Blessed Motherhood, Bitter Fruit: Nelly Roussel and the Politics of Female Pain in Third Republic France

Overview

Nelly Roussel (1878–1922)—the first feminist spokeswoman for birth control in Europe—challenged both the men of early twentieth-century France, who sought to preserve the status quo, and the women who aimed to change it. She delivered her messages through public lectures, journalism, and theater, dazzling audiences with her beauty, intelligence, and disarming wit. She did so within the context of a national depopulation crisis caused by the confluence of low birth rates, the rise of international tensions, and ...

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Blessed Motherhood, Bitter Fruit: Nelly Roussel and the Politics of Female Pain in Third Republic France

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Overview

Nelly Roussel (1878–1922)—the first feminist spokeswoman for birth control in Europe—challenged both the men of early twentieth-century France, who sought to preserve the status quo, and the women who aimed to change it. She delivered her messages through public lectures, journalism, and theater, dazzling audiences with her beauty, intelligence, and disarming wit. She did so within the context of a national depopulation crisis caused by the confluence of low birth rates, the rise of international tensions, and the tragedy of the First World War. While her support spread across social classes, strong political resistance to her message revealed deeply conservative precepts about gender which were grounded in French identity itself.

In this thoughtful and provocative study, Elinor Accampo follows Roussel's life from her youth, marriage, speaking career, motherhood, and political activism to her decline and death from tuberculosis in the years following World War I. She tells the story of a woman whose life and work spanned a historical moment when womanhood was being redefined by the acceptance of a woman's sexuality as distinct from her biological, reproductive role—a development that is still causing controversy today.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Modern and Contemporary France - Alison S. Fell

Accampo's biography is to be recommended for offering a wealth of information on a fascinating figure on the margins of the women's movement.

American Historical Review - Carolyn J. Eichner

An exceptionally engaging, comprehensively researched, and finely crafted study. A significant contribution.

Canadian Journal of History - Holger H. Herwig

Well organized and enjoyable to read.

French Politics

Masterful... offers a weaving of personal and political that at times is breathtaking. Copious correspondence between Roussel and her husband, family, friends, and colleagues allows Accampo to plumb the spaces in which private and public lives overlapped, sometimes uncomfortably.

Journal of the History of Sexuality - Sarah A. Curtis

We have Accampo to thank for recovering Roussel's life and work in this engaging biography.

Choice

Provides insightful analysis... Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above.

Canadian Journal of History
Well organized and enjoyable to read.

— Holger H. Herwig

American Historical Review
An exceptionally engaging, comprehensively researched, and finely crafted study. A significant contribution.

— Carolyn J. Eichner

Journal of Historical Biography

A deeply engaging and well-researched biography of French feminist and birth-control advocate Nelly Roussel... It should be of great interest to feminist scholars and French historians, and its thoughtful examination of the cultural politics of female pain and suffering also offers valuable insights to historians of medicine.

Journal of the History of Sexuality
We have Accampo to thank for recovering Roussel's life and work in this engaging biography.

— Sarah A. Curtis

California Bookwatch

A top pick for any definitive women's history collection.

Choice

Provides insightful analysis... Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above.

Modern and Contemporary France
Accampo's biography is to be recommended for offering a wealth of information on a fascinating figure on the margins of the women's movement.

— Alison S. Fell

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801884047
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Elinor Accampo is a professor of history at the University of Southern California, coeditor of Gender and the Politics of Social Reform in France, 1870–1914 and author of Industrialization, Family, and Class Relations: Saint Chamond, 1815–1914.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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