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International Women’s Rights Day: portraits of engaged francophone authors

George Sand

Écoutez ma vie, c’est la vôtre

Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, born in 1804, chose the pseudonym George Sand, a lesser-known feminine version of Georges, to increase her chances of being published while preserving her anonymity. She is famous for scandalizing her era by rejecting the norms imposed on women. George Sand had several lovers, including Musset and Chopin, after an unsuccessful marriage. She enjoyed frequenting men’s theaters, smoking pipe, and wearing men’s clothes. She raised her two children alone and was still able to earn a living as a writer and break free from societal restrictions until her death in 1876.

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Histoires de ma vie, autobiographie

In Histoires de ma vie, published in 1854, the writer recounts her journey, experiences, convictions, and personal relationships. From her youth and education to her entrance into the world of literature, George Sand explains her thirst for independence, freedom, and love. It’s an essential testimony about the life and work of one of the most influential writers of the 19th century and one of the pioneers of feminism.

Simone de Beauvoir

N’oubliez jamais qu’il suffira d’une crise politique, économique ou religieuse pour que les droits des femmes soient remis en question. Ces droits ne sont jamais acquis

Simone de Beauvoir was born in 1908 and died in 1986. As a  philosopher, novelist and essayist, she is known worldwide for her book “Le Deuxième Sexe”, published in 1949. Her commitment to the cause of women, especially her involvement in the Women’s Liberation Movement and her signature on the 343 manifesto (343 women who confessed to having had illegal abortions), ensured her an undeniable place in the history of feminism, up until the present day. Even if she has been Sartre’s partner for decades, she has always refused to marry him or have a child, and maintained a philosophy clearly distinct from his.

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La Force des choses, Tome 1 & 2 , autobiography 

Simone de Beauvoir recounts her intellectual commitment, her relationship with Sartre, her travels and her thoughts on women’s rights. It is an account of her life that offers profound philosophical and political analyses of her times. The volumes were respectively published in 1972 and 1976.

Journal de guerre, personal diary, autobiography

Journal de guerre, published in 1990, presents seven  notebooks kept by Simone de Beauvoir between 1939 and 1941. In them, she describes her experiences, thoughts and observations on daily life during the German occupation of Paris. With her fears and difficulties, but also her hopes and questions, the author provides a vital and intimate account of the reality of war and its repercussions.

Les Belles Images, novel

This novel explores the meaning of happiness. Laurence, the main character, has everything she needs to be happy, but the time has come to question herself: am I really happy? Why do I have doubts when I have everything to be happy? De Beauvoir explores the dilemmas of the female condition and the search for meaning in the life of a woman who has always evolved according to the expectations of patriarchal society.

Benoîte Groult

Être indépendante ! C’est la source de tout. Et faire quelque chose qui passionne.

Benoîte Groult was a French writer who was born in 1920 and passed away in 2016.

Her work Ainsi soit-elle, published in 1975, definitively marks her entry into the feminist cause. She was the first to publicly denounce female genital mutilations. She later founded a monthly feminist magazine and chaired the Commission for the Feminization of Job Titles. In 1986, she was the first one to publish in its entirety the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen, written by Olympe de Gouges in 1791. She was also a member of the honorary committee of the association for the right to die with dignity.

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La Touche étoile, novel

La Touche étoile by Benoîte Groult introduces the story of Marie, a woman who reconsiders her life, loves, and choices. The novel explores themes of love, freedom, and the search for meaning through Marie’s memories. It’s an introspective and moving narrative about the different stages of life.

Simone Veil

Ma revendication en tant que femme c’est que ma différence
soit prise en compte, que je ne sois pas contrainte de m’adapter
au modèle masculin

Simone Veil, born in 1927 and deceased in 2017, survived Auschwitz with her sisters before becoming a high-ranking government official. In 1974, she became Minister of Health and championed the law decriminalizing abortion, known as the “Loi Veil,” which became official in France in 1979.
In 2024, France integrated the freedom to abort into its Constitution, a world premiere. Veil was a key figure of Franco-German reconciliation and European integration as she was the first elected President of the European Parliament from 1979 to 1982. In 2008, she was elected to the Académie française and is now interred at the Pantheon (since 2018).
As a symbol of courage and resilience, she remains a feminist icon in France and beyond.

