The state's policy with regard to fathers and fatherhood had a great impact on concepts of citizenship and gender in France in the era of the two World Wars. Drawing on material from the archives of the Vichy regime, Kristen Stromberg Childers analyses the ways fathers were promoted as saviours of the nation after France's humiliating defeat by the Germans in June 1940. Childers argues that concern for the family and for the status of fathers in modern France was not merely a response to falling birthrates and German aggression, but was fundamental to the very notion of citizenship and political participation. The debate on men as gendered beings, Childers demonstrates, is central to the political, social and cultural history of France in the modern age. The father figure became a focus as participants from all classes and across the political spectrum debated what was wrong with the French family and what policies were needed to remedy the problem. Childers examines how these policies were implemented, what they reveal about the development of the welfare state in France and how they help explain the importance of Vichy in 20th-century French history.
Twenty-eight photographs, many never previously published, complement her argument.