time because women were still not allowed to vote. The article itself was somewhat lukewarm and spent too much time discussing the jokes that could be made about women ministers. But it did note that they were very qualified for their positions and people appreciated them.

Fast-forward to December 2013, Elle magazine has declared Christiane Taubira “woman of the year” and featured her on the cover of the magazine. Taubira is the French Minister of Justice, also appointed by a left-wing government. She was instrumental in the passage of the same-sex marriage law and gave a rousing speech the day when it finally happened. Before that, in 2001, she also worked hard to pass another key law, which recognizes slave trade as a crime against humanity. In the interview, she talks about the many racist attacks against her, but focuses on her many accomplishments and projects, quoting Diderot as her inspiration: “Si ces pensées ne plaisent à personne, elles pourront n’être que mauvaises, mais je les tiens pour détestables si elles plaisent à tout le monde.”

A historical cover, says Le Parisien, and I couldn’t agree more.

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