Radio Broadcasting, Disability Activism, and the Remaking of the Postwar Welfare State

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Rebecca ScalesRochester Institute of Technology

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Through the history of the short-lived 1947 radio show La Tribune de l'Invalide, this article examines how the social and political context of the Liberation offered disability activists a unique opportunity to demand pensions, medical care, and social services hitherto denied to them by the French state. Drawing on transcripts of the broadcasts and correspondence between listeners and the show's host Maurice Didier, the article demonstrates how disability activists played a pivotal, if little acknowledged, role in the construction of the postwar welfare state by highlighting French society's historic neglect of disabled civilians.

In February 1947, when France was still reeling from the material destruction of the Second World War and the psychological trauma of the Nazi Occupation, a forty-year-old classical singer named Maurice Didier took to the airwaves to direct his fellow citizens’ attention to “that great family of disabled civilians the state shows so little interest in: the chronically ill, amputees, and paralyzed people.”* In a five-minute radio program entitled La Tribune de l'Invalide, which aired from February 3 to December 24 of that year, Didier drew on his personal experiences as a polio survivor to highlight the social inequalities and cultural stigmas that disabled people faced. Each week, he invited the leaders of disability advocacy organizations on air to discuss their legislative campaigns and reported on employment opportunities and social services for disabled people. He also solicited donations for the distribution of wheelchairs, handcycles, and crutches. “We propose first to be a link between all you invalides,” Didier explained in his inaugural broadcast, and “then between you and the able-bodied people who ignore you, and finally between you and the Radio.”1 Judging from the nearly four hundred letters from across France that flooded Didier's mailbox during the program's short life, La Tribune de l'Invalide succeeded, at least momentarily, in giving a voice to people who had long felt excluded from French society.

Drawing on the transcripts of La Tribune de l'Invalide and Didier's correspondence with his listeners, this article examines how the social and political context of the Liberation offered disabled civilians—a group distinct from disabled veterans—a unique opportunity to demand pensions, medical care, and social services that the French state had hitherto denied them. When the Second World War ended, French politicians faced the challenging task of rebuilding their country after a conflict that had unleashed unprecedented violence on the population, blurring the lines between combatants and civilians. Nazi Occupation policies had provoked mass evacuations, deportations, and widespread hunger, while Allied bombing raids had decimated France's housing, transportation, and health care infrastructure.2 The near civil war that erupted in 1943–1944 between collaborators and the Resistance left communities fractured and many citizens eager for retribution.3 National reconstruction, the most astute observers realized, would be a lengthy process, demanding not only the modernization of France's economy but the restoration of democracy and the renewal of social solidarity, both of which had been undermined by Vichy's authoritarianism.4 Among the competing views for postwar France that emerged in the late 1940s, from de Gaulle's vision of national grandeur through a powerful administrative state to the socialist program promoted by the Resistance, French people from all walks of life began to imagine “what could be achieved through the manipulation of the present.” This “idealistic spirit of the Liberation,” Richard Jobs argues, was “indicative of a particular frame of mind, one that broadly emphasized innovation and change over tradition and convention.”5

Central to the idealism of the Liberation was the promise of an egalitarian welfare state that would provide a better standard of living and full employment for all of France's citizens, compensating for the war's hardships and the inequities of prewar welfare legislation. Even before the war ended, the Conseil national de la Résistance called for the creation of a universal social security system, which the Provisional Government moved quickly to implement in October 1945.6 Prolonged rationing, medication shortages, and recurring epidemics of tuberculosis, diphtheria, and polio added urgency to proposals to improve France's health care system, as did the return of tens of thousands of chronically-ill POWs and deportees from Nazi camps in Germany and Eastern Europe.7 “France has emerged from the war greatly wounded,” Pierre Laroque, the head of the new Direction générale de la Sécurité sociale, told an audience of civil servants in January 1946. “The old frameworks are broken, and we must innovate in the social arena as well as in the economic arena.” A welfare state ensuring “all elements of the population sufficient income for their familial substance in every circumstance” would lay the foundations for an entirely “new social order.”8 Yet much to Laroque's surprise, the precise contours of the welfare state, from the individual benefits provided to the social groups served, would turn out to be one of the most fiercely disputed policy arenas of the early Fourth Republic.9 Disability activists like Maurice Didier were determined that disabled civilians be included in France's “new social order,” in whatever form it might take. Week after week, Didier and his guests on La Tribune de l'Invalide drew on contemporary debates about national reconstruction, the restoration of democracy, and human rights to demand the full inclusion of disabled people in French society. Their campaigns illustrate the pivotal role that disabled people and their allies played in creating and contesting the structure of the postwar welfare state, as well as the challenges they would face in forging a modern disability rights movement.

La Tribune de l'Invalide: A Voice for Invalides Civils

When Maurice Didier set out to “make the great voice of disabled people heard” over the airwaves, he had already been performing intermittently on the radio for nearly a decade, and he possessed a keen understanding of broadcasting's cultural and political power as a mass media.10 Since the mid-1930s, radio audiences had imagined the airwaves as a space where they could come together to negotiate the boundaries of the body politic and the terms of their participation in national life, making access to broadcasting for all citizens a political imperative.11 The Second World War both challenged and reinforced this conception of broadcasting. Vichy and Nazi propagandists competed with London-based Free French announcers and Allied shortwave broadcasters to win over the hearts and minds of listeners, forcing audiences to sift through competing voices for accurate information.12 Keen to reassert French sovereignty in the airwaves, the Provisional Government nationalized broadcasting in the spring of 1945 to eliminate the commercial stations the Left had long accused of promoting right-wing politics.13 Rebuilding the radio stations destroyed by Nazi troops during the Allied invasion would take years, but with postwar paper shortages keeping the cost of newspapers high, broadcasting remained French people's principal source of news and entertainment.14

Despite the state's growing control over the airwaves, politicians and radio administrators remained divided over broadcasting's role in the restoration of French democracy. Should the state use the airwaves to educate and enlighten citizens through high-quality, elite cultural programming? Or should broadcasting be more democratic, reflecting the tastes and preferences of ordinary listeners? Internecine battles within Radiodiffusion Française over these questions created a chaotic production environment in the late 1940s that permitted Maurice Didier, a singer little known outside classical music circles, to obtain air time. Personal connections with a sympathetic producer and his friend Robert Buron, an MRP député and a recently-appointed radio bureaucrat with a long history of social activism, allowed Didier to launch La Tribune de l'Invalide on the newly-christened “national” Chaîne parisienne on Monday, 3 February 1947.15

La Tribune de l'Invalide aired on Mondays from 5:30–5:35 p.m. as a companion to the half-hour variety show Le micro est à vous: émission pour les artistes blessés. Hosted by Christiane Mallarmé, one of France's first female radio producers, Le micro est à vous showcased the talents of disabled artists, from amateur singers hoping to “make it big” on the airwaves to well-established musicians.16 Didier performed on the show several times, as did the blind pianists Jean Pergola, Charles Humel, and Jacques Mamy, familiar to audiences from the long-running interwar shows Radio aux Aveugles and T.S.F. à l'Hôpital, which had raised money to donate radios to blind veterans and hospital patients.17 Charitable solicitations would become an increasingly important feature of La Tribune de l'Invalide, but Didier foregrounded his personal experiences of discrimination in order to distance his show from the patronizing and sometimes maudlin tone of the earlier broadcasts. Despite earning a premier prix from the Lyon Conservatory, he had struggled to find solo concert work due to a visible limp, and the multiple orthopedic surgeries he endured prevented him from regularly touring with chorales. Musical directors, he discovered, were much more willing to hire him for radio work, where his physical disability could be hidden behind microphones, not unlike the performers on Mallarmé's show.18 Didier thus opened each broadcast of La Tribune de l'Invalide with the salutation “Mesdames, messieurs, chers invalides, c'est un paralysé qui vous parle,” reminding listeners that “this broadcast for the civilian disabled is undertaken by a disabled person.” This authenticity of experience, Didier insisted, allowed both him and his guests to speak honestly on behalf of disabled people, though he could not resist reminding any able-bodied listeners tuning in that they were, in the words of Jules Romains's fictional Dr. Knock, “little more than invalids in the making.”19

