"People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them"
-James Baldwin, Stranger in the Village, 1953

“Women but not Citizens:  French Feminist Struggles for Citizenship in Imperial France 1897-1945”

I am currently a Ph.D. Candidate at Northeastern University in Boston. My dissertation, “Women but not Citizens: French Feminist Struggles for Citizenship in Imperial France, 1897-1945,” explores how various French feminist organizations participated in the imperial project, both in the colonies and metropole, and how the empire influenced French feminism, as a discourse and movement. I chronologically examine the leadership of Marie Pégard and the Société Française d’Émigration des Femmes in Paris, the Union Féminine Civique et Sociale in France and French Algeria, and the Union française pour le suffrage des femmes in French Algeria. These seemingly disparate groups—a women’s colonial emigration society, a Catholic feminist organization, and a secular feminist association—underscore how the empire and “imperial issues” were embedded in the French feminist movement and feminist discourses for civil and political rights. 

Chapter One, “La société française d’émigration des femmes:Marie Josephine Pégard and a feminist discourse on female colonial emigration,” focuses on the leadership of Secretary-General Marie Josephine Pégard, the feminist discourse she created around the society (SFEF), and the racial, gender, and class implications of the female colonial emigration movement between 1897 and 1911. Female colonial emigration is framed as an attempt to “remasculinize” French men and “refeminize” French women, according to a certain ideal of the family. Examining how French feminists responded to and participated in the SFEF, with specific attention to the leadership of Pégard, demonstrates how a highly gendered pronatalist-imperial endeavor was appropriated in order to advance women’s economic and social opportunities.  French feminists’ engagement with female emigration, whether in response to or participation in its operations demonstrates how some feminists viewed the empire as a vehicle for economic opportunity and social mobility for women. Pégard and the SFEF represent part of a complex response to what they saw as their unique role in the imperial project as opposed to what male colonial lobbyists prescribed.

Chapter Two, “Between Mary and Marianne: The Union Féminine Civique et Sociale,” challenges previous assessments of the Union Féminine Civique et Sociale (UFCS) and argues that the organization was both fundamentally Catholic and feminist in orientation. Despite the mission of the UFCS, it’s design to compete with secular feminist groups, and its consistent promotion of civic education and support of women in politics, it has often been excluded from French feminist history and underrepresented in Catholic feminist historiography as well. Examining the organization, its activities, and press, through its internal memos, congress meetings, and newspaper reports, allows the Union’s feminism to speak for itself without the political implications or historical baggage that political, cultural, and social anachronisms often obscure. Historicizing the UFCS as a “feminist” organization queries the boundaries historians have typically used to qualify a person, group, or movement as “feminist”, thus broadening what might be considered “feminist,” while also expanding the scope of the interwar French feminist movement. 

Chapter Three, “Politicizing Motherhood and Femininity in the pages of La femme algérienne,” examines the Algerian wing of the UFCS, revealing how European women living in Algeria understood the raced and gendered colonial hierarchy in which they lived and how it influenced the political and social identity UFCS members constructed for themselves. The UFCS-Algerian newspaper, La femme algérienne, provides insight to the uniquely colonial activities members participated in and the discourse they constructed within the pages of their monthly newspaper. This chapter argues that the UFCS press generated a discourse based on the politicization of motherhood and femininity alongside real, and perceived, socio-cultural, and political crises, the origins of which can be traced to the colonial locale, fascist political culture, and relational feminism of the period. Unlike their metropolitan counterpart, the Algerian wing of the UFCS has only been marginally studied by French feminist scholars. The UFCS-Algeria is positioned as an outlet of knowledge production. The discourses La femme algérienne produced, constitutes ideological formations with specific discursive motivations.   Therefore, it was not merely its content that was significant, but the newspaper’s rhetoric demonstrates the “performative” intent of its female writers.

The final chapter, “The French Algerian Feminist Press and Maintaining the Colonial Order,” scrutinizes the Algerian wing of the Union française pour le suffrage des femmes(UFSF) and its newspaper, Femmes de Demain. Chapter four argues that living in the colonial space directly impacted French Algerian feminists’ ability to make civic and political demands equal to their metropolitan counterparts. The necessity to maintain the hierarchically gendered and raced colonial order through support of the civilizing mission, created a feminist discourse, and set of beliefs and activities, unique to French Algeria. These differences are chiefly expressed in how indigenous women were depicted in UFSF discourse and incorporated into the organization’s activities, as well as how French Algerian feminists conceptualized their own identity in relation to the colonial order. Femmes de Demain published a recurring, ethnographically styled column, “The Muslim Women of Our Country,” revealing not just a concern for the welfare of indigenous women but gauging the extent of the civilizing mission’s success in various regions of the three Algerian départements. Similar to metropolitan feminists’ use of the “plight of native colonial women” in their discourse and campaigns, French Algerian feminists used indigenous North African women as a platform to express their conviction to the civilizing mission, loyalty to France, and as a means to bolster their demands for enfranchisement.

