Breaking the Social Stereotypes of the 19th Century French Poor

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Paris Nouveau. Gustave Doré creator. 1862-1863. A poor walking down the Boulevard.

(Works Cited)

Poverty, A Good Neighbor of Misery:

The poor class, also known as the dangerous class, caused great controversy, turmoil, and change during the 19th century. The majority of the Bourgeoisie looked down upon and despised the poor because of social stereotypes. The stereotype of the 19th century poor is that they were lazy, immoral, and sinful people who were usually vagabonds, beggars, criminals, or prostitutes. In some part this thought was correct; however, the impoverished were forced into prostitution, begging, and other sinful profession because of their destitute situation. The poor were often agents who tries to get govrenment and church institutions to provide them with the needs they could not provide for themselves. Often times, children received the worst treatment due to these stereotypical beliefs of the Bourgeoisie, and the poor status of their parents. Many were either abandoned, and became wards of the state, or remained in unstable home environments, where they were prone to child abuse and prostitution by their parents.


Although the poor class in France caused controversy and turmoil, they instigated protests and meetings to rally against the treatment of the poor. Feminists in 19th century France were on the rise, starting the first feminist daily newspaper in France. Many women's clubs were started by women who came from small businesses or working class women or women from artisan backgrounds. The poor people of France protested against the government, they pleaded the case of the poor asking for government aid to be instituted into regulations. Although the church and government could hear what the people of France we saying many people (especially women) struggled relentlessly to receive any type or charity and welfare.

Millet Les Glaneuses

The 19th century France was still a peasant nation. In 1814, three out of four Frenchmen lived by farimng, and the majority of these people were Much of poverty-stricken (Wright 165). These citizens and the ones living in cities such as Paris were forced into a life of destitution and misery. Innumerable authors have written novels surrounding the lives of the poor, showing great empathy for them. One such novel is Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. Thousands of readers

have come to love Hugo's poverty-stricken characters-- most notably, Eponine, Gavroche, Fantine, and the child Cosette.


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