Nathalie Gal-Petitfaux, a pioneer in school swimming instruction in terms of didactics and pedagogy (1964–2016)
In France, the historiography of female education specialists shows a decline in their numbers at the beginning of the Third Republic (1870). From this time on, no doctrine for or conception of physical education (PE) in schools had been founded by a woman, and few had embarked on a didactic formalization of sport, artistic, and physical activities. Using a series of testimonials and printed sources, the purpose of this study is to formalize the biography of Nathalie Gal-Petitfaux, the first woman to work on the didactics of school swimming, in a French society marked at the turn of the twentieth century by male domination (in politics, economics, and sport) and the rising arrival of women in didactics and as teacher-researchers in a more mixed and unified educational and professional context. The analysis of her biographical trajectory shows how, alongside other women, a leading female figure was able to develop her discipline by producing and disseminating didactic and academic knowledge. Gal-Petitfaux also contributed to changing the norms of gendered power relations in accordance with the historical circumstances that were both internal and external to the permeable fields of science and technology of physical and sporting activity and PE.