Marguerite THIBERT Dr.
1886 - 1982, Civil Servant for the ILO
Born January 31, 1886 at Chalon-sur-Saône and died November 14, 1982, Marguerite Javouhey-Thibert was a civil servant at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and an activist for women’s rights. Holding a PhD in literature, Marguerite Thibert was among the first generation of women to attend university in France.
She began her studies at the Sorbonne in 1916, where she would in 1926 pen her doctoral thesis entitled Le Féminisme dans le socialisme français de 1830 à 1850 (Feminism in French Socialism: 1830 - 1850). Her research on the women she called “her sisters-in-combat” stems from the socialist and progressive beliefs she had held from a young age. A widowed mother from 1915 onwards, Thibert taught at the Collège Sévigné, alongside her own studies to support herself and her daughter.
In 1926, she joined the ILO, upon the recommendation of her thesis director. After five years of short-term contracts, she became Head of the Women’s and Children’s labour department. She is one of the figures recognised for making overnight work for women prohibited. At the time, the subject greatly divided the different feminist movements. Liberal feminists opposed the ban, which could create inequality for educated women, while socialist feminists called for it to protect female workers and miners. Thibert retired in 1947 but continued to be considered as a leading expert on women’s labour. She conducted several missions abroad on behalf of the ILO, notably in 1966 in Algeria, at the age of 80, on the issue of pre-vocational training for girls.
Marguerite Thibert was always very politically engaged, first as part of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and then from the 60s onwards, at the centre of the French Mouvement démocratique féminin (Women’s Democratic Movement), that united women activists from the non-communist left for the integration of women into politics, the legalisation of contraception and labour equality. A fervent socialist, she supported François Mitterrand’s candidacy in 1965. In the following years, she continued to campaign for women’s rights. With a global network, she specifically advocated for the cooperation of women from across the world, and took part in several international feminist conferences, some of which are held on the other side of the Iron Curtain. She passed away on November 14, 1982, at the age of 96.
- Le féminisme dans le socialisme français de 1830 à 1850, Paris, Giard, 1926.
- « Crise économique et travail féminin », in Revue internationale du travail, Genève, 1933, vol. 27, n° 4 et n° 5.
- « La formation professionnelle des femmes et ses problèmes », in Revue française de pédagogie, 1968, vol. 4, n° 1, pp. 18-31.
- Thébaud, Françoise, Une traversée du siècle : Marguerite Thibert, femme engagée et fonctionnaire internationale, Paris, Belin, 2017.
- Thébaud, Françoise, « Les femmes au BIT : l’exemple de Marguerite Thibert » in Delaunay Jean-Marc, Denéchère, Yves, Femmes et relations internationales au XXe siècle, Paris, Presses Sorbonne Nouvelles, 2006.
- Thébaud Françoise, « Thibert Marguerite », in Bard, Christine (dir), Dictionnaire des féministes : France XVIIIe-XXIe siècle, Paris, Presses universitaires de France, 2017, pp. 1417-1421.
- Ripa, Yannick, « Féminisme, une vie de combats » in Libération, 20 décembre 2017, (https://next.liberation.fr/livres/2017/12/20/feminisme-une-vie-de-combats_1618057).
- « Marguerite Thibert », in Wikipédia, (https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marguerite_Thibert).