More importantly, Didier hoped his show would give disabled people a voice in French politics. As one of several postwar radio programs presenting the viewpoints of ordinary citizens, La Tribune de l'Invalide aligned with radio administrators’ efforts to use the airwaves as a platform for discussing the quotidian challenges of national reconstruction. To that end, Didier encouraged disabled listeners to “write frequently and in great numbers” to share their stories, promising to read a selection of the letters he received each week over the microphone. Producers’ concerted efforts to solicit audience feedback spurred an increase in the volume of listener correspondence directed to Radiodiffusion Française after the war, but listeners who took the time to write remained the exception rather than the norm.20 Didier valued the letters he received as proof of La Tribune de l'Invalide's reach and impact, but he also recognized that they contained vital documentary evidence of the social conditions in which disabled people lived, prompting him to carefully annotate, number, and catalogue each letter he received. Writing him a letter, Didier insisted during his first broadcast, would allow disabled people to participate in the forward march of history, by saying “in a loud voice, and in a voice that has never been heard before, what they want from a society that can no longer use ignorance as an excuse.”21

Within a few weeks of La Tribune de l'Invalide's debut, letters began to arrive from every corner of France—some typed on letterhead, others neatly printed on lined paper torn from a school notebook, and still others scrawled on postcards in a near-illegible hand. The letters reveal no distinctive patterns of class, gender, religious, or regional identity among Didier's listenership, though a significant number came from the Paris region. Didier received letters from university-educated professionals, bourgeois housewives, high school students, farmers, industrial workers, and people who had spent their entire lives in asylums, where they had little chance for education or contact with the outside world. “I came across your broadcast the other day completely by chance,” Charles Pasquier wrote to Didier from Besançon, describing his appreciation for the show's tone given that “I am myself disabled, being paralyzed.”22 Antoine Lettini, a polio survivor and unemployed toolmaker, similarly expressed his “great pleasure” at learning “through the radio that someone is finally taking care of us, the civilian disabled.”23 Listener letters like these provide a glimpse not only of the everyday experiences of people living with disabilities in postwar France, but also how they understood disability as a social and political category that had been imposed upon them by others.

Redefining Bodies and Reconstructing France

In the mid-twentieth century, French people used a variety of labels, sometimes interchangeably, to describe a diverse group of people with physical and intellectual disabilities, ranging from estropié, mutilé, and impotent to infirme, diminué physique, déficient, grand malade, invalide, and only progressively, handicapé.24 Yet “disabled” might best be understood not as a reference to any specific medical pathology, Catherine Kudlick suggests, but rather as a historically contingent social category that like race, class, gender, or sexuality was used in the past to deny the full benefits of citizenship to anyone failing to meet contemporary standards of bodily “normality.”25 Each week on La Tribune de l'Invalide, Didier and his guests advanced a similar argument: namely, that discriminatory social welfare policies and cultural stereotypes about disabled civilians, rather than their individual bodies, had turned them into a disenfranchised category of citizens. “There are three categories of disabled people in our country … those disabled by war, those disabled by vocational injuries or accidents, and the civilian disabled,” Roland Séguin, the president of the Fédération nationale des invalides civils (FNIC), explained to audiences on 24 February 1947. This latter group comprised those “physically impaired individuals whose inferiority is attributable neither to war nor to a work accident,” factors that left them “completely abandoned” despite their “being the most sizeable category” in France.26 During the interwar decades, the state had created a vast medical bureaucracy dedicated to the rehabilitation of France's nearly one million disabled servicemen. This administration provided veterans with medical care, prostheses, and pensions as a social “right” of compensation for their suffering on behalf of the nation.27 An 1898 law granted people injured in the workplace the right to a disability pension paid by their employer, and in the 1930s these mutilés du travail gained access to the vocational retraining programs offered to veterans in state-run rehabilitation schools.28 Yet France's invalides civils enjoyed no such privileges, Séguin insisted, forcing them to seek medical or financial assistance through two fin-de-siècle public assistance laws that stigmatized them as objects of pity and derision.29

The Solidarist politicians of the early Third Republic who sponsored this public assistance legislation endeavored to create what the sociologist Colette Bec terms an “economy of obligations” that protected the most vulnerable members of French society while reaffirming the value of labor and individual responsibility.30 An 1893 law required communes to offer free medical assistance (typically in the form of prostheses, orthopedic devices, bandages, medicines, or hospital stays) to “curable” invalids on the condition that such temporary aid would eventually return them to the workforce. A subsequent 1905 law mandated obligatory assistance for “elderly, infirm, and incurable” individuals who were unable to work, but excluded children under the age of thirteen. Both laws left a great deal of room for interpretation in their application and communes paid for assistance out of their local budgets, which varied considerably by region. Cash-strapped municipal bureaux de bienfaisance, when tasked with determining candidates’ eligibility for assistance, frequently chose the most cost-effective method available to them: sending those deemed “incurable” to hospitals or asylums.31 By the 1920s, eugenic theories about the biological decline of the French “race” increasingly undergirded decisions to segregate disabled people as physicians sought new ways to improve France's declining birthrate and produce a healthier population.32 Faced with the stigma of confinement, only the most impoverished individuals, or families who could not cope with a disabled family member, tended to seek assistance under the 1905 law. The result, Séguin told radio listeners, was that invalides civils had become the veritable “parasites of society.”33

During the war, Vichy officials made few substantial changes to this prewar assistance regime, but the État français introduced several eugenics-inspired laws, including mandatory premarital examinations to discourage “unfit” people from reproducing and a ban on people with physical disabilities applying for state teaching positions.34 The penury of the Occupation years, however, threatened the very survival of institutionalized populations, which included many elderly people as well as individuals with mental illnesses and physical disabilities. As Isabelle von Bueltzingslowen has documented, an estimated forty thousand people died of starvation and exposure in French hospices and psychiatric facilities—not on the direct orders of eugenicist public health officials, as in Nazi Germany, but rather from food and coal shortages produced by a mismanaged rationing system.35 Chronic scarcities also made it difficult to repair the crutches, wheelchairs, and prosthetic limbs that many people relied upon for labor and mobility. “In 1941 and the years that followed,” the Parisian orthopedist Paul Le Coeur recalled, “we had no leather for shoes, no steel for devices, no wood for canes.”36 Even after the Liberation, the continued rationing of foodstuffs, coal, and fuel, combined with overburdened public transit systems and rampant inflation, made everyday life extremely challenging for disabled people. Simply going to work or participating on equal terms in the improvisational système D that kept so many afloat during the années noires remained difficult for people with limited mobility.37

