Le bel esprit: Creating female Independence and Education in Early Nineteenth-Century France
Maureen MacLeod

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Mercy College

Primary Discipline

The proposed research focuses on female education at the Maison d'Education de la Legion d'honneur during the Napoleonic Empire in France. This study argues that the female students were able to gain agency through their unique educational experience, which allowed them to frame their own future. It also maintains that the opportunity for women to engage in the public sphere and embrace an independent lifestyle occurred earlier than many historians argue, in the beginning of the nineteenth century, largely because of the Napoleonic era educational institutions. This research also examine the curriculum and pedagogy of the school as well as students' independent endeavors to harness their education for their own purposes. By examining student dossiers from little-explored archives of the Napoleonic era, this study traces the students throughout their lives, recording their accomplishments, which were not the norm for women in early nineteenth-century France.
About Maureen MacLeod
Maureen MacLeod is an Assistant Professor of History at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY where she specializes in European history with a focus on women?s and education history. At Mercy, a designated Hispanic serving institution, she mainly works with first-generation college students, teaching European, gender, and Middle Eastern History. Prior to teaching at Mercy, she received her Ph.D. from Florida State University, M.A. from Wayne State University, and B.A. from Michigan State University. Her current research focuses on the development and utility of girl?s education in early nineteenth-century France. Her work has been supported by the Walbolt Dissertation Research Fellowship and Dr. Fay T. and Dennis Greenwald, Esq. Faculty Grant.

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