Although some historians have argued that women's charitable organizations did more to shape family welfare policies in decentralized states than "strong states," the influence of the Society for Maternal Charity in late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century France suggests that scholars must reassess this weak state/strong state dichotomy. Maternal societies played a key role in shaping the language and policies of maternalism and provided a future model for the provision of family social welfare services in France. These female-run charitable organizations offered power and prestige to the women staffing them and a voice in national debates concerning the social claims of poor mothers and their children.


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