Women and the French Army during the World Wars, 1914–1940

Women and the French Army during the World Wars, 1914–1940

Andrew Orr
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 05/01/2017
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-253-02677-4
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How did women contribute to the French Army in the World Wars? Drawing on myriad sources, historian Andrew Orr examines the roles and value of the many French women who have been overlooked by historians—those who worked as civilians supporting the military. During the First World War, most officers expected that the end of the war would see a return to prewar conditions, so they tolerated women in supporting roles. But soon after the November 1918 armistice, the French Army fired more than half its female employees. Demobilization created unexpected administrative demands that led to the next rehiring of many women. The army’s female workforce grew slowly and unevenly until 1938 when preparations for war led to another hiring wave; however, officers resisted all efforts to allow women to enlist as soldiers and alternately opposed and ignored proposals to recognize them as long-term employees. Orr’s work offers a critical look at the indispensable wartime roles filled by women behind the lines.

Author Bio

Andrew Orr is assistant professor of history at Kansas State University and a member of its Security Studies Program. He earned his PhD from the University of Notre Dame and his work focuses on French military and political history from 1870 to 1945. Orr lives in Manhattan, Kansas.


Women and the French Army is well researched and provides an engaging read.”
 — Women in French Studies

“Orr has successfully made the leap into what we have needed for decades: a truly modern and mainstream study of the complex interplay of women and the military in modern society that also takes into account the complex interplay of race and class.”
 — American Historical Review

“[Orr's] book makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of many diverse subjects and builds on the existing work by other gender historians who have shown us the complexity of gender relations during the interwar period. What is especially noteworthy about Orr’s book is not the gender history, however, but the military history. Orr’s research provides an excellent reminder that militaries are so much more than their front-facing services. In focusing on the civilian employees of the French army, Orr is able to tease out some of the nuances of this history that would otherwise be obscured. ”
 — French History

“Recommended. ”
 — Choice

“This is a fascinating study of intended and unintended consequences, wellresearched, well-written, and a pleasure to read.  ”
 — H-France Review

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Table of Contents

1. Weapons of Total War, 1914-1918
2. The Failure of the Demobilization Purge, 1919-1923
3. The 1927 and 1928 Army Laws
4. War Clouds, 1929-1938
5. "She remained at her post until the very end:" Women and Second World War
Selected Bibliography

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