Numerous listeners wrote to Didier detailing their struggles for survival during the war and its immediate aftermath. From Douai, a paraplegic named Eugène Capon inquired whether Didier knew anyone who could spare tires for his motorized wheelchair. He could only apply for one new tire every six months, and at that rate, he estimated, it would take “six years at minimum to equip my voiturette.”38 Germaine Burnouf, a widow who had fled her bombed-out home in Vercors for a tiny village in the Eure, was working as a farm laborer to support herself, two disabled family members, and an abandoned baby. She begged Didier for assistance in locating a small wagon to transport her daughter Madeleine, who had Little's Disease.39 The war's disruptions to family life—whether through forced evacuations, deportations, or imprisonments—had serious consequences for people who relied exclusively on family members for physical care and financial support.40 “I lost my wife in 1938,” wrote Edouard Destais, a tuberculosis survivor in his fifties. “My eldest daughter disappeared during the exode of 1940, my youngest can do nothing for me. I have … no hope of ever going back to work.”41 Didier regularly read excerpts from these letters over the microphone, highlighting common experiences of wartime hardship with which his audience could identify, while simultaneously pointing to the persistent social inequalities that affected disabled people.42

By telling individuals’ stories on air, Didier hoped that La Tribune de l'Invalide would advance a nascent postwar disability rights movement that sought to contest negative perceptions of bodily difference to eliminate the cultural stigma of disability. For decades, disabled veterans and mutilés du travail had pointed to the origins of their impairment or illness in order to justify claims for pensions, medical services, and compensation to employers or the state. Didier and other postwar activists now began to emphasize the psychological consequences of the lived experience of disability. This reframing of disability as a “personal ordeal that could be worked through in a reflexive manner,” Isabelle Ville argues, had already appeared in the 1930s among disability activists who sought to distinguish their fates from those of the “wounded heroes” of the First World War.43

For the polio survivor André Trannoy, the discovery that his paralyzed legs were not “glorious” but were rather “embarrassing, even ugly” to many people propelled him to create the Association des paralysés de France (APF) in 1933 to advocate for paralyzed civilians. “We were not part of the same world” as disabled veterans, Trannoy later recalled, and “I subsequently learned that this discrimination had even more troubling consequences than momentary shame.”44 In 1929, the Catholic activist Suzanne Fouché took up the cause of the tens of thousands of pulmonary and bone tuberculosis patients like herself who had spent years immobilized in body casts and isolated in sanatoriums, where their intellectual development, mental health, and spiritual wellbeing were ignored.45 With her friend Robert Buron, Fouché founded the Ligue pour l'adaptation du diminué physique au travail (L'ADAPT), which campaigned to provide secondary education inside sanatoriums, vocational retraining, and job placement services for a population employers regarded as contagious and incapable of physical labor.46 Both the APF and L'ADAPT gained political traction within social Catholic circles during the 1930s, but the targeting of civilian populations during the Second World War ultimately increased the associations’ visibility.47

After Vichy authorities nationalized charities providing assistance to civilian populations under the umbrella of the Secours national, the associations that survived were typically those whose goals aligned with the regime's promotion of social and familial solidarity. In the case of the APF and L'ADAPT, the associations’ leadership also boasted personal links to Robert Garric, the founder of the interwar Équipes sociales and the Commissioner-General of the Secours national.48 Against the backdrop of labor shortages and STO deportations, the Secours national provided both associations with funds to build vocational retraining centers for paralyzed adolescents and tuberculosis survivors.49 By the Liberation, both groups boasted larger memberships than before the war, with the AFP's adherents jumping from several hundred in 1934 to over two thousand in 1943 and to ten thousand by 1947. Their success propelled a number of smaller, regional, and disability-specific associations to rally together in national federations to promote the interests of disabled civilians.50 Together, Robert Buron asserted, the associations were working to challenge the widespread perception of disabled and chronically ill people as a “plague-stricken category with whom contact must be avoided at all costs.”51

Although France's postwar reconstruction has long been viewed as a top-down enterprise directed by teams of policy experts and economic planners, the very legitimacy of the nascent Fourth Republic, as Herrick Chapman has demonstrated, demanded negotiations with citizens over the growing role of the centralized state in everyday life.52 By 1947, Suzanne Fouché, André Trannoy, and Robert Buron had all earned seats on a newly-created Commission consultative des malades at the Health Ministry and the Commission interministerielle pour la rééducation professionnelle des mutilés, invalides, et déficients at the Labor Ministry, giving them direct access to legislators.53 As representatives for a significant—if previously ignored—political constituency, they were determined to make the rights of invalides civils central to national reconstruction by calling for their “reclassement social,” a quite literal “re-categorization” from a position of marginality and exclusion to one of full citizenship.

On Didier's March 24 broadcast, FNIC President Roland Séguin situated disabled people's fate within broader global conversations about protecting human rights after the Second World War, telling listeners that “humanity owes assistance to the defective.”54 Although activists rarely invoked the wartime deaths of French people in asylums, the 1947 Nuremberg doctors’ trial ensured that the Nazi eugenics programs targeting the disabled and chronically ill for scientific experimentation or extermination were never far from their minds.55 What the disabled person deserved, Marcel Duranton asserted in Vers la vie, the journal of the Fédération nationale des malades, was a “worthy and humane life,” and not to be considered a “pariah, a dead weight, [and] a millstone that weighs on society.” Prewar assistance laws, which treated disabled civilians as “people who must be accommodated at the least possible expense,” were only one step away from targeting them as “detestable garbage that must be eliminated.”56 If the new French Republic wished to distance itself from “fascism, which called for the radical suppression of all unproductive people,” Duranton argued, legislators should guarantee its legitimacy by adopting measures to improve disabled people's quality of life.57

Disability activists had long identified the “liberation” of disabled people from hospitals and asylums as the first goal of reclassement social, but in the wake of the Occupation, they compared the situation of invalides civils directly to the wartime detainment of political prisoners, deportees, and POWs. “Captives of our inert limbs, deprived of those who are dear to us … and anxiously awaiting hope of some future liberation,” APF member Jean Chauvière wrote in the association's bulletin Faire face, were the physically disabled all that different from those who spent years behind barbed wire?58 Metaphors of captivity infused the dramatic story of “imprisonment” and “rescue” that APF president André Trannoy told on the February 17 broadcast of La Tribune de l'Invalide:

George is an eighteen-year-old boy. For thirteen years, he has been surrounded by the elderly and senile in a hospice for incurables. Orphaned and afflicted at a very young age by infantile paralysis, he was handed over to a tutor who beat him with a stick to try and get him to walk. He finally landed in this hospice. Desperate, he tried to commit suicide three times.

