Historians generally describe Napoleon Bonaparte's regime as one that placed severe limits on women's public and political roles. Although this interpretation is true on the level of legal discourse, official festivals continued to bring women into politicized public spaces. While striving to convince women of the benefits to be reaped from leading virtuous lives focused on wifely and motherly duties, festivals also included women among the desired recipients of the more general messages about Napoleon's successes, his goodwill and his theoretically unanimous support. The extent to which the local authorities, following the directives of the central government, strove to incorporate women into festivals suggests that they recognized the significance of convincing women to support the regime. In addition, female participants at festivals, particularly those who appeared as municipally sponsored brides, took on an important symbolic function in connecting women to the state through the family.
Copyright Society for the Study of French History 2002