Join our email listserv and receive monthly updates on the latest titles.

Hopkins Fulfillment Services

Blessed Motherhood, Bitter Fruit

, 336 pages

17 halftones, 4 line drawings

August 2006



Availability Text

Usually ships 2-3 business days after receipt of order.

Blessed Motherhood, Bitter Fruit

Nelly Roussel and the Politics of Female Pain in Third Republic France

Open Access Edition Available at Project MUSE

Nelly Roussel (1878–1922)—the first feminist spokeswoman for birth control in Europe—challenged both the men of early twentieth-century France, who sought to preserve the status quo, and the women who aimed to change it. She delivered her messages through public lectures, journalism, and theater, dazzling audiences with her beauty, intelligence, and disarming wit. She did so within the context of a national depopulation crisis caused by the confluence of low birth rates, the rise of international tensions, and the tragedy of the First World War. While her support spread across social classes, strong political resistance to her message revealed deeply conservative precepts about gender which were grounded in French identity itself.

In this thoughtful and provocative study, Elinor Accampo follows Roussel's life from her youth, marriage, speaking career, motherhood, and political activism to her decline and death from tuberculosis in the years following World War I. She tells the story of a woman whose life and work spanned a historical moment when womanhood was being redefined by the acceptance of a woman's sexuality as distinct from her biological, reproductive role—a development that is still causing controversy today.

Elinor Accampo is a professor of history at the University of Southern California, coeditor of Gender and the Politics of Social Reform in France, 1870–1914 and author of Industrialization, Family, and Class Relations: Saint Chamond, 1815–1914.

"This moving biography of one of French feminism’s most courageous public figures reveals in intimate detail the personal sacrifices Nelly Roussel made in pursuit of her crusade to give women control over their own bodies and sexuality. Actress, celebrated beauty, and hypnotic speaker, Roussel staked out radical positions on women’s rights that would not be realized for seventy-five years. Accampo gives us here a definitive account of the overwhelming obstacles faced by 'first wave' feminists in their struggles against the politics and culture of patriarchy."

"In this brilliant book, Elinor Accampo analyzes the life of Nelly Roussel, a conflicted mother and a seemingly tireless public speaker who spoke out on both private and public issues. Through this fascinating and colorful biography told within the social and cultural context of modern France, readers will develop an understanding of the history of the time and the varieties of feminism in new and important ways. Accampo's writing is so skilled that scholars and students alike will sense that they know Roussel. This book will have important classroom use in courses not only on the history of France, but for those on the history of sexuality, politics, and feminism. "

"Roussel was flamboyantly at odds with prevailing notions of gender among her contemporaries, making her work and life a fascinating lens through which to understand her world. Thanks to Accampo, Roussel's feminist mission comes alive."

"A top pick for any definitive women's history collection."

"Accampo's biography is to be recommended for offering a wealth of information on a fascinating figure on the margins of the women's movement."

"Provides insightful analysis... Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above."

"An exceptionally engaging, comprehensively researched, and finely crafted study. A significant contribution."

"Well organized and enjoyable to read."

"A deeply engaging and well-researched biography of French feminist and birth-control advocate Nelly Roussel... It should be of great interest to feminist scholars and French historians, and its thoughtful examination of the cultural politics of female pain and suffering also offers valuable insights to historians of medicine."

"Masterful... offers a weaving of personal and political that at times is breathtaking. Copious correspondence between Roussel and her husband, family, friends, and colleagues allows Accampo to plumb the spaces in which private and public lives overlapped, sometimes uncomfortably."

"We have Accampo to thank for recovering Roussel's life and work in this engaging biography."

Related Links

Related Books