However, after the APF “rescued” George and helped him train as a cobbler, he “now joyfully earns his own living.” While celebrating George's newfound autonomy, Trannoy explained that the APF had created a “network of rescue workers, many themselves paralyzed,” to respond to similar “distress signals”—a strategy designed to highlight disabled people's self-sufficiency and perhaps invoke memories of wartime Resistance heroics. Yet ultimately it was the state, rather than the APF's activists, that bore the responsibility for the fate of disabled adolescents. Invoking politicians’ preoccupation with youth as the principal source of France's national rejuvenation, Trannoy told listeners that “there are one hundred thousand paralyzed young people” who must be “cared for, educated … and prepared for a profession.”59 As Roland Séguin asserted on-air the following week, “in the century of progress, planning, and social security,” how could legislators remain insensitive to the “inhumane” situation in which so many people lived, particularly when the constitution of the Fourth Republic guaranteed everyone the right to an education, professional training, and access to culture?60

The creation of physical rehabilitation facilities and vocational retraining centers for disabled civilians comparable to those already available to veterans formed a second pillar of activists’ demands for social reintegration. If France was to fully recover from the traumas of the war, they argued, the state needed to guarantee individuals’ rehabilitation as well. From its origins in the 1920s, rehabilitation medicine had treated disability as a corporeal anomaly to be repaired and effaced, privileging the return of disabled laborers to the workforce as their primary pathway to social reintegration.61 Rather than challenge this logic (and its potential to further stigmatize certain disabilities), Liberation-era activists instead argued that the demographic and manpower crises of the late 1940s made the rehabilitation of invalides civils imperative. “France, ravaged by the war, insufficiently populated, and filled with elderly people, cannot allow physically deficient people to be excluded from the work community,” Robert Buron told audiences in February 1947, particularly when “hundreds of thousands of prisoners and deportees are coming back sick.”62 Even as his own political party focused on creating generous family allowances to encourage women to produce more children for France's future, Buron insisted that to survive the present, “every one of us should be brought to labor, with all of his productive forces, so that France can rebuild itself.” This could only be achieved through an organized “plan for the rehabilitation of sick people.”63

André Trannoy similarly embraced the productivity ethos of government planning experts, arguing that labor would upend negative portrayals of disabled people as useless mouths by demonstrating their capacity for economic independence. “We will not stay home, waiting for death, or begging for a pension,” he wrote in a Faire face editorial that Didier read on his October 9 broadcast, “we are men eager and capable of no longer being supported by the national community—that's to say eager and capable of working.”64 Maurice Vincent echoed Trannoy a few weeks later, arguing that disabled people had played critical roles in their communities throughout history: “Disabled civilians gave Greek antiquity the lame but wise Socrates; they gave great America the prestigious president Franklin Roosevelt; they are ready to give their arms and minds to France and the world. Help them in their everyday struggle!”65

If these arguments found favor with some legislators, the harsh realities of hospital overcrowding and labor shortages helped to turn physical rehabilitation and vocational retraining into political priorities. In June 1945, the Health Ministry began seeking “family placements” for elderly people living in hospices to free up spaces for medically fragile deportees in need of round-the-clock care.66 Drawing on statistics from the 1946 census—the first since 1926 to ask a question about disability—staff in the Labor Ministry endeavored to count France's disabled workers and create regional job placement centers and vocational retraining programs that could return them the workforce. The state was “conscious that the full use of the entire French labor force must be envisioned to serve the national interest,” Jean Chevalier, the secretary of Les Anciens grands malades, told Tribune de l'Invalide listeners on May 19. The government had, therefore, recently offered to subsidize the AGM's planned vocational retraining center for tuberculosis survivors in Clermont-Ferrand, a gesture it soon extended to other organizations.67 To improve existing health care infrastructure, legislators authorized the construction of multiple tuberculosis sanatoriums as well as specialized polio treatment facilities in Garches and Rennes, and in 1950 they mandated the installation of a rehabilitation center in every major regional hospital. Yet determining who would pay for physical rehabilitation and vocational retraining remained an intractable problem given the financial demands of reconstruction. Two key pieces of legislation, passed in 1945 and 1946, dictated that social security cover rehabilitation for tuberculosis survivors and workers injured on the job. However, the coverage did not include disabled people who had never entered the workforce, whether due to their physical condition or a lack of education.68 Nor did the laws account for the “minority of disabled people who can never maintain a permanent job,” for whom Roland Séguin advocated the creation of “establishments run by the disabled, where they will enjoy a family life and perform work corresponding to their aptitudes.”69

While awaiting the development of a comprehensive national program to rehabilitate disabled civilians, Didier and his guests on La Tribune de l'Invalide turned their attention to additional reforms they hoped would improve disabled people's quality of life. These included the right to a carte d'invalidité guaranteeing discounted travel and priority seating on public transit (a privilege already granted to disabled veterans) as well as extra food rations for people recovering from tuberculosis and other chronic illnesses.70 A number of activists also campaigned against the impôt sur le célibat, a provision of the 1939 Family Code that imposed higher taxes on unmarried men to pay for family allowances, but which many felt further discriminated against people who were already struggling to find work, marry, and start a family.71 Nearly every disability association, however, rallied behind the proposal of the physician and socialist député Denis Cordonnier to mandate a fixed-rate “vital minimum” pension for blind people and disabled civilians—two groups thus far excluded from the emerging social security system.72 The parliamentary Comité de famille, population, et santé publique initially introduced the Cordonnier Law to combat indigence in the streets, but debates over the bill soon evolved into a full-fledged condemnation of a prewar assistance regime that, in Cordonnier's words, had failed to ensure a “decent existence” for an already “disinherited population.”73

The concept of the “vital minimum,” according to Dana Simmons, originated in fin-de-siècle socialists’ demands for a minimum wage. It was exploited by Vichy's nutritional scientists during the Occupation, and then reappropriated by leaders of the Resistance as a key component of their social agenda.74 Although Fourth Republic legislators and trade unionists would ultimately reject the “vital minimum” as the basis for their own minimum wage law, Cordonnier strategically chose language that he hoped would put invalides civils on an equal footing with disabled workers and veterans. As Octave Boisson, a founding member of the Association générale de aveugles et grands infirmes, told radio audiences in November, at a moment when “different categories of workers are demanding a decent minimum existence,” enacting the Cordonnier Law would prove that “solidarity is not an empty word but a directing principle of society.”75 Yet the proposed legislation, introduced into parliamentary debate the same month that La Tribune de l'Invalide went on the air, took nearly two years to wind its way through the channels of government before it was passed in August 1949. Some politicians, preoccupied with labor strikes and the other financial demands of reconstruction, could not understand the logic of granting “pensions” to disabled civilians, particularly when so many able-bodied laborers were still living on the ration.76

If anything, the Cordonnier Law illustrates how France's postwar social security system became not “universalist,” as Pierre Laroque first envisioned, but rather, as Philip Nord suggests, “corporatist, with benefits provided not to citizens but to occupants of work-based categories.”77 While the postwar focus on human rights—both within France and internationally—provided activists with a new rhetorical framework to defend the fundamental humanity of disabled people, the haphazard passage of social welfare legislation in the late 1940s ensured that disability associations were far more successful when they advocated for specific groups with particular needs. At the same time, the logic of the Cordonnier Law relied upon the notion that some disabled people would always be incapable of rehabilitation or work, reinforcing the need for charity on their behalf.78 This tension between defending the rights of disabled people and soliciting charity for them underpinned La Tribune de l'Invalide throughout its short existence and would shape disability activism in France for decades to come.

Building Solidarity through Charity and Mutual Aid

Although Maurice Didier intended for La Tribune de l'Invalide to serve as a platform for disability activism, the optimistic tone of his guests, who hoped the Liberation would herald a new era of self-sufficiency and independence for disabled people, contrasted sharply with the tone of desperation reflected in many listeners’ letters. People did write to Didier requesting details about the topics he and his guests discussed on air, but more often they asked for money, medical advice, material assistance, or help finding work. “I have one amputated leg, walk with crutches, and my right eye is gone,” a certain Widow Benay wrote to Didier. “I receive public assistance …1500 francs a month, and 100 francs of bread … could you help me with something, life being so difficult?”79 Alfred Tixier, less comfortable with soliciting charity, simply described his difficult living conditions before inquiring whether the sympathetic “friend” he heard each week knew of any cures for his paralysis.80 Didier responded personally to as many letters as he could, and forwarded others to social workers, disability associations, and individuals that he hoped would help. Yet the sheer volume of requests Didier received, which he regularly excerpted for the weekly broadcast, ensured that audiences and radio administrators alike began to associate La Tribune de l'Invalide with charity as much as activism.

