The Public Interest

French salons/American saloons

Diana Schaub

Fall 1998

IF a mans word is his bond, what of a woman’s? Are the .words of women—whether promises or not—less credible or less weighty? Mona Ozouf does not think so. She proposes to take women at their word, not all women (that might indeed be foolhardy), but certain select women. In Women’s Words: Essay on French Singularity, † Ozouf listens attentively to the conversation of ten French women of letters, five of them born before the Revolution (Mesdames du Deffand, de Charrière, Roland, de Stall, and de Rémusat) and five after (George Sand, Hubertine Auclert, Colette, and the two Simones, Well and de Beauvoir). Relying mainly on memoirs and correspondence, she listens in particular to what they have to say about themselves as women and about the larger questions of female destiny and autonomy.

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