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Gender and Justice

Violence, Intimacy, and Community in Fin-de-Siècle Paris

Eliza Earle Ferguson

Publication Year: 2010

Historian Eliza Earle Ferguson’s meticulously researched study of domestic violence among the working class in France uncovers the intimate details of daily life and the complex workings of court proceedings in fin-de-siècle Paris. With detective-like methods, Ferguson pores through hundreds of court records to understand why so many perpetrators of violent crime were fully acquitted. She finds that court verdicts depended on community standards for violence between couples. Her search uncovers voluminous testimony from witnesses, defendants, and victims documenting the conflicts and connections among men and women who struggled to balance love, desire, and economic need in their relationships. Ferguson's detailed analysis of these cases enables her to reconstruct the social, cultural, and legal conditions in which they took place. Her ethnographic approach offers unprecedented insight into the daily lives of nineteenth-century Parisians, revealing how they chose their partners, what they fought about, and what drove them to violence. In their battles over money and sex, couples were in effect testing, stretching, and enforcing gender roles. Gender and Justice will interest social and legal historians for its explanation of how the working class of fin-de-siècle Paris went about their lives and navigated the judicial system. Gender studies scholars will find Ferguson’s analysis of the construction of gender particularly trenchant.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science


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pp. ix-x

In preparing the research and writing of this book, I received financial support from a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (U.S. Department of Education), a Chinard Fellowship (Institut Français de Washington), the Frederik B. M. Hollyday Instructorship in History (Duke University), and an Ernestine Friedl Fellowship (Duke Program in Women’s Studies). In the spring of 2008, a semes-...

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Introduction: Problematizing Crimes of Passion

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pp. 1-17

...“Today I regret what happened, but anger did not allow me to be master of myself,” testified Joseph Maxant, two days after shooting his wife Margot. “She had caused me too many troubles.”¹ Maxant was accused of murder, but in finde-siècle France, his act would have been understood as a “crime of passion.” Exactly what constituted a crime of passion was and is open to debate, and it has ...

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1. La Vie Intime

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pp. 18-55

... Ang

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2. Material and Symbolic Household Management

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pp. 56-92

The word most frequently used by witnesses in the cour d’assises to designate the domestic unit was not “family” (la famille) but “household” (le ménage).¹ Though the term le ménage usually refers to the people who comprise the domestic group, it can also denote household goods—furniture, linens, utensils—that they own and use. At once a set of people and a set of material goods, the house-...

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3. Networks of Knowledge

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pp. 93-127

The cases of violence tried in the cour d’assises reveal ruptures between domestic partners, but they also reveal networks of alliance and assistance among the friends, neighbors, and family members surrounding the couple, sometimes even extending through time and space into the rural regions of the couple’s origins. Disputes between couples were common knowledge for their surround-...

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4. Reciprocity and Retribution

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pp. 128-155

...“Kill her!” Thus Alexandre Dumas fils concluded his infamous 1872 essay, L’Homme-femme, on what a husband should do to his adulterous wife.¹ His was the most famous publication in a debate on adultery and the legitimacy of violence, prompted by the notorious case of an aristocrat named Charles-Arthur Leroy du Bourg. He had surprised his wife and her lover half-dressed in a room ...

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5. Local Knowledge and State Power

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pp. 156-185

In 1894, a top statistician from the French Ministry of Justice exposed a shocking increase in the rate of acquittal for cases tried by jury in French assize courts. Emile Yvern

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6. Reading and Writing Stories of Intimate Violence

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pp. 186-208

... “To begin with,” continued Piouffle, without seeming to notice the interruption, “no matter how skilled the hand that wields it, one is not always sure of hitting the target precisely . . . One false move, caused by the slightest thing, and the attempt is botched! . . . In this case, three quarters of the time the aggressor is arrested . . . Jail, trial, scandal! . . . When the investigating magistrate sticks his nose ...

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Conclusion: “Men Who Kill and Women Who Vote”

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pp. 209-217

In 1880, Alexandre Dumas the younger revised his earlier stance on the implications of intimate violence with a new publication, Les Femmes qui tuent et les femmes qui votent.


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pp. 219-245


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pp. 247-259


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pp. 261-268

E-ISBN-13: 9780801897924
E-ISBN-10: 0801897920
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801894282
Print-ISBN-10: 080189428X

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science
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OCLC Number: 608691499
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Gender and Justice

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Subject Headings

  • Women -- Crimes against -- France -- Paris -- History -- 19th century.
  • Crimes of passion -- France -- Paris -- History -- 19th century.
  • Marital violence -- France -- Paris -- History -- 19th century.
  • Working class -- France -- Paris -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
  • Murder -- France -- Paris -- History -- 19th century.
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