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Women of Modern France   By: (1870-1940)

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Transcriber's Note: The Table of Contents was added by the Transcriber.


in all ages and in all countries




Of the University of Michigan


Copyrighted at Washington and entered at Stationer's Hall, London,

1907 1908

and printed by arrangement with George Barrie's Sons.




Chapter I. Woman in politics

Chapter II. Woman in Family Life, Education, and Letters

Chapter III. The Seventeenth Century: Woman at Her Best

Chapter IV. Woman in Society and Literature

Chapter V. Mistresses and Wives of Louis XIV

Chapter VI. Mme. de Sévigné, Mme. de La Fayette, Mme. Dacier, Mme. de Caylus

Chapter VII. Woman in Religion

Chapter VIII. Salon Leaders Mme. de Tencin, Mme. Geoffrin, Mme. du Deffand, Mlle. de Lespinasse, Mme. du Châtelet

Chapter IX. Salon Leaders (Continued): Mme. Necker, Mme. d'Epinay, Mme. de Genlis: Minor Salons

Chapter X. Social Classes

Chapter XI. Royal Mistresses

Chapter XII. Marie Antoinette and the Revolution

Chapter XIII. Women of the Revolution and the Empire

Chapter XIV. Women of the Nineteenth Century


Among the Latin races, the French race differs essentially in one characteristic which has been the key to the success of French women namely, the social instinct. The whole French nation has always lived for the present time, in actuality, deriving from life more of what may be called social pleasure than any other nation. It has been a universal characteristic among French people since the sixteenth century to love to please, to make themselves agreeable, to bring joy and happiness to others, and to be loved and admired as well. With this instinctive trait French women have always been bountifully endowed. Highly emotional, they love to charm, and this has become an art with them; balancing this emotional nature is the mathematical quality. These two combined have made French women the great leaders in their own country and among women of all races. They have developed the art of studying themselves; and the art of coquetry, which has become a virtue, is a science with them. The singular power of discrimination, constructive ability, calculation, subtle intriguing, a clear and concise manner of expression, a power of conversation unequalled in women of any other country, clear thinking: all these qualities have been strikingly illustrated in the various great women of the different periods of the history of France, and according to these they may by right be judged; for their moral qualities have not always been in accordance with the standard of other races.

According as these two fundamental qualities, the emotional and mathematical, have been developed in individual women, we meet the different types which have made themselves prominent in history. The queens of France, in general, have been submissive and pious, dutiful and virtuous wives, while the mistresses have been bold and frivolous, licentious and self assertive. The women outside of these spheres either looked on with indifference or regret at the all powerfulness of this latter class, unable to change conditions, or themselves enjoyed the privilege of the mistress.

It must be remembered that in the great social circles in France, especially from the sixteenth to the end of the eighteenth centuries, marriage was a mere convention, offences against it being looked upon as matters concerning manners, not morals; therefore, much of the so called gross immorality of French women may be condoned. It will be seen in this history that French women have acted banefully on politics, causing mischief, inciting jealousy and revenge, almost invariably an instrument in the hands of man, acting as a disturbing element... Continue reading book >>

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