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Abstract: Although recent historians of women reformers' contributions to the development of welfare states have underscored the importance of maternalist arguments for opening new roles to women in the public sphere, French examples of women filling such roles have been neglected. The careers of inspectresses general Pauline Kergomard and Olympe Gevin-Cassal provide case studies that illustrate the link between maternalism and women's access to positions of responsibility in public administration in pre-World War I France. Kergomard, an inspectress general of nursery schools, and Gevin-Cassal, an inspectress general of children's services for the Ministry of the Interior, utilized maternalist discourse to defend their positions and advocate new professional opportunities for other women. Their secular outlooks suited the anticlerical Third Republic but differentiated them from Catholic women. Gender-specific assignments gave women a place in some inspectorates before 1914 but their numbers were restricted.