Didier launched a “minute of mutual aid” during his second show, when he appealed to his audience for donations to purchase a radio for a paralyzed adolescent who longed for the “little taste of life” it would bring to his bedroom.81 Within a few weeks, Didier had streamlined his on-air petitions to mirror classified advertisements, sometimes citing listeners’ names and cities of residence, but often yielding to their requests for privacy, as in his June 23 appeal: “Mr. G., confined to his bed for the past two or three years, seeks #2 or #3 cane to repair his wheelchair; Mademoiselle D.M., twenty-eight years old, a paralyzed former pharmacy preparer, seeks work she can do from home; Colonel M., married and paralyzed on the right side, seeks work as a building caretaker; Mr. C., who is blind, is looking for a sighted guide.”82 Mobility remained a central preoccupation for the disabled listeners who wrote to Didier, as the wheelchairs, handcycles (vélocimanes), and motorized voiturettes they used to move around indoors and outdoors remained prohibitively expensive, ranging from fifty to fifty thousand francs depending on the model—an impossible sum for anyone living on a fixed income.

In April, Didier responded to the numerous requests he had received for vehicles by unveiling a “permanent campaign for a free handcycle,” building on his guests’ appeals to “rescue” paralyzed adolescents by selecting as its first recipient a young woman “hospitalized for twenty years and surrounded by epileptics and the elderly.”83 Checks and postal orders ranging from twenty to several thousand francs soon began to arrive in Paris. “I apologize for this modest donation,” S. Athause wrote, but “I would like to demonstrate my sympathy for the paralyzed while asking forgiveness for the selfishness of those who too often ignore the treasure of good health.”84 Suzanne Jung scribbled a short message on her 200-franc money order, noting that “being paralyzed myself, I understand how horrible life might be for someone trapped in such an atmosphere.”85 By August, Didier had received more than the necessary sum “thanks to you, listeners near and far, French and foreign, but equally generous.”86 Henriette Fé, who had no knowledge of the campaign on her behalf, wrote to Didier from the Hospice d'Ivry, pleased with the opportunity to “be able to go out for a walk,” even though it would take another four months for her vélocimane to arrive.87

Didier quickly realized, however, that his audience's needs were far greater than his fundraising capacities, and he turned his efforts to facilitating exchanges of goods and services between listeners. When Madame Launay wrote with a description of the decrepit state of her forty-three-year-old son's wheelchair, which he had been using for twenty-four years, Didier introduced her to Madame Labourier, the recent widow of a disabled World War One veteran, who shipped her husband's chair to Launay—just one of many similar exchanges Didier mediated.88 After learning about Henri Leroy, a polio survivor living alone on a rural Normandy farm after his mother's death, Didier worked with Madame Vigier, a listener who lived nearby, to locate a tenant who could provide Leroy with income, companionship, and assistance.89 Didier also lobbied the P.T.T. to run a phone line to Leroy's farm and launched a second vélocimane campaign on his behalf. As he told his audience, “this man of forty years … who can only move about his house when tied to a chair,” lacked the means to travel to the nearest village for groceries or to collect letters from the post office.90 Although Didier failed to raise enough money for a second vélocimane, he developed a friendship with Leroy, even taking his family to the farm for a holiday in September.

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Maurice Didier (standing) and Henri Leroy (seated) in Collandres (Eure), September 1947.

Source: Fonds Maurice Didier.

Citation: French Politics, Culture & Society 37, 3; 10.3167/fpcs.2019.370303

This commitment to helping disabled people cultivate support networks in their local communities undergirded a second initiative that Didier launched to link disabled individuals with volunteer visitors. Suggested by a listener from Grenoble, this project paralleled similar initiatives being organized by the Association des paralysés de France.91 “My father died after being paralyzed for twelve years,” Madame Berthonnier wrote to Didier in March, and “I know the psychological and physical suffering of people … with that fate. Could you not suggest on the radio that individuals with a little time and good heart sponsor a paralyzed person in their city?”92 Within a week of Didier reading Berthonnier's letter on air, dozens of listeners wrote to offer their services. Many volunteers situated their assistance within longstanding traditions of bourgeois and Christian charity towards the less fortunate. “A good Christian cannot rest indifferent to the suffering of her brothers and sisters,” suggested one Monsieur Phillipart, before assuring Didier of his prayers on behalf of invalides civils.93 Yet for others, Didier's call echoed the Secours national's wartime parrainage campaign, which encouraged adolescents to provide meals and a few minutes of daily conversation to elderly people in their communities.94 Annie Ostheimer, a self-described “old lady who has passed her fifties,” regarded her calls on a paralyzed person as a direct extension of her wartime patronage of “several godchildren” and her weekly visits to the Union des aveugles de guerre.95

While pity clearly motivated a number of Didier's volunteers, visiting a hospice and meeting a disabled person was a novel experience for some people, and it could challenge stereotypes and generate new friendships. Jacqueline Valette, a teenager who visited the nineteen-year-old Jean Bénard in a sanatorium, peppered Didier with questions before her first visit. What kind of conditions was Bénard living in? Did he have any sort of profession? Did he like books or music? “I would like to know a little about him so as not to say something stupid, and to have a tactful air, and not to wound him,” Valette confided to Didier, “do you understand what I mean?”96 Jeanne Tordo-Pasquier, who called upon Henriette Cheminade in a hospice at Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, was astonished to discover an intelligent young woman with whom she enjoyed spending time, rather than the demoralized invalid she had imagined. “I was immediately struck by her good spirits, which was the great pleasure of my unexpected visit,” Tordo-Pasquier recounted to Didier, and “we talked about a number of current affairs: literature, sewing, knitting, the news, etc.”97 Berthe Baille, a fifty-five-year-old paraplegic who had spent much of her adult life in a Catholic asylum, delighted in her regular exchanges with Mademoiselle Chapiotal, the woman dispatched by Didier and the APF to visit her. Baille and Chapiotal developed a warm relationship after several months. “She spoils me, I assure you,” Baille described to Didier, and “we get along so well. We're about the same age … [and] she is also sick. She has something wrong with her spinal column, but it doesn't keep her from working.”98

These relationships—forged at the nexus of charity and mutual aid—illustrate the continued importance of private networks of social solidarity in postwar France. Despite the promises of Fourth Republic legislators to create an expansive welfare state that would serve all of France's citizens equally, the state's failure to fully support invalides civils ensured that many disabled people continued to rely upon friends, family members, and increasingly, on disability associations for material assistance and social services. Far from bringing an end to charity, the emergence of the postwar welfare state fueled the creation of dozens of new associations dedicated to serving blind or Deaf people, polio survivors, individuals with cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, or children with intellectual disabilities.99 In the decades that followed, these organizations launched national fundraising campaigns to construct rehabilitation facilities and accessible housing, and occasionally to fund scientific research. They often relied on state subsidies to fund a portion of their projects, but more often than not, they appealed to public generosity through lotteries, bazaars, and annual collection drives. In 1959, the Health Ministry cabinet secretary, Max Querrien, admitted that these private fundraising campaigns had become “indispensable to the successful completion of the health care and social work that I am responsible for,” although he worried about their impact on the reputation of the welfare state and feared a public backlash against near-constant “demands on its generosity.”100

