A collective biography of France’s first generation of female secondary schoolteachers, this book examines the conflict between their public and private lives and places their new professional standing wtihin the political culture of the Third Republic. Jo Burr Margadant charts the responses of women who attended the nornmal school of Sevres during the 1880s to their roles as teachers and subordinates in the public school system, their plight as outsiders in the social community, and their gains toward educational reforms. These women emerge as pioneers struggling to forge careers in an elite profession, which was separate and inferior to its male equivalent and also controlled by men.
Margadant explains that the first women teacher in girls’ colleges and lycees were expected to project an intellectually assertive presence in the classroom while maintaining a maternal solicitude toward students and a modest, self-effacing style with superiors. Many who succeeded progressed to administrative jobs and, in some cases, filled official posts left vacant by men during the First World War. The author shows how these achievements led to the transformations of girls’ secondary schools into replicas of those for boys and to equal treatment for women and men in the teaching profession.
Jo Burr Margadant is Lecturer in History at Santa Clara University.
Originally published in 1990.
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