It started small: a student strike over when girls were allowed into boys' dorm rooms at the university in the drab Paris suburb of Nanterre. But revolution was in the air, and discontent spread to become a wholesale revolt against the patriarchal state personified by French President Charles de Gaulle. Once students and police started slugging it out on the barricades around the Sorbonne, the people declared their colors: more than 9 million employees walked out of work. Support fizzled once it was clear that a fractious left offered no coherent program for change. The left wouldn't rule France until 1981.