Representing Disability in the Airwaves

Maurice Didier had big dreams for La Tribune de l'Invalide that included expanding the weekly show from five to thirty-five minutes and organizing a tour of disabled musicians to draw attention to the work of disability activists.101 But in late 1947, he learned that Radiodiffusion française planned to cancel his show. Didier appealed directly to the newly-appointed director of broadcasting, Wladimir Porché, citing the twenty-nine thousand francs raised in donations as evidence of the show's success.102 This argument ultimately backfired, as radio administrators had already decided to concentrate mutual aid into a single half-hour show run by the Entr'Aide française, citing audiences’ preferences for “lighthearted” fare over broadcasts that reminded them of the war's continued impact on their lives.103 Didier's show had already helped to shape a national conversation about disability that continued on the airwaves long after La Tribune de l'Invalide's demise, however, even as French broadcasting offered audiences contradictory representations of disabled people that reflected the larger tensions underpinning the postwar welfare state.

In late 1947, physical rehabilitation and vocational retraining for disabled laborers became the subject of two new radio features sponsored by the Labor Ministry, the Caisse nationale de sécurité sociale, and the state-affiliated journal Réadaptation.104 Hosted by the young Radiodiffusion française reporter Paul Soucasse, Retour à la vie and La vie vous attend boasted a shared budget of over one million francs, permitting Soucasse to take his microphone onto factory floors and inside rehabilitation hospitals for interviews. While Soucasse promised to give disabled people “their own show,” his primary charge was to convince employers that workers with physical impairments could contribute productively to the national economy. As a result, both shows focused exclusively on disabled workers’ success stories—from overcoming paralysis after polio to learning to use a prosthetic limb—without acknowledging the physical pain that rehabilitation entailed or the continued discrimination that disabled people—even the most self-sufficient—continued to face both inside and outside the workplace.105

Around the same time, the Catholic journalist Clara Candiani launched Les Français donnent aux Français on Paris Inter, which went on to become one of the longest-running programs on the state airwaves. Replacing the earlier Entr'Aide française broadcast, Candiani's show raised money for a range of “impoverished” and “disenfranchised” individuals, from the elderly to refugees, children, and disabled people, or in Candiani's own words, the “most pathetic cases I could find.”106 Although disability was not the sole focus of the show and disability activists had little control over Candiani's on-air content, Les Français donnent aux Français nonetheless became a vital source of publicity for disability associations after the state began limiting their street canvassing to one annual Journée nationale des paralysés et invalides civils. When Candiani interviewed polio survivors for several episodes in 1950, for example, she framed their stories with commentary that blended mild social critique with mawkish sentimentality, appealing to listeners’ emotions by asking them to imagine being “immobilized” for life by a “perfidious illness.” She concluded with a request for donations to the Association des paralysés de France.107

Whether presenting disabled people as heroes who overcame physical challenges with the aid of the welfare state or as helpless objects of charity, French broadcasting—from radio to the emerging medium of television—offered its audiences few complex portrayals of disabled people in the 1950s and 1960s. The Fédération nationale des invalides civils encouraged its members to tune into these shows, but listeners clearly missed the “zeal and loyalty” shown by “our friend Maurice Didier” as well as his efforts to allow disabled people to speak for themselves.108 As George Bouttonet wrote to Didier in 1948, “we infirmes found a very great thing in La Tribune de l'Invalide … and its disappearance affects us enormously.”109 Not until the student protests of 1968 would a new generation of young activists emerge to challenge clichéd media representations of disability.110



The author would like to thank Jennifer Sessions, Jonathyne Briggs, and the anonymous reviewers for French Politics, Culture & Society for their helpful suggestions on earlier versions of this article. Zina Weygand deserves special thanks for offering privileged access to the archives of her father, Maurice Didier. A Bourse Marandon from the Société des professeurs de français et francophones d'Amérique and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities supported the research for this article.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 1st broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 3 February 1947, Fonds Maurice Didier [Hereafter FMD].


On civilian victims in Occupied France, see Claudia Baldoni and Andrew Knapp, Forgotten Blitzes: France and Italy under Air Attack, 1940–1945 (London: Bloomsbury, 2012); Shannon Fogg, The Politics of Everyday Life in Vichy France: Foreigners, Undesirables, and Strangers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 19–55; and Julie S. Torrie, “For their Own Good:” Civilian Evacuations in Germany and France, 1939–1945 (New York: Berghahn Books, 2010), 50–93.


Megan Koreman, The Expectation of Justice. France: 1944–1946 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999), 92–147.


Herrick Chapman, France's Long Reconstruction: In Search of the Modern Republic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018), 1–16.


Richard Jobs, Riding the New Wave: Youth and the Rejuvenation of France (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007), 2, 20.


Paul Dutton, The Origins of the French Welfare State: The Struggle for Social Reform in France, 1914–1947 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 202–219.


Christophe Lewin, Le Retour des prisonniers de guerre français: Naissance et développement de la FNPG, 1944–1952 (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1986), 61–89.


Pierre Laroque, speech at the Centre national d'information économique on 10 January 1946, cited in La Sécurité sociale: Son histoire à travers les textes, ed. Alain Barjot (Paris: Association pour l'étude de l'histoire de la sécurité sociale, 1988), 14–15; Eric Jabbari, Pierre Laroque and the Welfare State in France (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 109–130.


Chapman, France's Long Reconstruction, 109–163.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 3 February 1947, FMD; “Écoutez ce soir un beau concert à la station de T.S.F. Alpes-Grenoble P.T.T.,” Comoedia, 22 January 1936, 2. Didier performed sporadically on the radio in the 1930s before becoming a soloist for French state broadcasting in 1944.


Rebecca Scales, Radio and the Politics of Sound in Interwar France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 6.


Aurélie Luneau, Radio Londres: Les ondes de la liberté, 19401944 (Paris: Perrin, 2010); Derek W. Vaillant, Across the Waves: How the United States and France Shaped the International Age of Radio (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2017), 51–76.


Joelle Neulander, Programming National Identity: The Culture of 1930s Radio in France (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2009), 185–191. For Vichy radio, see Philip Nord, France's New Deal: From the 1930s to the Postwar Era (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), 296–309.


Christian Brochand, Histoire générale de la radio et de la télévision en France, Tome II (Paris: La Documentation française, 1994), 33–43.


Jon Cowans, “Political Culture and Cultural Politics: The Reconstruction of French Radio after the Second World War,” Journal of Cultural History 31, 1 (1996): 145–170; Brochand, Histoire générale de la radio, 231–234.


Christiane Mallarmé, Le micro est à vous, 35th broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 9 June 1947, Archives de l'Institut national d'audiovisuel [hereafter INA]. The archives contain one full and one partial recording of the program. Mallarmé forwarded letters she received about Didier's contributions to the show. Christiane Mallarmé to Maurice Didier, 23 October 1946, FMD; J.Th. Flausse to François Guillaume, Service du Courrier des auditeurs, Radiodiffusion française, 13 March 1947 (Copy).


Scales, Radio and the Politics of Sound, 71–80.


