Right to vote, abortion, contraception…, women had to fight and claim their rights to become the free women they are today in France.
A look back at the key dates that have marked the history of women in France over the past 100 years.
- 1 1900: participation in the Olympic Games
- 2 1911: The First International Women’s Day
- 3 1924: creation of the single baccalaureate
- 4 1944: the right to vote
- 5 1965: the legal capacity of married women
- 6 1967: free contraception
- 7 1972: equal pay
- 8 1975: voluntary termination of pregnancy (IVG) is authorized
- 9 1984: parental leave
- 10 1998: the feminization of names
- 11 2002: paternity leave
- 12 2014: the law on equality between men and women
1900: participation in the Olympic Games
During the first Olympic Games in 1896, women were excluded. Their participation would have been considered “impractical, unsightly and improper”.
Women took part for the first time in the modern Olympic Games in Paris in 1900, four years after the first edition in Athens. Twenty-two women out of the 997 athletes competing (2.2%) competed in just five sports: tennis, sailing, croquet, equestrian sports and golf.
Women had access in 1904 to archery, in 1908 to skating and tennis, in 1912 to swimming and in 1924 to fencing.
In 1928, at the Olympic Games in Amsterdam, women could participate for the first time in women’s Olympic competitions in gymnastics and athletics. Female participation then reached nearly 10%.
In 1936, they had access to skiing events, in 1948 to canoeing and in 1952 to equestrian sports.
In 1969, at the Winter Olympics, more than 20% of women competed.
In 1964 women can participate in volleyball and luge, in 1976 in rowing, basketball and handball, in 1980 in hockey, in 1984 in shooting and cycling and in 1988 in table tennis and sailing .
In 1991, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made a historic decision: any new sport admitted to the Olympic program must include women’s events.
In 1992, women were able to participate in badminton and judo, in 1996 in football and softball, in 1998 in curling, in 2000 in weightlifting, taekwondo and triathlon, in 2002 in bobsleigh, in 2004 in wrestling, in 2006 in rugby and in 2012 in boxing.
In 2014, at the Winter Olympics, women made up 40% of the participants.
In 2016, at the Olympic Games in Rio in Brazil, female participation broke a record with 45% of women competing (5,176 out of 11,444 athletes).
1911: The First International Women’s Day
The decision to celebrate an International Women’s Day came in 1910 during the 2th international conference of socialist women held in Copenhagen.
The first official celebration took place on March 19, 1911, notably in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. On this day, more than a million women participated in rallies around the world to demand their rights.
The date of March 19 commemorates the day when the King of Prussia promised to give women the right to vote in 1848. Unfortunately his promise was not kept. The date of International Women’s Day was later postponed to March 8.
1924: creation of the single baccalaureate
At school, the male and female curricula were different. The standardization of the subjects taught was only made in 1924. For the first time, women and men learned the same thing and a single baccalaureate was then created.
Mixed education in public establishments was affirmed in 1976.
1944: the right to vote
In the French Constitution of 1791, women were considered passive citizens. They did not have the right to take part in the votes and to express their political choices.
In France, women only got the right to vote in 1944…many years after citizens of other countries had already cast their first ballot.
In 1893, New Zealand was the first nation to grant women the right to vote. Other countries followed suit over the next two decades: Australia in 1902, Finland in 1906 and Norway in 1913.
1965: the legal capacity of married women
In 1804, Napoleon’s civil code established the concept of the patriarchal family and the inferiority of married women in law. The restrictions did not only concern civil rights, but also those related to financial, real estate or professional matters. Obedience to the husband was obligatory by force of law.
It was only in 1965, with the reform of matrimonial regimes, that married women were able to exercise their legal capacity and obtain their civil rights, such as signing a lease, opening a bank account, having a responsibility identical to that of their husband, exercise a profession or employment without the permission of her husband, etc.
In the same year, technical education was opened to girls.
1967: free contraception
In 1920, the right to use free contraception was considered a crime. It was not until 1967, with the Neuwirth law, that oral contraception was allowed, thus repealing the law of 1920.
The same law abolished in 1970 paternal power. Whatever their situation (separated, cohabiting, etc.), the parents have the same parental authority over the children.
Four years later, the Neuwirth law authorizes the reimbursement of the contraceptive pill by Social Security. The morning after pill, for its part, was liberalized in 1999 (free for minors).
1972: equal pay
The Equal Pay Act of 1972 introduced recognition of the principle: equal pay for equal work. Since then, all employers are required to ensure, for the same work or for work of equal value, equal pay for men and women.
Three years later, in 1975, the writing of job offers reserved for one sex at the expense of the other was banned. The same applies to refusal to hire and dismissal based on gender.
In 1975, the Veil law, decriminalizing voluntary termination of pregnancy, was implemented for a period of 5 years, before it was renewed definitively.
Since December 1982, Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy (IVG) has been reimbursed by Social Security. The reimbursement rate has been increased to 100% for all medical acts related to this operation, since 2016.
In 2001, abortion after the end of the 12th week of pregnancy is prohibited.
In 2014, the French National Assembly frees women who wish to have an abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy from having to justify their decision. The bill removes language from a 1975 law that only granted women the right to an abortion in the 12th week if the pregnancy caused distress.
1984: parental leave
Salaried parents have been entitled to parental leave since 1984, regardless of sex. The principle of the equality of the spouses in the management of the property of the household and of the children is also laid down.
1998: the feminization of names
Since March 8, 1998, the names of professions, functions, titles, etc. are feminized. They are thus used in regulatory texts and official documents issued by State administrations and public establishments.
2002: paternity leave
Alongside maternity leave, paternity leave, introduced in 2002, allows employed fathers to benefit from 11 consecutive days of paid leave in the first 4 months following the birth of the baby. Its duration is extended to 18 days in the event of the delivery of twins.
Since 1er July 2019, paternity leave can be extended by an additional 30 days if, after delivery, the newborn is hospitalized in a specialized care unit.
This leave allows for a fairer balance between men and women.
2014: the law on equality between men and women
To combat inequalities between the two sexes, the law of August 4, 2014 emphasizes parity between women and men in political, social and professional circles and aims to correct the image of women in the media, beyond gender stereotypes.
This same law also works for protection against violence and for gender equality in all its dimensions.
100 years of struggle for parity and equality
It all started with revolutionary France, and Olympe de Gouges, author of the Declaration of the Rights of Women and Citizens in 1791. A fervent patriot, who sacrificed her life to defend her ideas and liberate women.