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Whitney Walton

Abstract

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.