The Feminist Politics of the Female Surplus: Constructing Citizenship through Singleness

  • Andrea Mansker
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


At the 1908 Congrès national des droits civils et du suffrage des femmes, practicing lawyer at the Cour d’assises and spokesperson of the Ligue française pour le droit des femmes (LFDF), Maria Vérone, spoke on the question of married women’s legal incapacity. First drawing attention to the numerous legislative and judicial controversies in recent years over the principle of the wife’s obedience to her husband in the Civil Code, she argued that the majority of French jurists had reached a consensus on this issue. They had agreed that the tutelage of the married woman “is not due to her own weakness, but rather, to her subordination to the husband, who is the head of the family.” Vérone noted that this opinion could be verified by referring to the rationale stated in the authoritative Répertoire Dalloz. This compendium of French legislation and jurisprudence indicated that the requirement of marital authorization to make contracts and file lawsuits was the most significant modification marriage made to a woman’s civil status, and that the grounds for this limitation was “assuredly not the weakness of the sex since, as a fille majeure or a widow, the woman is not submitted to it.” Vérone used Dalloz to reveal that recent parliamentary debates and the laws resulting from them had reaffirmed that the woman’s civil capacity rested on her marital status rather than on her sexual difference. Arguing that “this situation [of incapacity] no longer responds in any fashion to the needs of modern life and to our conception of individual liberty,” she proposed that the congress support her resolutions to abrogate article 213 of the Civil Code that imposed obedience upon the wife and suppress the married woman’s civil minority in articles 214–226.1


Married Woman Single Woman Civil Code Unmarried Woman Feminist Politics 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Maria Vérone, “De l’incapacité légale de la femme mariée,” in Jeanne Oddo-Deflou (ed.), Congrès national des droits civils et du suffrage des femmes tenu en l’Hôtel des Sociétés Savantes à Paris les 26, 27 et 28 juin 1908 (Paris: Imprimeriespéciale du Congrès, 1910), 104–6.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ibid., 106.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    This law of December 7, 1897 indicated that women could serve as civil witnesses, but restricted married women’s right to do so in conjunction with their husbands on the same civil acts. See Gaston Griolet and Charles Vergé (eds), Code civil, annoté d’après la doctrine et la jurisprudence, 6th edn (Paris: Bureau de la Jurisprudence Générale, 1907), 20.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Lucien Leduc, La Femme devant le parlement: Étude du féminisme et des projets de lois relatifs à l’extension des droits de la femme (Paris: V. Giard & E. Brière, 1898), 38.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Vincent quoted in Congrès international de la condition et des droits des femmes tenu les 5, 6, 7 et 8 Septembre 1900 à l’Exposition universelle (Paris: Imprimerie des arts et manufactures, 1901), 270–80. Vincent’s was not the first French feminist proposal to grant the vote to single women. Deputy Victor Considerant advocated single women’s municipal vote in 1848, and in 1871 Julie Daubié formed a short-lived feminist group to focus on suffrage for widows and filles majeures. See Offen, European Feminisms, 111, 222–3, and Klejman and Rochefort, L’Égalité en marche, 50.Google Scholar
  6. 59.
    Auclert, Le Nom de la femme (Paris: Société du livre à l’auteur, 1905), 4.Google Scholar
  7. 67.
    Claire Galichon, Ève réhabilitée (Paris: Librairie générale des sciences occultes, 1909), 31.Google Scholar
  8. 85.
    For the stereotype of Saint Catherine, see Yvonne Knibiehler, Marcel Bernos, Élisabeth Ravoux-Rallo and Élaine Richard (eds), De la pucelle à la minette. Les jeunes filles de l’âge classique à nos jours (Paris: Temps Actuels, 1983), 97.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Andrea Mansker 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Mansker
    • 1
  1. 1.Sewanee: The University of the SouthUSA

Personalised recommendations