“L'orchestre de la poliomyélite,” France Dimanche, 22 December 1946, 3. The newspaper suggested that the performers’ “physical state prevents them from showing themselves in public.” During the 1930s, Didier toured with the Chanteurs de Lyon and the Concerts Lamoureux. There are no known recordings of La Tribune de l'Invalide.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 1st broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 3 February 1947, FMD.


Brochand, Histoire générale de la radio, 594–596.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 3 February 1947, FMD.


Charles Pasquier to Maurice Didier, 16 March, 1947, FMD.


Antoine Lettini to Maurice Didier, 19 March 1947, FMD.


While diminué physique was most frequently used to describe tuberculosis survivors, some people used it to refer to anyone with a chronic illness. Mutilé was invoked to refer to both veterans and civilians with disabilities. Handicapé began to appear regularly in print media only in the mid-1950s, but was rarely used to describe intellectual disabilities.


On the challenges of defining disability, see Catherine J. Kudlick, “Disability History: Why We Need Another ‘Other,’” American Historical Review 108, 3 (2003): 763–793; Michael Rembis, Catherine Kudlick, and Kim E. Nielsen, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Disability History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 1–20.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 4th broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 24 February 1947, FMD.


Bruno Cabanes, The Great War and the Origins of Humanitarianism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 24–81.


Damien de Blic, “De la Fédération des mutilés du travail à la Fédération nationale des accidentés du travail et des handicapés,” Revue française des affaires sociales 2–3 (2008): 119–140.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 24 February 1947, FMD.


Colette Bec, La Sécurité sociale: Une institution de la démocratie (Paris: Gallimard, 2014), 43–48.


Axelle Dolino-Brodiez, Combattre la pauvreté: Vulnérabilités sociales et sanitaires de 1880 à nos jours (Paris: CNRS Éditions, 2013), 87–99.


William Schneider, Quality and Quantity: The Quest for Biological Regeneration in Twentieth-Century France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 116–207; Joan Tumblety, Remaking the Male Body: Masculinity and the Uses of Physical Culture in Interwar and Vichy France (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 38–75.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 24 February 1947, FMD.


Jean-Pierre Le Crom, “L'assistance publique,” in La Protection sociale sous le régime de Vichy, ed. Philippe-Jean Hesse and Jean-Pierre Le Crom (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2001), 164–179; Andrés Reggiani, “Alexis Carrel, the Unknown: Eugenics and Population Research Under Vichy,” French Historical Studies 25, 2 (2002): 331–356; Gildas Brégain, “De l'interdiction faire à Jacques Lusseyran d'enseigner dans le secondaire (décret du 1er juillet 1942),” in Jacques Lusseyran entre cécité et lumière, ed. Marion Chottin, Céline Roussel, et Zina Weygand (Paris: Éditions rue d'Ulm/Presses de l'École normale supérieure, 2019), 67-86.


Isabelle von Bueltzingsloewen, L'Hécatombe des fous: La famine dans les hôpitaux psychiatriques français sous l'Occupation (Paris: Le grand livre du mois, 2007), 27–48, 407–409.


Pol Le Coeur and Marcel Fèvre, “L'orthopédie de la poliomyélite,” in La Poliomyélite, ed. Robert Debré (Paris: Éditions médicales Flammarion, 1950), 179.


Koreman, The Expectation of Justice, 90–181; Dana Simmons, Vital Minimum: Need, Science, and Politics in Modern France (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2015), 142–148.


Eugène Capon to Maurice Didier, 30 April 1947, FMD.


Germaine Burnouf to Maurice Didier, 14 December 1947, FMD.


On the wartime restructuring of family life see Sarah Fishman, From Vichy to the Sexual Revolution: Gender and Family Life in Postwar France (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 1–28.


Edouard Destais to Maurice Didier, 8 April 1947, FMD.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'invalide, 20th broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 23 June 1947, FMD.


Isabelle Ville, “Significations du handicap et modalités de traitement social des déficiences au XXe siècle,” in Les Maux et les mots: De la précarité et de l'exclusion en France au XXe siècle, ed. André Gueslin and Henri-Jacques Stiker (Paris: L'Harmattan, 2012), 174.


André Trannoy, Risquer l'impossible: La longue marche des immobiles (Paris: Athanor, 1993), 48. The APF began its life as the Association des paralysés et rhumatisants before changing its name to the Association des paralysés de France in May 1945.


Dominique Dessertine and Olivier Faure, Combattre la tuberculose (Lyon: Presses universitaires de Lyon, 1988), 25–31; Pierre Guillaume, Du désespoir au salut: Les tuberculeux aux XIXe et XXe siècles (Paris: Aubier, 1986), 252–255. On tuberculosis as a disability, see Beth Linker and Emily Abel, “Integrating Disability, Transforming Disease History: Tuberculosis and its Past,” in Civil Disabilities: Citizenship, Membership, and Belonging, ed. Beth Linker and Nancy L. Hirschmann (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), 83–102.


Suzanne Fouché, J'espérais un grand espoir: Au service du malade mon frère (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1981), 115–131. During their cures in the seaside hospital of Berck, Fouché and Buron founded the Association catholique des malades de Berck, the precursor to L'ADAPT.


Jean-François Montès, “Des mutilés de guerre aux infirmes civils: les associations durant l'entre-deux-guerres,” in L'Institution du handicap: Le rôle des associations, ed. Catherine Barral, Florence Paterson, Henri-Jacques Sticker, Michel Chauvière (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2000), 145–156.


Jean-Pierre Le Crom, Au secours, Maréchal! (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2013), 15–16, 37–42. The Daladier government recalled to life the Secours national (dormant since WWI) in 1939, permitting the state to regulate the collection and dispersal of charitable donations. Pascal Bousseyroux, “Des malades de Berck aux enseignes d'Auxilia,” in Les Maux et les mots, 95–119; and Bousseyroux, “Robert Garric, les Équipes sociales et le travail social,” Vie sociale 2 (2012): 67–83.


Le Ministre de la Santé et de la Famille (État français) à Messieurs les Préfets et Directeurs régionaux de santé et assistance, 3 August 1944, Centre d'accueil et de recherche des Archives nationales de France [hereafter CARAN] 19760180-1. Vichy authorities provided funding for professional retraining in state-run schools even if individuals did not qualify for free medical assistance. André Trannoy, “Les paralysés en France et l'Association des paralysés de France,” and Suzanne Fouché, “L'organisation de la Post-Cure,” in Pages sociales: Bulletin de liaison et de documentation du personnel social de l'Entr'Aide française (November–December 1945): 13–14, 40–42.


Association des paralysés de France, “Centres APF,” Interchefs (July 1944), 2; André Trannoy, “L'APF est reconnu d'utilité publique,” Faire face: Bulletin de l'Association des paralysés de France (April 1945); See also “Sur le plan national désormais FNIC [Fédération nationale des invalides civils] et AGM [Association des anciens grands malades] ne font plus qu'un!” L'Invalide civil (February 1950), 4.


Didier read a letter from Robert Buron on La Tribune de l'Invalide, 2nd broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 10 February 1947, FMD.


Chapman, France's Long Reconstruction, 29–30, 111–112.


Ministère de la Santé publique, Minutes from the Commission consultative des malades, 1947–1948, CARAN 19760164-40.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 8th broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 24 March 1947, FMD. On the postwar circulation of human rights discourse, see Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), 44–83.


Bruno Halioua, “Le procès des médecins de Nuremberg,” La Revue du praticien 60, 5 (2010): 734–737.


