Friday, March 8, 2013

International Women's Day

Today is  International Women Day !! To mark this event, I would like to feature four French women who have had an impact on French history and culture and whose legacy still endures.   

Joan of Arc—(1412-1431).  At the age of 16, following visions and celestial voices that commanded her to deliver France, the "Pucelle" from Domremy set out to Chinon to convince the Dauphin Charles VII to let her lead an army against the English occupiers during the Hundred Years War.  A number of victories followed notably in lifting the siege of Orleans.  This led the way for the dauphin Charles VII to enter Reims where he was crowned King.  Though burned at the stake at the age of 19, Joan of Arc legend endures and has become an emblem for France's nationalism and freedom.  


Madame Vigier le Brun—(1755- 1842) -- Elisabeth Vigee le Brun was a successful court painter and a favorite portraitist of Marie Antoinette. Her exceptional artistic talent led her to be a member of the prestigious Royal Academy of Painting in  1775.  She left France at the start of the French Revolution and found protection and work in different courts of Europe –Italy, Vienne, London, and St . Petersbourg . She Returned in France in 1802 to much acclaim and continued painting till her death.  Her exquisite paintings are on view at the Louvre and many museums around the world. 

George Sand – (1804-1876) This 19th century French writer , nee Aurore Dupin, was an early feminist.  A wealthy aristocratic landowner from the Berry Province, George Sand is known for her novel La Petite Fadette et La Mare Au Diable.  She was a political essayist who espoused socialist issues.  In order to circulate more freely in the Parisian literary world of  the mid 19th century, she sported men’s clothing and against social codes of the time even was seen smoking in public.  She had a long amorous affaire with pianist and composer Frederic Chopin.

Marie Curie—(1867-1934) – Born in Poland, Marie Curie studied and worked in France as a renowned scientist.  She along with her husband, Pierre Curie  researched radioactivity. She was the first women ever to win a Nobel Prize  and is the only woman to win the award in two different fields (physics and chemistry).  It should be noted that she shared the award with  her husband and a collaborator, Pierre Becquerel.   She was also the first women to ever teach at the University of Paris Sorbonne and  the only women to be entered at the Pantheon on her own merits.

Coco Chanel- (1883-1971) – Gabrielle Coco Chanel revolutionized the way women dressed.  She is credited for liberating women from the constraints of the corset.  Her creations emphasized a more natural body silhouette, fluid, at ease yet stylish and sophisticated. During a long and prolific career,  her contributions to the world of couture included the knitted jersey Chanel suit and  the little black dress; they are still popular and stylish today as they were nearly  a hundred years ago.

No comments: