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Embracing the Status Quo: French Communists, Young Women and the Popular Front

Susan B. Whitney
Journal of Social History
Vol. 30, No. 1 (Autumn, 1996), pp. 29-53
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3789748
Page Count: 25
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Embracing the Status Quo: French Communists, Young Women and the Popular Front
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Abstract

This article analyzes the role new approaches to young women and female gender roles played in the French Communist Party's Popular Front politics. Beginning with the Communists' ambivalent attempts to mobilize young women during the 1920s and early 1930s, it then explores the party's Popular Front attempt to mobilize young women within a new organization, the "Union des Jeunes Filles de France" (U.J.F.F.). In this organization, Communists appealed to young working women through publications and activities geared to their interests. Communists also replaced previous models of Young Communist feminity and female political activism with new models more consonant with prevailing notions of femininity in France. Thus the ideal Young Communist woman of the Popular Front era was no longer characterized by a commitment to gender-neutral revolutionary action but rather by moral probity, a commitment to marriage and motherhood, and gender-specific public activism. The article argues that this effort to reconfigure femininity and models of female public activism was central to the party's attempt to reposition itself as integral to French politics and culture.

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