“Algerian Women” and Exemplary French Mothers (1945–1962)

By Sophia Lamri

« Algerian women » and exemplary French mothers (1945-1962).

As its name indicates, the Medal of the French Family with Many Children (the Médaille de la Famille Nombreuse Française) concerns only French families. Nonetheless in Boulogne-Billancourt, between 1945 and 1960, thirty-two « Algerian » mothers received this recognition. It is true that, at the time, full citizenship could be acquired by simple migration from the colonies, because until 1962 Algeria was part of France. « Algerians » domiciled in France were legally assimilated to the French population, subject to the same legal code and administrative practices, in the logic of the Republican model of integration. However, the social position which they have come to occupy, on the lowest rung of the social and cultural ladder, subjects them to constant discrimination. Immigration from the colonies is in fact perceived as intrusive, indeed what is most foreign to the nation. The history of the Medal awarded to « Algerian » mothers clearly reveals the contradiction which colonial immigration has to labour under, legally integrated but otherwise unassimilated. This contradiction is particularly expressed in the elevation of « foreign » women to the rank of exemplary French mothers (literally « whose example should be emulated ») who in everything else are stigmatised as the bearers of archaic values, and this serves most notably to limit them to simply their reproductive role.


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