This article examines Arvède Barine's extensive and popular published output from the 1880s to 1908, along with an extraordinary cache of letters addressed to Barine and held in the Manuscript Department of the National Library of France. It asserts that in the process of criticizing contemporary feminist activists and celebrating the achievements of women, especially French women, in history, she constructed the historical and cultural distinctiveness of French women as an ideal blend of femininity, accomplishment, and independence. This notion of the French singularity, indeed the superiority of French women, resolved the contradiction between her condemnation of feminism as a transformation of gender relations and her support for causes and reforms that enabled women to lead intellectually and emotionally fulfilling lives. Barine's work offers another example of the varied ways that women in Third Republic France engaged with public debates about women and gender.
Whitney Walton is Professor of History at Purdue University. She has published books and articles on French industrialization in the nineteenth century, women writers’ contributions to Republican politics in nineteenth-century France, and internationalism linked to study abroad between France and the United States from 1890 to 1970. Her current interests include historian Arvède Barine (1840–1908), pseudonym of Louise-Cécile Vincens; French naturalist and artist Charles-Alexandre Lesueur (1778–1846) and others involved in the utopian community of New Harmony, Indiana, United States, in the 1820s–1830s; and the lives of French women who were part of Napoleon's entourage. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org