Breadwinners and Citizens

Gender in the Making of the French Social Model

Breadwinners and Citizens

Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: Published: March 2008

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, History > European History

Laura Levine Frader’s synthesis of labor history and gender history brings to the fore failures in realizing the French social model of equality for all citizens. Challenging previous scholarship, she argues that the male breadwinner ideal was stronger in France in the interwar years than scholars have typically recognized, and that it had negative consequences for women’s claims to the full benefits of citizenship. She describes how ideas about masculinity, femininity, family, and work affected post–World War I reconstruction, policies designed to address France’s postwar population deficit, and efforts to redefine citizenship in the 1920s and 1930s. She demonstrates that gender divisions and the male breadwinner ideal were reaffirmed through the policies and practices of labor, management, and government. The social model that France implemented in the 1920s and 1930s incorporated fundamental social inequalities.

Frader’s analysis moves between the everyday lives of ordinary working women and men and the actions of national policymakers, political parties, and political movements, including feminists, pro-natalists, and trade unionists. In the years following World War I, the many women and an increasing number of immigrant men in the labor force competed for employment and pay. Family policy was used not only to encourage reproduction but also to regulate wages and the size of the workforce. Policies to promote married women’s and immigrants’ departure from the labor force were more common when jobs were scarce, as they were during the Depression. Frader contends that gender and ethnicity exerted a powerful and unacknowledged influence on French social policy during the Depression era and for decades afterward.


“Frader’s thematic approach allows for a detailed discussion of the motivations of both state and industry, the key stakeholders in the development of employment policy and practice. . . . Overall, this book provides and important contribution to the literature on social reform, employment and gender. As a result, it would be of interest to historians of gender and labour, as well as to historians of twentieth-century France.” — Alison Carrol, History

“Highly recommended.” — A. C. Stanley, Choice

“In this thoughtful and balanced reassessment of work, wages, and state welfare policies in interwar France, Frader examines how employers, labour unions, and the state drew on enduring stereotypes of appropriate gender roles in order to reinforce the legitimacy of the male breadwinner, often through the very policies that accorded benefits to women as mothers.” — Patricia E. Prestwich, Canadian Journal of History

“Laura Frader has written a significant study of the intricate relationship between gender, race, work, citizenship and rights. . . . Above all she throws light on the history of the French social model now being strongly defended in the light of the current economic recession and where women and foreign workers are still unequal as breadwinners and citizens.” — Máire Cross, French History

Breadwinners and Citizens, Laura Frader’s new book, is a major scholarly contribution to histories of gender, work and citizenship during the 1920s and 1930s. . . . Laura Frader has written an eminently readable book that is also impeccably researched and footnoted.” — Rachel G. Fuchs, H-France, H-Net Reviews

“By marshalling great detail backed by powerful examples to back her case that the male breadwinner ideal was stronger in interwar France than most scholars have appreciated, Frader has done an important service to scholars of both gender and labor. For the scholar entering into this field of study for the first time, Breadwinners and Citizens will be of great use. . . . [T]his is an important book on a too-long underanalyzed subject.” — William A. Pelz, History: Reviews of New Books

“Frader has done a masterful job of analyzing the interplay of gender, race, and ethnicity in a wide array of environments. . . . Her contribution offers a significant complement to our understanding of the origins of the French social model at a time when it is increasingly under fire.” — Steven M. Beaudoin, Journal of Social History

“Laura Levine Frader has written a deeply researched study of the gender transformations that occurred in interwar France as laborers struggled to meet new production demands with a diminished postwar population. . . . While Frader is certainly not the first to study twentieth-century French labor through the lens of gender, the detail she brings to Breadwinners and Citizen makes it a masterwork of French history.” — Daniel Skinner, Women's Studies Quarterly

“This book skillfully blends standard economic and labor history sources and methods…with a critical cultural studies approach to French assumptions about gender, family, and population. . . . From now on, French gender, labor, and social historians will have to take Frader’s subtle reading of the gendering of the labor market into account.” — Mary Lynn Stewart, American Historical Review

“A stunning analysis of why defence of the French male breadwinner became a keystone of social policy after 1918, even as France depended mightily on the labor of women and foreigners to revitalize its economy. Laura Levine Frader has mastered an immense social and cultural landscape to make a convincing case for the interwar origins of today’s social-policy mix in France. She is superb, too, on the interplay of race, ethnicity, and gender.” — Herrick Chapman, New York University, coeditor of A Century of Organized Labor in France: A Union Movement for the Twenty-first Century?

“In this valuable book, Laura Levine Frader focuses on the French social model, the ideal of egalitarian social citizenship shaped and refined in the first half of the twentieth century. She argues that it was systematically undermined by employers, organized labor, and the state itself through practices and policies that built into it gender and anti-immigrant biases. Her insights, methods, and conclusions will be interesting to historians of other industrial societies whose welfare states are today under challenge from women and immigrant workers seeking equality of treatment.” — Herman Lebovics, SUNY Trustees Distinguished Professor, Stony Brook University, author of Bringing the Empire Back Home: France in the Global Age


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Laura Levine Frader is Professor of History and Chair of the History Department at Northeastern University. She is the author of The Industrial Revolution and Peasants and Protest: Agricultural Workers, Politics, and Unions in the Aude, 1850–1914. She is a coeditor of Gender and Class in Modern Europe and of Race in France: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Politics of Difference.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Gender in the Making of the French Social Model 1

1. Reconstruction and Regeneration after World War I 15

2. Gender Division, the Family, and the Citizen-Worker 51

3. Managing the Human Factor 103

4. Organized Labor, Rationalization, and Breadwinners 139

5. Toward the Social Model: Citizenship, Rights, and Social Provision 169

6. Economic Rights and the Gender of Breadwinners: The Depression of the 1930s 193

Conclusion 229

Notes 241

Bibliography 301

Index 335
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4198-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4182-6
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