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Gesnerus. 2013;70(1):111-26.

[Women's physical and sporting activities in the beginning of the 20th C.: a technical way maintaining a normative definition of the body, the example of menstruation].

[Article in French]

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  • 1UFR STAPS, Universit√© Paris Sud.


End of the 19th century France is characterized by a wave of hygiene campaigns corresponding to a dominant depopulation phenomenon. It is in this context that a law is introduced in 1880 which stipulates that gymnastics should be taught in all boy's schools: the "loi George", whose provisions are soon extended to girls. Female physical and sports practice is thus structured politically and scientifically as a project of quantitative and qualitative regeneration of "race", based on the Lamarckian idea according to which health and physical improvement of the individual is transmitted to their descendants. This paper describes the socio-historical conditions of the construction of medical discourses about female physical and sports practice as well as their plurality and foundation, from 1880 to 1920, when the First Medical Congress on child and female Physical Education took place. Ambiguities, tensions, and contradictions of the politics of health and regeneration of the female body through physical and sports practice are analyzed.

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