Women, resistance and communism in France 1939-1945 / by Paula L. Schwartz.
This dissertation argues that gender was a central organizing principle in the distribution of political tasks in the French Communist underground of the Second World War. Although women and men worked together in gender-integrated activities and in gender-integrated groups, tasks within these areas were often gender-specific. Scholars and activists alike have emphasized that war in general, and the Second World War in particular, provided unique, if limited, opportunities for fluctuations in gender roles. This study examines this claim by exploring different sets of tasks within the French Communist underground of World War II. Based on archival materials (Vichy archives, police records, documents from the clandestine movement, the underground press, and the like), together with an extensive oral history project of communist women activists of the period, this study identifies a set of gender-specific and gender-integrated groups and practices. It then goes on to analyze the sometimes intentional, sometimes unwitting uses of gender in the underground movement. Chapter I, "Redefining Resistance," argues for an expanded conceptualization of "resistance" that accounts for unique forms of political activities often performed by women. Chapter II on "PCF Policy and Women" is an overview of the party's articulation of the role of women from the interwar years into the clandestine period, in which the organization of women by women in the form of the popular women's committees (comites populaires feminins) was to be the cornerstone of female activism. A stunning example of such activity is examined in Chapter III, "The Demonstration of the rue de Buci," a case study of a single so-called "women's" demonstration in which both women and men played significant roles. Chapter IV, "Travail allemand," examines an exemplary and little-known form of women's resistance that involved foreign-born German-speaking women refugees in a project to infiltrate the occupying German troops within France. Urban and rural partisan activity is the subject of Chapter V, "Armed Combat," in which women performed gender-specific roles as liaison agents in a predominantly male arena.
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