The first vote for women in France.

The first vote for women in France.

  • Queue in front of a polling station

    SCHALL Roger (1904 - 1995)

  • First vote of women (municipal elections). France, April 1945

    HARLINGUE Albert (1879 - 1963)

  • First vote for women in France. Municipal elections. Paris, April 1945

To close

Title: Queue in front of a polling station

Author : SCHALL Roger (1904 - 1995)

Creation date : 1945 -

Date shown: April 29, 1945

Storage place: Carnavalet Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: Roger Schall / Carnavalet Museum / Roger-Viollet

Picture reference: 57694-9

Queue in front of a polling station

© Roger Schall / Carnavalet Museum / Roger-Viollet

To close

Title: First vote of women (municipal elections). France, April 1945

Author : HARLINGUE Albert (1879 - 1963)

Creation date : 1945 -

Date shown: April 29, 1945

Contact copyright: Albert Harlingue / Roger-Viollet

Picture reference: 5706-13

First vote of women (municipal elections). France, April 1945

© Albert Harlingue / Roger-Viollet

To close

Title: First vote for women in France. Paris, April 1945

Author :

Creation date : 1945 -

Date shown: April 29, 1945

Contact copyright: LAPI / Roger-Viollet

Picture reference: 871-3

First vote for women in France. Paris, April 1945

© LAPI / Roger-Viollet

Publication date: March 2017

Historical context

French women can vote

As the Liberation approaches, the issue of the vote for women does not appear to be a top priority. But things accelerated thereafter: on March 18, General de Gaulle declared before the Provisional Consultative Assembly that "the new regime must include representation elected by all the men and women of our region". On March 25, the Fernand Grenier amendment establishing the vote for women was adopted by 51 votes to 16 by the same Assembly.

On April 21, article 17 of the ordinance of the French Committee for National Liberation on the organization of public powers in France after the Liberation states that "women are voters and eligible under the same conditions as men", provision which will be confirmed on October 5 by the Provisional Government of the French Republic: the French woman can vote.

This right was used for the first time on April 29, 1945, during the first round of municipal elections, which also constitute the first ballot since the Liberation. The filmed news and many photographs thus show French women (anonymous or famous, of all ages and from all social backgrounds) crowding in front of the polling stations, queuing in front of the voting booth, or even voting, like the three photos studied here dating from April 29.

Widely disseminated, the images immortalizing this participation are beginning to anchor this (r) evolution in the consciousness of citizens and (now) citizens: from this day, women's right to vote is very real, effective and carried out.

Image Analysis

Voted !

Queue in front of a polling station, is a photograph by Roger Schall (1904-1995), renowned fashion photographer, who also covers events of social life. On this sunny spring day, the queue stretches down the street in front of the entrance to the polling station (back left), alongside election signs (right). The queue is made up of equal numbers of men and women of all ages.

Tireless photographer of the city of Paris and the daily life of its inhabitants, Albert Harlingue (1879-1963) is the author of First vote of women (municipal elections) which represents another moment of the vote. The three voting booths here photographed are occupied only by women. To the left and to the right, behind the drawn curtain, we can see two pairs of female legs. In the center, a young brunette voter is clearly visible, in profile, putting her ballot in the envelope. Maybe she didn't pull the curtain completely to watch the child in her stroller (in the foreground) which she left beside her in front of the voting booth.

First vote for women in France shows a third moment, that of the vote itself. In a rather dark office (use of the flash), a very elegant lady (fur coat, hat decorated with a feather and crocodile bag) slips her ballot into the urn, concentrated but also slightly amused, which tempers a little the solemnity of the moment. The three assessors are men and the main one (center) stares at the photographer with some intensity.


Between the ordinary and the extraordinary

By definition, the three photos offer original and unusual images. But the three photographers seem to have chosen to present this first time in a fairly sober manner. Taken on the spot, the pictures leave the impression of a paradoxical banality: the women who move on April 29, 1945 perform the same acts as the men, which are ultimately quite simple: stand in line, go through the voting booth and vote. It is moreover this play between the ordinary (of the gestures, of the procedure to follow) and the extraordinary (of the situation and of those who are participating in it for the first time) that gives strength to these photographs: by obtaining this right, women ultimately act as men, on an equal basis, nothing more but nothing less.

The first image clearly shows this equality under the aspect of co-education since in the tail, men and women are mixed, without distinction, according to the very definition of citizenship.

On the contrary, the scene of First vote of women (municipal elections)was obviously selected (but not provoked) by Harlingue. By choosing an exclusively female composition, he suggests that obtaining the right to vote by women is not a mere detail but on the contrary has very real, concrete and above all considerable implications. While more than half of the electorate is thus renewed, symbolic places (the voting booth) and practices formerly reserved for men are seen differently, which must now be understood in this new light.

The presence of voters also sometimes implies that of their children, just as unprecedented. It is thus indirectly recalled that despite their emancipation, women are still largely in charge of domestic tasks, that they remain mothers and wives. Interestingly enough, First vote of women (municipal elections)shows precisely this duality of status by seizing the precise moment when the autonomous individual (that is to say the citizen) makes his choice freely, turning away for a moment (but not completely, the curtain is not drawn) from her child and therefore from her status as a mother.

First vote for women in France does not show the complete diversity visible on Queue in front of a polling station, during the first elections in which women are invited to participate but do not favor an exclusively female scene like First vote of women (municipal elections). Here, men and women occupy the same space without really being mixed up, dividing themselves on either side of a border materialized by the table. Even if the woman can vote, it is the men who hold the office and which moreover remain very largely majority in all the elective functions. However, these same men treat this voter like a full voter, adapting in practice to this new equality of rights.

  • Universal suffrage
  • women
  • feminism
  • women vote


BARD, Christine. Women in French society in the 20th century, Paris, Armand Colin, 2001.

BOUGLE-MOALIC, Anne-Sarah. Le Vote des Françaises, one hundred years of debate, 1848-1944, Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2012.

From GAULLE, Charles, War memoirs - Salvation: 1944-1946, Paris, Plon, 1959.

RIOUX, Jean-Pierre, France of the Fourth Republic, volume 1, Paris, Seuil, 1980.

ROSANVALLON, Pierre. The coronation of the citizen. History of universal suffrage in France, Paris, Gallimard, Folio history, 1995.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, “The first vote for women in France. "

Video: HistoryPod Extra: Women secure the right to vote in the Representation of the People Act