Editorial: Women of France (10-23-40)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 23, 1940)

By Mrs. Walter Ferguson

The eminent French newspaperwoman, Geneviève Tabouis, now exiled by German authorities, strikes a realistic note in an analysis of her country’s downfall. She indulges in no fifth column talk. Instead, she speaks of the French woman’s failure as a citizen.

Housewives of France, who will be the first and deepest sufferers of conquest, were committed to the old “power behind the throne” ideal. Even the brilliant intellectual leader – Eve Curie – only last year. laughed off the suggestion that France might profit from feminine participation in politics.

The Old World concepts were deep rooted in that ancient soil. Women believed husbands and fathers could and would “protect” them. Feminine influence, they thought, was most effectively exercised through kitchen wiles, or the customary domestic soft-soaping or the “How wonderful you are?” attitude.

Such methods, it has often been said, will change men’s political opinions – although history offers us very little proof that this is so.

Even on democratic France then, woman’s place was always in the home; never in the council house. Wives and mothers did not have the right to vote. More important still, not many of them were disturbed about it.

Geneviève Tabouis now charges that this attitude contributed to the disaster which befell their country.

This may or may not be true. But one thing is obvious. If French women had been given some political power, and had been willing to use it intelligently, much modern history might have been differently written.

It would be foolish as well as impertinent to say that women are wiser than men in matters of state. But it is neither impertinently nor foolish to insist that the group which is regarded as man’s helpmate in every other enterprise would prove a good political ally.

Europe’s housewives face a hard fate. Unless we are ready to invite a similar one, American women should be willing on sacrifice a good many personal privileges in order to maintain and preserve the freedom they now possess.