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Chauvin, Jeanne (1862–1926)

Chauvin, Jeanne (1862–1926)

France's first woman lawyer. Pronunciation: JHAN show-VAN. Name variations: Mlle Chauvin. Born in Jargeau (Loiret), France, on August 22, 1862; died at Provins (Seine-et-Marne), on September 28, 1926; sister of Émile Chauvin (1870–1933), a prominent deputy (1898–1909) from Seine-et-Marne; never married.

Jeanne Chauvin was one of the first females to pass the baccalaureate examination. She enrolled in the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Letters at the Sorbonne and became the first woman to complete legal training. Chauvin defended her thesis, "Des professions accessibles aux femmes en droit roman at en droit français" (On the Professions Accessible to Women in Roman and French Law), in a private session on July 2, 1892, after rioting caused cancellation of a public defense.

Because as a woman she lacked full political rights, Chauvin was not allowed to practice until René Viviani and the feminist daily La Fronde (published by Marguerite Durand ) undertook a campaign that resulted in passage of a bill by the Chamber on June 30, 1899, and by the Senate on November 14, 1900, admitting women to the bar. Chauvin took the oath on December 19, 1900, shortly after Olga Petit .

Though she seldom appeared in court, mainly earning her living teaching law in the girls' lycées in Paris, Chauvin was the first woman to plead a case (1907). She linked her personal goals to the cause of women's emancipation and, when Jeanne Schmahl founded L'Avant-courrière (1893), Chauvin drafted the bills for which the organization ultimately obtained passage: the right of women to bear legal witness to public and private acts (1897) and the so-called "Schmahl Law" on the right of women to control their own income (1907). In 1900, at the Congress of Feminine Works and Institutions, Chauvin presented the most aggressive report of the meeting, calling for numerous changes in the Civil Code.


Dictionnaire de biographie française. A. Balteau, M. Barroux, M. Prévost et al., directeurs. Paris: Letouzey et Ané, 1933-.

Hause, Steven C., with Anne R. Kenney. Women's Suffrage and Social Politics in the French Third Republic. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.

Klejman, Laurence, and Florence Rochefort. L'Égalité en marche: Le féminisme sous la troisième république. Paris: Presses de la Fondation nationale des sciences politiques, 1989.

David S. Newhall , Professor of History Emeritus, Centre College, author of Clemenceau: A Life at War (Edwin Mellen Press, 1991)

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