I have a thing for historical art, sketches and caricature with a political, legal or justice theme especially if of French origin. Beats the dull strictness of case law, fact patterns, precedents and all that pedestrian stuff. I am much into history and literature especially historical fiction concerning matters of law, liberty and justice. I touched on some of these themes here, here,here and here.
“The tree of liberty does not flourish unless moistened with the blood of kings. I vote for death” said Robespierrist lawyer, Bertrand Barere, voting in the Convention on the fate of Louis XVI in 1793. A real men’s club that Convention. Men lawyers only. No la femme avocat was practicing law at the time of the French Revolution. Not until 1900 did the law change to allow women entry to the legal profession.
So here’s a series of fifteen humorous post cards of a French female lawyer published in 1900 that seem to correspond with current events of the time.
In 1900 Jeanne Chauvin (1862-1926), a doctor of law since 1892, a teacher and a women’s emancipation activist, sought to Register with the Bar Association of Paris. She presented herself and was refused, because the law did not (or explicitly) authorize women to practice male debt. The law was changed in December 1900 and women were allowed entry to the legal profession. Jeanne Chauvin was sworn in on December 19, 190o. More on Ms. Chauvin if you scroll down to bottom.
There’s more on the 15 cards in this book The Law in Post Cards and Ephemera 1890-1962, a collection of vintage law related post cards.
‘Many cards in the collection feature female attorneys in a variety of contexts—some serious, some silly and outdated, and some rather mysterious. In that latter category lies a series of fifteen French postcards. It appeared in 1900, the same year that women were finally admitted to the bar in France.
Onlookers have disagreed on the message.
The woman stands before the court and discusses the shortcomings of men in the profession and in government. She argues that women can positively contribute to the better functioning of the justice system and government. Interestingly, in the middle of her speech, her baby starts crying and she asks the court for a recess in order to nurse him. Is it a sincere feminist manifesto? Is it a satirical attack on the entry of women into the legal profession? Is it just about attacking men? For one perspective, translations, and more, scan the QR code!’
Jeanne Chauvin the first female lawyer in France to plead.
‘Daughter of a notary and then an orphan since the age of sixteen, Jeanne Chauvin obtained two bachelor’s degrees in Letters and Sciences and two licenses in Philosophy and Law in 1890, becoming the second woman in France to hold a Diploma in the legal field. A doctor in law two years later, she became the first woman in France to pass this examination. Jeanne Chauvin also devotes her doctoral degree to professions accessible to women and to existing legal inequalities.
Subsequently, Jeanne Chauvin teaches in several lycées parisiens for girls, and professor of law she will incite the latter to judicial careers. … Femmes Histoire Reperes
As early as 1897, Jeanne Chauvin went to the Paris Court of Appeal to take the oath as an attorney. But this is quickly denied because the law does not allow women to practice the profession of lawyer, exclusively male. It was not until three years later, thanks to the law of 1900, that women could plead that Jeanne Chauvin would take the oath as a lawyer at the Paris bar. In 1907, Jeanne Chauvin became the second woman to take the oath after Olga Petit, but the first lawyer in France to plead.
Jeanne Chauvin devotes her PhD defense to the Historical Study of Occupations Accessible to Women. In particular, she argues that the influence of the Bible and the Catholic religion has increased legal inequalities between men and women. Jeanne Chauvin thus devoted her career to claiming equality for women both in the field of education and in the accession to the private and public professions. ….’