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The anarchist leader for renters’ rights, Georges Cochon (1879-1959)—to the left of the rostrum, with a hat and a mustache—explains the reasons for his movement to the press in 1912. While the only one to speak, he is surrounded by numerous women (postcard, personal collection).

Despite greater legal and political equality between men and women, gender discrimination in housing continues today. Even though the majority of homeless people are still men, women continue to face more difficulty than men in occupying healthy and comfortable housing. This discrimination is primarily based on inequality in matters of salary and employment opportunity, notably full-time employment. It also stems from enduring traditions and long-standing legal distinctions in which representations of femininity and masculinity have had an impact on housing availability and conditions for women and men. For example, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, inhabitants were rarely thought of as being women, as though only men, whether single or as the head of a family, could purchase or rent their housing. Despite what one may think, these representations have not disappeared from public housing policies or among private landlords. 

“Madame Mitonneau, midwife,” engraving by Honoré Daumier (France, 1841).

Between 1750 and the 1850s, European midwives underwent a process of professionalization through scientific knowledge and schooling. Once educated, they obtained a legal monopoly over assisting birth to the detriment of traditional midwives, although without causing the disappearance of the latter, until the first half of the twentieth century. The implementation of a policy of widespread education for degree-holding practitioners enjoying state protection enabled the welcome reduction of maternal and infant mortality. In addition, it ensured the continued existence of the unique character of this strictly feminine medical profession (until the 1980s) and field of intervention: giving birth. The medicalization of childbirth which it led to, supplemented the function of caring for mothers and newborns, without substituting it altogether. The transfer of most deliveries to hospital establishments during the second half of the twentieth century reduced their visibility, but did not diminish the essential role these practitioners play in monitoring pregnancy and childbirth.

L’Église du Christ (calviniste) attaquée par le duc d’Albe, les cardinaux de Lorraine et de Granvelle, ainsi que le Diable, l’Antéchrist et ses troupes, des souverains, dont le (Grand) Turc, des soldats, des prélats et des moines, vers 1568, gravure anonyme flamande à l’eau forte, 28,4 x 44 cm.

Tous les combats des guerres de religion se sont accompagnés d’influences, d’interventions et de collaborations étrangères. L’Allemagne de la première moitié du xvie et de la guerre de Trente Ans et la France dans la seconde moitié du xvie siècle, principaux champs de bataille entre confessions, sont des affrontements européens. Les solutions de compromis vouées à permettre la coexistence religieuse ou le refus de celles-ci s’inscrivent tout autant dans un débat à l’échelle de la chrétienté. Pour autant, la constitution de grands blocs opposés entre catholiques, luthériens ou calvinistes, voire une alliance internationale entre partisans de la concorde, sont largement demeurés à l’état de projets et de menaces fantasmées.

Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the Women’s Suffragette movement, is arrested outside Buckingham Palace while trying to present a petition to King George V in May 1914.

The transition from the Ancien Régime to the modern period is characterized by the gradual affirmation of a society of citizens, which supplanted the society of orders and divine right monarchies. In the representative governments that gradually emerged in Europe during the nineteenth century, the general will was expressed through the voting of the electoral body. However, for a long time women were excluded from citizenship by means of arguments which reveal a hierarchical vision of gender relations. Women wanted to participate in matters of state, notably in creating the laws to which they had previously only been subject. Some of them created associations and, soon thereafter, women’s suffrage movements on both the national and international level. Decades of struggle and lobbying led, in the twentieth century, to women’s right to vote in different European states, at a pace that varied depending on the national political context.

Same-sex marriage and civil unions in Europe (2018).

Same-sex marriage is a recent occurence that is still evolving. The first propositions in Europe for recognizing these types of union date back to the late nineteenth century, although legislation concerning them only appeared in the 1980s, initially in the form of a “registered partnership” (Denmark, 1989) and later as marriage in the Netherlands in 2001. While no European legislation requires a state to recognize same-sex marriage, a 2003 European Parliament resolution asked member states “to abolish all forms of discrimination to which homosexuals are victim, notably regarding marriage and the adoption of children.” As of 2016, 21 states of the European Union offered a legal framework for same-sex couples.

Affiche revendiquant le droit de vote pour les femmes à l’occasion de la Journée des femmes le 8 mars 1914, Allemagne
« Nous manifestons, nous ne célébrons pas ! » Pristina (Kosovo), 8 mars 2016. Source : Kosovo Women’s Network

L’idée d’une journée internationale des femmes (JIF) émerge au sein des mouvements de femmes socialistes au début du xxe siècle. Les activistes regroupées autour de Clara Zetkin désirent établir un jour spécial, consacré au combat pour les droits des femmes à travers le monde. Si la JIF a d’abord pour intention de soutenir la lutte pour le vote des femmes, de nombreux pays observent néanmoins cette date depuis l’introduction du suffrage universel afin de rappeler aux populations les inégalités entre les sexes dans la société. Après la révolution russe de 1917, ce jour est intégré à la théorie socialiste de la société. Tandis qu’elle tombe pratiquement dans l’oubli dans les pays occidentaux au cours des années 1950 et 1960, cette journée est un moyen privilégié pour mobiliser les femmes dans ceux du bloc de l’Est. Ce n’est qu’avec la deuxième vague féministe, à la fin des années soixante, qu’elle redevient d’actualité dans ces premiers pays. De nos jours, ces deux traditions de la JIF coexistent : elle constitue un jour férié officiel en Russie depuis 1917 (et à nouveau depuis 1965), en Chine depuis 1922, etc., tandis qu’elle n’a que le statut de célébration ou d’évènement populaire dans les pays occidentaux.

“Above the clouds of war”: the classic image of neutrality during the First World War.

Determining the rights and duties of countries that avoid war when a conflict affects their environment has been a long-term and constantly renewed European process. The ambition of containing the violence of war requires dialogue between states, and in this sense expresses an international desire in keeping with prospects of peace. Some periods, such as the second halves of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, were marked by the collective assertion of fundamental rights of neutrality, which did not always stand up against the ordeal of major conflicts. Although the principle and the practices of abstaining from war have regularly come under fire, they have never disappeared, demonstrating the enduring faith in the possible coexistence of war and peace.

Women’s football match in Saint-Ouen during the interwar period

A “bastion of virility” ever since it was codified, football remains a privileged social space for the production of a masculinity consisting of strength and performance. The sport has nevertheless opened up to women. The first women’s football matches took place from the 1910s to the 1920s, although from the 1920s to the 1960s, the directors of national federations opposed the development of women practising the sport. Women’s football experienced a revival from the mid-1960s to the 1990s, and began to receive minimal attention from associative bodies. Finally, women’s football has asserted itself since the early 2000s, with the development of national as well as international competitions.

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