Citoyennes: Women and the Ideal of Citizenship in Eighteenth-Century France

Cover: Citoyennes: Women and the Ideal of Citizenship in Eighteenth-Century France
Annie K. Smart

December 2011 • ISBN 978-1-64453-102-0 • $102.95

December 2011 • ISBN 978-1-64453-103-7 • $53.00

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Did women have a civic identity in eighteenth-century France? In Citoyennes: Women and the Ideal of Citizenship in Eighteenth-Century France, Annie Smart contends that they did. While previous scholarship has emphasized the ideal of domestic motherhood or the image of the republican mother, Smart argues persuasively that many pre-revolutionary and revolutionary texts created another ideal for women–the ideal of civic motherhood. Smart asserts that women were portrayed as possessing civic virtue, and as promoting the values and ideals of the public sphere.

Contemporary critics have theorized that the eighteenth-century ideal of the Republic intentionally excluded women from the public sphere. According to this perspective, a discourse of “Rousseauean” domestic motherhood stripped women of an active civic identity, and limited their role to breastfeeding and childcare. Eighteenth-century France marked thus the division between a male public sphere of political action and a female private sphere of the home.

Citoyennes challenges this position and offers an alternative model of female identity. This interdisciplinary study brings together a variety of genres to demonstrate convincingly that women were portrayed as civic individuals. Using foundational texts such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Emile, or on Education (1762), revolutionary gouaches of Lesueur, and vaudeville plays of Year II of the Republic (1793/1794), this study brilliantly shows that in text and image, women were represented as devoted to both the public good and their families.

In addition, Citoyennes offers an innovative interpretation of the home. Through re-examining sphere theory, this study challenges the tendency to equate the home with private concerns, and shows that the home can function as a site for both private life and civic identity.

Citoyennes breaks new ground, for it both rectifies the ideal of domestic Rousseauean motherhood, and brings a fuller understanding to how female civic identity operated in important French texts and images.

About the Author

Annie Smart is Associate Professor of French Studies at Saint Louis University.

Reviews of 'Citoyennes: Women and the Ideal of Citizenship in Eighteenth-Century France'

Smart creates wonderful “spaces” of provocative debate about citizenship and reassessment.
- Choice
Smart revalorizes the private home-sphere, endowing it with political content and describing it as the space in which civic values are elaborated and transmitted. […] Smart’s meticulously-documented book provides an original and tightly-argued reinterpretation of the roles as well as the representations of women within the ci vic sphere during and after the Revolution.
- Dalhousie French Studies
Annie Smart offers a more inclusive definition of the citoyenne-a moral individual devoted to the nation and willing to sacrifice herself for the common good. Well researched, well argued, and clearly written […] Citoyennes offers original insights on both known and little known works in literature and art. It will be welcomed by eighteenth-century scholars and feminist critics.
- XVIII New Perspectives on the Eighteenth Century