France in the early 20th Century was a country who was fourth in line as one of the great industrial trading nations. They had once been the second but had failed behind the United States, Germany and Great Britain because of their distaste for big companies. France was concerned about the little people in their country and preferred family owned businesses, which is still mostly true today. In the time period between the two World Wars France had great improvements in “artistic, literary, and cultural movements.” (2012) This time period was a time for France to relax and get back into their creative nature. They had no way of knowing that sooner rather than later they would in another World War.
After World War I, France and all of Europe entered into the “Age of Anxiety”. This was a time when many felt as though life as they knew it was over and that they were unable to control and change their lives to get back to the way they once knew. Until the early 1950s people felt as if they were living in a time of constant crisis. (2007) With two World Wars , then being occupied during the Second World War, and the Cold War, it was hard for of the French and others around Europe to get back into their crafts and skills and to resume their pre-war lives.
Although Irene Curie was home schooled and had a top-notch education, the rest of France was just beginning to figure out how important education really is for everyone. The French government had just instated a law in 1882 that required schooling for boys and girls alike from the ages of six to thirteen. By 1900 the literacy rate in France went from sixty percent in 1870 to ninety-five percent. In schools children were taught how to read and write and understand arithmetic. Unlike the rest of Europe France did not require religious education in schools. (Grendler)
Compared to Britain, Germany, the United States and some others, France’s stance on women’s eligibility to vote was quite late. In Britain and Germany women were allowed to vote in 1918, and in the United States it was not until 1920, but in France women were unable to vote until 1944. (Lambert, 2001) It is interesting that France chose to let women vote while there was still a war waging, and also why they had waited so long to allow women to vote, when clearly they had already seen the importance of educating women.