A Frenchwoman's Imperial Story
Madame Luce in Nineteenth-Century Algeria
"Rogers instead uses the biography of Luce to challenge gender politics in the writing of history, and to explore the limitations of the archive. By specifically drawing attention to the silences in the archive, particularly that surrounding the indigenous girls who attended Luce's school, and counterbalancing this with the material legacy which they left (the embroidered goods, exhibited, for example, at the early universal exhibitions), she offers a reinterpretation of the colonization of Algeria during the nineteenth century—one which elucidates the role that women (European and indigenous) played in the development of Algeria . . . Indeed, her argument for the importance of studying this material culture as a means of demonstrating how 'native women' contributed actively to the social, economic and cultural changes in nineteenth-century Algeria could offer a solution to the silences of the archive and the exclusion of colonized women from official histories."—Kate Marsh, Women's History Review
"In A Frenchwoman's Imperial Story Rebecca Rogers uses the fascinating career of Eugenie Allix Luce to illuminate the opportunities and constraints that presented themselves to women who became active participants in the French Empire. After six years of an unhappy marriage to a French schoolteacher, Eugenie Allix fled to Algeria in 1832, where she eventually remarried Louis Luce, a French soldier and musician, and became a prominent figure, opening a school for Muslim girls aimed at the 'fusion of civilizations.' Rogers uses Eugenie's career to trace the shifting views of the French Empire toward Arab education, which led to her move from book-learning to embroidery in the 1860s. In this innovative biography Rogers also tells us her own story, as she tracks Eugenie Luce across continents, in archives and libraries, and ponders the gaps, meanings, and legacies of Luce's fascinating life."—Pinkney Prize
"Rogers's exemplary scholarship and nuanced narrative is essential reading for anyone interested in women's contributions to France's mission civilisatrice."—Patricia M. E. Lorcin, Social History
"Rebecca Rogers has written a first-rate biography about Eugénie Allix Luce (1804–1882), a determined French schoolteacher in mid-nineteenth-century Algiers. She has also made a significant contribution to the historiography of primary education, ethnic relations, cultural patrimony, international feminism, and colonial administration, among other inherently gendered issues in the social history of French Algeria."—James Smith Allen, American Historical Review
"This book opens up an entire social universe detailing the vicissitudes of indigenous girls' schooling in French Algeria and the shifting politics of colonial education that remained largely concealed until now. Rogers' study stands out due to the originality of its approach, the freshness of its conceptualization, and the elegance and clarity of the prose."—Julia Clancy-Smith, University of Arizona
"This work is a stunning achievement. It presents a fascinating and important contribution to the history of women, empire, and historical biography."—Whitney Walton, Purdue University
Eugénie Luce was a French schoolteacher who fled her husband and abandoned her family, migrating to Algeria in the early 1830s. By the mid-1840s she had become a major figure in debates around educational policies, insisting that women were a critical dimension of the French effort to effect a fusion of the races. To aid this fusion, she founded the first French school for Muslim girls in Algiers in 1845, which thrived until authorities cut off her funding in 1861. At this point, she switched from teaching spelling, grammar, and sewing, to embroidery—an endeavor that attracted the attention of prominent British feminists and gave her school a celebrated reputation for generations.
The portrait of this remarkable woman reveals the role of women and girls in the imperial projects of the time and sheds light on why they have disappeared from the historical record since then.
History — European
History — Gender and Sexuality
History — Imperialism and Colonialism
History — Middle East
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