This project illuminates how feminists’ engagement with empire influenced their discourse and claims for civil rights and suffrage, and underscores how neither the empire nor the women’s movement were self-contained, but rather, mutually influenced one another. It also demonstrates how feminist organizations in the Third Republic adopted “women’s right to work,” the civilizing mission, Catholicism, and fascist political culture, differently and for distinctive means. Connecting the history of French feminist organizations across the empire, “French Women but not Citizens” contributes to histories of twentieth century empire and colonialism, modern Europe, French feminism, as well as how studies of women and gender, colonialism, and the press influenced the production of different French feminist discourses that often reveal paradoxical perspectives of empire, the nation, citizenship, and civil rights.


Ph.D. Northeastern University, Modern European History (December 2020) Dissertation Committee: Laura L. Frader (Chair), Heather Streets-Salter, and Rebecca Rogers (Université Paris Descartes)

MA University of New York at Albany: History

BA Saint Michael’s College: History and Secondary Education

Research Interests

Modern France and the Empire-Women, Gender, and Sexuality in Modern Europe and the French Empire-Gender and Authoritarian Political Movements-Feminist and Queer Theory

About Me

Born in New York. Living in Boston for the last ten years.

I’ve taught courses on World History since 1945, Gender and Sexuality in the Modern World, and Modern Europe since 1789.

My dissertation research has brought me to the Centre des Archives du Féminisme at the Universitaire d’Angers, the Archives Nationales d’Outre Mer in Aix-en-Provence, and multiple sites in Paris.

I am spending the next year finishing writing my dissertation and defending at the end of 2020. I am interested in post-doctoral fellowships and TT and non-TT positions.

I love to travel and explore new places and different food, listen to political and true crime podcasts, learn about wine, and spend time with friends and my Maine Coon cat Louie.

Listen to an interview I did for the Breaking History Podcast

“Emigrants, Prostitution, and French Feminist Writing 1897-1962”


“Féministes Françaises et l’empire, 1890-1962,” in Le bulletin de l’association Archives du féminisme. No. 26 (2018).                      

Grants & Fellowships


Office of the Provost, Dissertation Research Grant, Northeastern University

Lucille Zanghi Research Grant/Gillis Family Fund Dissertation Grant, History Department, Northeastern University


Pre-Dissertation Grant, Gillis Family Fund, History Department, Northeastern University 

New England World History Association Travel Grant


Morris Altman Research Fund Award Recipient, University at Albany

Recent Presentations


“Politicizing Motherhood and Femininity: Social Catholicism and Fascist Political Culture in La femme algérienne,” 46th Annual Meeting of the French Colonial Historical Society, SUNY Buffalo, 28-31 May, 2020 (Conference cancelled due to COVID-19)


“French Feminists and the Maghreb,” 45th Annual Meeting of the French Colonial Historical Society, University of Sherbrooke, South Shore of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 13-15 June 2019.


“La societe française d’émigration des femmes aux colonies: French Women’s Colonial Emigration and the Feminist Response,” 43rd Annual Meeting of the French Colonial Historical Society, Aix-en-Provence, France, 15-17 June 2017.


“A Colonial Paradox: La société française l’émigration des femmes aux colonies and the response of French women,” 25th Annual World History Association Conference, Ghent, Belgium, July 2-5, 2016.

“A Double Erasure: Lesbianism and the French Women’s Movement,” Gay American History @ 40 Conference, New York, New York, 4-6 May, 2016.


“No Lesbians Allowed: Success at the Expense of Exclusion in the French Women’s Movement,” 24th Annual World History Association Conference, Savannah, GA, 30 June- 2 July, 2015.

“Writings to Reality: Alexandra Kollontai and the Development of Russian Feminism in the Soviet Union,” Fredrick S. Pardee School of Global Studies Conference, Boston University, Boston, MA, February 28, 2015.


2020 HIST2373 Gender and Sexuality in World History Since 1800

2018 HIST1170 Empires, Revolutions, Wars and their Aftermaths

2018 HIST2211 The World Since 1945

Thanks for visiting my page. You can reach me at gronau.j@northeastern.edu