During the Algerian War, Nafissa Sid Cara came to public prominence in two roles. As a secretary of state, Sid Cara oversaw the reform of Muslim marriage and divorce laws pursued by Charles de Gaulle’s administration as part of its integration campaign to unite France and Algeria. As president of the Mouvement de solidarité féminine, she sought to “emancipate” Algerian women so they could enjoy the rights France offered. Though the politics of the Algerian War circumscribed both roles, Sid Cara’s work with Algerian women did not remain limited by colonial rule. As Algeria approached independence, Sid Cara rearticulated the language of women’s rights as an apolitical and universal good, regardless of the future of the French colonial state, though she—and the language of women’s rights—remained bound to the former metropole.
Elise Franklin is the Jamie and Thelma Guilbeau/BORSF Assistant Professor of History at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She earned her Ph.D. in history from Boston College in 2017. Her book manuscript uncovers the slow process of decolonization through the lens of Algerian family migration and the social aid associations established to help them in the late colonial and post-Algerian independence periods in France and Algeria.