This chapter, which covers the first half of the Algerian War from 1 November 1954 until the coup of '13 May' 1958, falls into two parts. During a first phase from 1954 to mid-1956, which was dominated by the governorship of Jacques Soustelle, the Algiers government made little attempt to formulate a policy that was directly aimed at Muslim women. The second phase, which lasted from 1956 until 1958, saw the appearance of an intense debate that was focused on Algerian women. The Algiers government of Robert Lacoste responded with a range of initiatives that included a propaganda campaign on emancipation and un-veiling. The psychological warfare officers of the Fifth Bureau were interested in the counter-insurgency and repressive implications of women's emancipation. Jean Servier appears to have been the first person during the war to design a military programme that was directed specifically at peasant women.
There has been much research on the process of 'domesticating the empire', the methods by which French and other imperial regimes attempted to intervene in, regulate or remake indigenous family life in its own image. This chapter aims to investigate the overt and implicit meanings of the model of family life, companionate marriage and gender roles that underpinned the emancipation campaign. It was French policy in Africa, Indochina and elsewhere to encourage wives of the military and colonial service to volunteer for welfare work with native women. The wives of senior army officers and certain types of female army personnel (mainly nurses) played the key role in forming the Mouvement de solidarité féminine (MSF). The chapter presents three case-studies of three circles, Héliopolis, Rio-Salado and Palissy, to illustrate the inner workings of the local MSF.
Throughout the period from early 1956 to early 1958 putschist forces had been gathering strength both within the army and among rightwing settler organisations and these eventually coalesced on 13 May 1958 when crowds gathered in the Forum and stormed the General Government buildings. This chapter examines the all-male 'fraternisation' ceremonies of 16 May, before moving on to the symbolic unveiling from 17 to 18 May, because of the light that it sheds on the organisation of the psychological warfare offensive. The centrality of the Forum parades during the journées of '13 May' can be considered as a form of ralliement. The chapter also examines how the Fifth Bureau got Algerian men to assemble on 16 May for the displays of 'fraternisation'. It explores the social, political and class background of the women on the unveiling demonstrations.
The French army faced a major problem in its campaign of emancipation, how to reach out to the mass of over four million women, most of whom were illiterate and scattered over the surface of a huge territory in villages or secluded settlements. The task of developing contacts that could reach all Algerian women presented a formidable challenge. This chapter looks at the role of mass media communication which was developed centrally by the government and military to reach women across the entire geographical space of Algeria. It looks at the propaganda use of film which provided a powerful, visual means for reaching an uneducated audience. The chapter examines the content of the radio programmes that were specifically designed for women. The French army had experimented with radio propaganda in 1951 during the war in Vietnam but had abandoned the idea because of the paucity of receivers among the population.