Tuttle Receives National Prize for Research on Women and Politics
Most Americans are probably aware that it wasn’t until the 19th Amendment passed in 1920 that women in the United States finally won the right to vote. But did you know that women in France had to wait another 24 years before they could have a say in their country’s democracy?
It wasn’t until April 1944 when a measure in France was signed into law by Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s provisional government that gave women the right to vote in that country. Yet, they had to wait another year to cast their ballots for the first time — on April 29, 1945 — when France was liberated from German occupation.”
Why did it take so long for France, considered by many to be one of the birthplaces of modern democracy, to follow the lead of the United States, England, Germany, Finland, Poland, and many other nations? According to Professor Tuttle, “There were reasons for blocking women’s votes coming from all parts of the political spectrum.”
The political landscape in early 20th-century France was very contentious. You had monarchists who wanted the monarchy back, conservatives who simply didn’t want women to vote, staunch Republicans in favor of the Republic, and people on the left side of the political spectrum who feared that women would vote conservatively because they were thought to be more religious than men.”
“A lot of men weren’t opposed to women voting, per se, but they were afraid of what the women’s voting bloc could do,” Tuttle said. “Some politicians made this argument that ‘We have to protect the Republic. We can’t give women the vote because they’ll listen to their priests. Women are more easily influenced; they’ll listen to whatever anyone says to them. And they’ll vote super conservative, and it will threaten our political position.’”
It’s true that many women did turn to the church in the 1920s and 1930s, Tuttle said, and while they were politically disenfranchised, they were able to find other ways of having substantial influence on society through efforts that were often associated with the Catholic church, such as Temperance movements, charitable organizations, women’s and family groups, etc.
“Plenty of men also voted conservatively,” Tuttle said, “so it took away women’s agency to make these assumptions about women.”
Tuttle recently received a Carrie Chapman Prize for Research on Women and Politics, presented by the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at the University of Iowa, for the research she is doing on French feminist Marthe Bray, who spent much of her professional life arguing in favor of women’s right to vote in France. Bray founded the League for Feminist Action (LFA), and she and her colleagues imported American suffragette tactics to France to influence French opinion to give French women the right to vote.
Read the full story on the College of Arts and Letters website.