Decorating Mothers, Defining Maternity

The Invention of the French Family Medal and the Rise of Profamily Ideology in 1920s France

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Hannah M. Stamler PhD Candidate, Princeton University, USA

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This article offers a detailed analysis of the symbolism and early operation of the Family Medal, a maternity award created by the French government in 1920. Launched at a time when the women's rights were fiercely debated and when politicians feared for the longevity of the “French race,” this article claims the medal as a revealing tool of state efforts at gender and racial retrenchment. Honoring mothers who were moral and metropolitan, the medal represented an early attempt at institutionalizing a conservative and racialized vision of motherhood that would find fuller expression in the 1939 Family Code, itself a blueprint of Vichy family law.

Contributor Notes

Hannah M. Stamler is a joint PhD candidate in History and the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities at Princeton University. She is also an art critic and frequent contributor to Art in America and Artforum. She holds a BA in French and History with highest honors from Cornell University. Email:

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