Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-14-2015

Faculty Advisor(s)

Véronique Olivier, Wendy Salmond


This project will explore the role of French women of the 18th century, and specifically the problems they faced due to their gender. I will analyze the obstacles that made it difficult for strong women, such as physicist and author Madame du Châtelet, to obtain happiness. These include the complicated identity of educated and ambitious women who lived within a strict gender binary system.

I will compare Châtelet’s concept of happiness from a female perspective to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s view of women’s happiness and maternity. Rousseau believed women played an important role in society; however, their existence was always relative to men. Thus, a female who was not a mother was not a woman. By including Rousseau’s beliefs, I will demonstrate the accepted views of the time period and how they differed from Châtelet.

This research will seek to reframe the legacy of leading French women, including Émilie du Châtelet, Simone de Beauvoir, Marie Darrieussecq, and the contemporary feminist writer Élisabeth Badinter, while challenging the accepted notion of motherhood within society.

I will discuss contemporary events regarding motherhood, including elective egg-freezing in the workforce, as well as statistics created on the Chapman campus, to prove that a woman’s biology remains a major aspect that is out of her control. Creating a historical trajectory of these leading women, and comparing their ideas to current events, lends a position of relatability to the contemporary viewer.


Presented at the Spring 2015 Student Research Day at Chapman University.