The mobilization of women

The mobilization of women

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The French Woman in War Time.

© ADAGP, Library of Contemporary International Documentation / MHC

Publication date: July 2006

Historical context

In 1914-1918, while the men were at the front, the women actively participated in the national effort. Both in the city and in the countryside, the "replacements" of mobilized husbands or sons are being promoted to new responsibilities.

Image Analysis

In this poster, Georges Capon has organized the space into two distinct zones. In the foreground, three women are engaged in different activities: on the left is a "munition machine", a war factory worker in front of her shell-turning machine. To the right, a peasant woman is digging a cornfield. In the middle, a mother breastfeeds her infant, while her little girl hands her a letter probably sent by her mobilized father. In the background appears in medallion a Marianne warrior, helmeted and armored.


This realistic-style poster, which symbolizes the new tasks and duties of French women during the war, in fact announces the English version of a propaganda documentary produced in 1918 by Alexandre Desvarennes on behalf of the Cinematographic Section of the Army. French. This is a montage film made up of current affairs views shot during the conflict, introduced by short fiction and reorganized to highlight the exceptional role of French women. In the city, she is a station handler, a transport driver, or a waitress. At the factory, a worker assigned to various positions, she only stops to go and breastfeed her child at the crèche. In the countryside, she drives the plow for plowing. The film also exalts his patriotism and his heroism, in particular by showing the rewards granted to widows, nurses or workers injured by enemy bombs.

The poster synthesizes this new place for women in war and her dedication to her country. In this regard, the sober use of colors is significant: the clothing of the three women recomposes those of the national flag. However, in accordance with the content of the film to which she refers, she also says very clearly that, despite these important social changes, there remains in the eyes of society (represented by the Republican Marianne) an eternal femininity: the fundamental role of women is motherhood (hence the central position of the mother between the worker and the peasant). We understand that, in a context of mass death, the birth rate remains an absolute priority. Contrary to popular belief, the war did not promote the process of female emancipation, its end being marked by a period of reaction in this regard.

  • tricolour flag
  • United States
  • women
  • War of 14-18
  • propaganda
  • agricultural work
  • factory
  • poster


Stéphane AUDOIN-ROUZEAU and Jean-Jacques BECKER (dir.), Encyclopedia of the Great War, 1914-1918, Paris, Bayard, 2004. Françoise THEBAUD, Woman in the time of the war of 14, Paris, Stock, 1986. Pierre VALLAUD, 14-18, World War I, volumes I and II, Paris, Fayard, 2004.

To cite this article

Laurent VÉRAY, "The mobilization of women"

Video: UNWOMEN Regional Training on youth Mobilization to end VAWG