French pioneers in International Women’s Sport: Alice Milliat and Marie-Thérèse Eyquem, between medical supervision and militant separatism

By Florys Castan-Vicente, Anaïs Bohuon, Pia Henaff-Pineau, Nicolas Chanavat

In the interwar period, Alice Milliat (1884-1957), President of the FSFSF (Fédération des Sociétés Féminines Sportives de France) and the FSFI (Fédération sportive féminine internationale), accepted a partial adaptation of sporting events, while continuing to advocate a competitive sport that opposed the wishes of the IOC (International Olympic Committee), the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations), and many doctors. Marie-Thérèse Eyquem (1913-1978), who directed women's sport under Vichy, first voluntarily placed her writings under the authority of medical discourse. Her landmark book, La Femme et le sport, was prefaced by Dr. Boigey, who followed the Aristotelian adage “tota mulier in utero”. After the war, she participated in IAPESGW (International Association of Physical Education and Sport for Girls and Women), heir to the FSFI in a UN context. Throughout their careers, the two pioneers will be confronted with medical power, and in particular with the discourses that oscillate between prescriptions and proscriptions concerning the movement of women’ bodies. The practitioners and organizers adapted both in the choice and modalities of the activities practised, as well as in the practices of separatism in the choice of direction, between transgression and compromise, between integration, reproduction or rejection of norms and injunction to femininity in physical activities.

  • Alice Milliat
  • Marie-Thérèse Eyquem
  • Women’s sports
  • Medical science
  • Co-education
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