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Germaine Poinso-Chapuis (6 March 1901, Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône – 20 February 1981[1]) was a French politician.[2] She was the first woman to hold a Cabinet-level post in the French government.[3] Her political convictions have been characterized as bearing the influence of both Catholic and feminist traditions.[4]

Germaine Poinso-Chapuis
Minister for Public Health and Population
In office
November 1947 – July 1948
Preceded by Robert Prigent
Succeeded by Pierre Schneiter
Personal details
Born 6 March 1901
Died 20 February 1981
Nationality French
Political party Popular Republican Movement
Domestic partner Henri Poinso
Occupation Lawyer


Political careerEdit

Born Germaine Chapuis in the Bouches-du-Rhône district of Marseille, Poinso-Chapuis was one of the first women in the city to qualify and practice as a lawyer, passing the bar in 1921.[1] She became active in the movement for women's suffrage in the 1930s.[5] A Christian Democrat by conviction, she became an early member of the Parti démocrate populaire (PDP),[6] the precursor to the Popular Republican Movement (MRP). Within the PDP she campaigned to increase political representation of women. During the Second World War, she was involved in the French Resistance.[7] It was with the MRP that she entered the constituent parliament in 1945, winning election to the seat for her native Bouches-du-Rhône.[1] Then, she was re-elected for the second constituent parliament of 1946, and in November 1946, during the legislative elections, she was elected member of the National Assembly (France), still as a deputy of Bouches-du-Rhône.[8] She remained an advocate for women's rights throughout her career, arguing in 1946 for a change in regulations to allow women to serve as judges.[9]

Poinso-Chapuis was in November 1947 appointed to the ministry of Public Health and Population in the government of Robert Schuman.[5] In the month before the government fell, Poinso-Chapuis brought in a decree which gave an allowance to every parent of a French school child.[2] She remained the only woman to have served as a minister of France until 1974, when Simone Veil took over the same portfolio.[10]

The "Poinso-Chapuis decree"Edit

In post Poinso-Chapuis introduced a number of measures, including to extend the provision of vaccination and to enhance the status of nurses.[1] Her name, though, was most associated with a measure nicknamed the "décret Poinso-Chapuis".[11] This May 1948 decree, mandated by prime minister Schuman, proposed to grant non-state family associations permission to receive public funds to be spent on child welfare provisions, irrespective of whether those children were enrolled in secular state schools or in church-financed institutions. The measure proved intensely controversial, with education minister Edward Depreux claiming that it was invalid without his signature. Though the State Council ruled that the measure was legal, its implementation was temporarily suspended.[1] The affair proved poisonous both to Poinso-Chapuis's ministerial career and to the government of Schuman,[11] who was shortly afterward replaced as Prime Minister (albeit only for a month) by the Radical André Marie.[1] Poinso-Chapuis too, although she had never formally signed the decree,[11] lost her post over the affair, being replaced by Pierre Schneiter.[1]

Poinso-Chapuis nonetheless remained a member of the National Assembly, winning reelection in the 1951 elections. For the remainder of her career she voted largely with the MRP party line.[1]

Personal lifeEdit

Poinso-Chapuis was married in 1937 to Henri Poinso, a fellow lawyer, with whom she had two children.[1]


Several places are named after her, including a street in Poitiers and a technical high-school in Marseille.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Germaine POINSO-CHAPUIS" (in French). Assemblee Nationale de France. Retrieved 23 November 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Gehler, Michael; Wolfram Kaiser (2004). Christian democracy in Europe since 1945. Routledge. p. 90. ISBN 0-7146-8567-4. 
  3. ^ Current Biography Yearbook. 10. H W Wilson. 1949. p. 499. 
  4. ^ Antomarchi, V (1998). "Germaine Poinso-Chapuis : une politique familiale entre catholicisme social et féminisme = Germaine Poinso-Chapuis: a family policy between social catholicism and feminism". Recherches et prévisions (in French). 53: 45–58. ISSN 1149-1590. 
  5. ^ a b McCarthy, Kathy D. Women, philanthropy, and civil society. p. 53. 
  6. ^ Alexander, Martin S (2002). Crisis and renewal in France, 1918–1962. Berghahn Books. p. 206. ISBN 1-57181-297-0. 
  7. ^ "Germaine Poinso-Chapuis, première femme ministre d'État" (in French). 
  8. ^ "Germaine Poinso-Chapuis" (in French). 
  9. ^ Clark, Linda L (2000). The rise of professional women in France: gender and public administration. Cambridge University Press. p. 282. ISBN 0-521-77344-X. 
  10. ^ Tierney, Helen (1998). Women's studies encyclopedia. 1. Greenwood. p. 528. ISBN 0-313-31071-8. 
  11. ^ a b c Knibiehler, Yvonne (1998). Germaine Poinso-Chapuis: Femme d'État,. Association les femmes et la ville. p. 5. ISBN 2-7449-0036-2. 

External linksEdit

  • Review and summary, by Sylvie Chaperon, of Germaine Poinso-Chapuis: Femme d'État, by Yvonne Knibiehler, published in 1998.