R. Bachère, “Malades, que voulons-nous? Une vraie solution au problème des chroniques,” Vers la vie (April 1946), 1.


Marcel Duranton, “La grande détresse des incurables,” Vers la vie (August 1946), 4.


Jean Chauvière, “Prisonniers,” Faire face (January–February 1944), 1.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 2nd broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 17 February 1947, FMD. André Trannoy returned to the theme of “rescue” in the following articles: “ À l'aide,” Faire face (August–September 1943), 1; “Ce que nous voulons pour les PR,” Faire face (January–February–March 1945); “Oui, c'est une drame terrible,” Faire face (July–August 1945), 1; “Notre film sans vedettes,” Faire face (April–May 1947); Jobs, Riding the New Wave, 56–59.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 4th broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 24 February 1947, FMD.


Henri-Jacques Stiker, A History of Disability, trans. William Sayers (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999), 121–150; Vincent Viet, La Santé en guerre, 1914–1918: Une politique pionnière et univers incertain (Paris: Les Presses de Sciences Po, 2015), 319–339.


Robert Buron, “Pour un nouvel esprit,” Étape nouvelle: Journal des anciens grands malades (August 1945), 1.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 13th broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 28 April 1947, FMD; Robert Buron, “Les anciens grands malades au service du pays,” Étape nouvelle (15 June 1945), 3.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 35th broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 9 October 1947, FMD. Didier read Trannoy's “Deux hontes,” Faire face (August– September 1947), 1.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 37th broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 23 October 1947, FMD.


Le Ministre de la Santé publique à Messieurs les Directeurs régionaux de la santé et de l'assistance publique, 1 June 1945, Ministère de la Santé publique, Direction de l'Assistance, CARAN 19760180-1.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 16th broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 19 May 1947, FMD.


Marie-Odile Frattini, “Une médecine active: comment le travail prend valeur thérapeutique,” La Philosophie du soin: Éthique, médecine, et société, ed. Lazare Benaroyo, Céline Lefève, Jean-Christophe Mino, and Frédéric Worms (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2010), 267–282. Laws of 19 October 1945 and 30 October 1946.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 8th broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 24 March 1947, FMD. Trannoy expressed similar views in the article “Un cauchemar: l'hospice,” Faire face (June-July 1947), 1, which Didier read on 25 August 1947.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 37th broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 23 October 1947, FMD.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, Chaîne parisienne, 3 February 1947, FMD. Kristen Stromberg Childers, Fathers, Families, and the State in France, 1914–1945 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006), 76–78, 169–170. The État français instituted the tax on unmarried men to pay for family allowances. See also “Impôt sur le célibat,” Faire face (March–April 1944), 2 and “Amélioration au sort des PR,” Faire face (July–August 1945), 3.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 20th broadcast,” Chaîne parisienne, 23 June 1947, FMD.


Minutes of the 28 August 1946 meeting, Commission de la famille, de la population, et de la santé publique, CARAN C-15992. See also Journal officiel de la République française, Assemblée nationale-Documents parlementaires, Annexe N479, 6 February 1947, 198–199.


Simmons, Vital Minimum, 120–140, 149–150.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 40th broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 13 November 1947, FMD.


Journal officiel de la République française. Assemblée nationale-Débats, 27 March 1947, 697–698; 6 August 1948, 5390-5393; 20 July 1949, 4762-4770.


Philip Nord, France's New Deal, 146; Jabbari, Pierre Laroque and the Welfare State, 132–155.


Serge Ebersold, L'Invention du handicap: La normalisation de l'infirme (Vanves: Centre technique national d'études et de recherches sur les handicaps et les inadaptations, 1992), 39–50.


Mme Veuve Beney to Maurice Didier, 1 July 1947, FMD.


Alfred Tixier to Maurice Didier, 12 June 1947, FMD.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 10 February 1947, FMD.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 20th broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 23 June 1947, FMD.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 13th broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 28 April 1947, FMD.


S. Athause to Maurice Didier, 28 March 1947, FMD.


Suzanne Jung to Maurice Didier, 23 May 1947, FMD.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 26th broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 1 August 1947, FMD.


Henriette Fé to Maurice Didier, 27 August 1947.


Mme Labourier to Maurice Didier, 14 July and 24 July 1947, FMD.


Mme A. Vignier to Maurice Didier, 8 December 1947, FMD.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 28th broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 18 August 1947, FMD.


Transcript of La Tribune de l'Invalide, 6th broadcast, Chaîne parisienne, 10 March 1947, FMD.


Mme Berthonnier to Maurice Didier, 4 March 1947, FMD.


M. Phillipart to Maurice Didier, 16 March 1948, FMD; Jean-Luc Marais, Histoire du don en France de 1800–1939 (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 1999), 337–382.


Le Crom, Au secours, Maréchal! 80.


Annie Ostheimer to Maurice Didier, 24 February 1947, FMD.


Jean Bénard to Maurice Didier, 12 March and 10 June 1947; Jacqueline Valette to Maurice Didier, 18 June 1947, FMD.


Jeanne Tordo-Pasquier to Maurice Didier, 28 June 1947, FMD.


Berthe Baille to Maurice Didier, 21 September 1947, FMD.


Nicolas Delalande, “Giving and Gambling: The Gueules Cassées, the National Lottery, and the Moral Economy of the Welfare State in 1930s France,” French Historical Studies 40, 4 (2017): 623–649.


Max Quérrien, Directeur du Cabinet, Ministère de la Santé publique et de la population à Edmond Michelet, Monsieur le Garde des Sceaux, Ministre de la Justice, 22 March 1959, CARAN 19950317-106.


J. Angebault to Maurice Didier, 24 August 1947, FMD.


Maurice Didier to Wladimir Porché, 20 December 1947 (Copy), FMD.


Mlle Hohl (Secretary to Wladimir Porché) to Maurice Didier, January 1948, FMD; “La 30e Congrès national des Maires demande la suppression de l'Entr'Aide française,” La Revue d'action sociale (June 1947), 3.


Minutes of the Commission interministérielle pour la réadaptation professionnelle des mutilés, invalides, et diminués physiques, 1948–1953, CARAN 19910612-2.


“Les émissions de la Réadaptation,” Réadaptation, April 1953, 2.


Clara Candiani, Les Autres (Paris: J.C. Lattès, 1975), 15–22. The show ended in 1981.


Clara Candiani, Les Français donnent aux Français, 30 September, 7 October, and 21 October 1950, INA.


“La Radiodiffusion nous rend ses antennes,” Étape nouvelle (July–August 1951), 2.


Georges Bouttonet to Maurice Didier, 26 January 1948 and 9 February 1948, FMD.


Jérôme Bas, “Des étudiants paralysés aux handicapés méchants: La contribution des mouvements contestataires à l'unité de la catégorie du handicap,” Genèses 107, 2 (2017), 56-81.

Contributor Notes

Rebecca Scales is an Associate Professor of History at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the author of Radio and the Politics of Sound in Interwar France (2016). Her scholarship has appeared French Historical Studies, Comparative Studies in Society and History, and Media History. She is currently working on a new NEH-funded book project exploring the social and cultural history of polio in twentieth-century France.

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    Figure 1.

    Maurice Didier (standing) and Henri Leroy (seated) in Collandres (Eure), September 1947.

    Source: Fonds Maurice Didier.


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