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Une vie,  autobiography

In Une vie, Simone Veil reflects on the main and crucial moments of her existence, from her childhood in Nice to her major political achievements. She discusses her experience as a deported woman at Auschwitz during World War II, her legal and political career, as well as her role in legalizing abortion in France. She also shares her insights into the challenges facing women in society. Une vie offers an intimate look at the life of an iconic figure in French and European politics, whose values and convictions have given voice to millions of women.

Annie Ernaux

Les hommes ont tout à gagner à ce que les femmes soient leurs égales.

Annie Ernaux is a French writer born in 1940. 

She is the first Frenchwoman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2022.

Her writing and her works, mostly autobiographies, sometimes romanticised, explore collective and individual memory and history. She uses her personal experiences, her memories, her parents, her sexuality, her relationships, her marriage, her abortion, her fight against breast cancer and her mother’s Alzeihmer’s disease to offer a reflection on the human condition and society. 

She openly talks about her left-wing opinions and fervently denounces social contempt, sexism and all forms of injustice, not hesitating to take a public stand against the decisions of governments in power.

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Je ne suis pas sortie de ma nuit, autobiography

Annie Ernaux reveals a diary she wrote between 1984 and 1986, about the Alzheimer’s disease that gradually damaged her mother.  Faced with the loss of words, memory and memories, the author accompanied her mother through the first stages of loss and mourning, even before her death. With a few revolt and anger drives as much as wonder and gentleness, this book is a condensed of intimacy and love.

Virginie Despentes

Le féminisme est une aventure collective, pour les femmes, pour les hommes, et pour les autres. Une révolution, bien en marche. Une vision du monde, un choix.

Virginie Despentes, born in 1969, is a major contemporary feminist writer and activist. Her novels are sometimes described as provocative and depict the brutal relationships between men and women and the everyday lives of the latter. She has been translated into almost twenty languages, and her books continue to grow in popularity.

Virginie Despentes does not hesitate to take a stand against certain institutions, such as the Césars for honouring Roman Polanski in 2020. She is also a member of the 50/50 collective, which promotes equality between men and women and the representation of diversity in the film and audiovisual industries.

She is also involved in the LGBT+ cause, and set up her own publishing house, Légende Editions, which aims to promote queer and feminist culture while deconstructing gender stereotypes and fighting sexism.

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King Kong théorie, autobiographical essay

King Kong Théorie is a feminist manifesto published in 2006. Despentes offers a personal and incisive reflection on feminism and the status of women in contemporary society. She challenges gender stereotypes and encourages women to claim their autonomy and power in a world dominated by patriarchy.

Marguerite Abouet

Dans les années 70 en Côte d’Ivoire, les femmes étaient
beaucoup plus libres qu’aujourd’hui.

Marguerite Abouet is an Ivorian writer and director, born in 1971. 

She first started writing novels for adults, but found herself frustrated. When reading the comic strip Persépolis, by the Franco-Iranian artist Marjane Satrapi, she decided to express herself in this new genre.

Marguerite Abouet is a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and a member of the Collective of Comic Strip Creators Against Sexism. This collective aims to fight against gender inequalities in the world of publishing and comics. As a matter of fact, it is estimated that only 12.8% of European authors of French-language albums are female artists and/or scriptwriters.

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Aya de Yopougon – Tome 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Graphic novel, Comics

The comics Aya de Yopougon, is inspired by her childhood and focuses on the daily life of a young girl in the 70s and her group of friends. She is committed to depicting an Africa that is far from misery, contrary to what European media lead us to believe.

Her portrayal of strong and independent women helps to promote gender equality and women’s emancipation. Aya de Yopougon also deals with homosexuality, the lack of funding for Ivorian students and the housing crisis.

Praline Gay-Para & Anne-Lise Boutin

Les jeunes filles dans les contes n’attendent pas qu’un prince vienne les sauver en les épousant, elles prennent leur destin en main pour devenir femmes.

Praline Gay-Para is a Franco-Lebanese storyteller and children’s author born in 1956. Anne-Lise Boutin is a French illustrator born in 1977.

Together, they have created number of children’s books featuring brave, independent young girls, drawn from tales and stories from all over the world. 

In this way, they contribute to the representation of women and the transmission of egalitarian messages to a young audience. Their inclusive stories celebrate the diversity of genders and cultures, and help to educate children in the values of respect and equality that are fundamental to feminism.

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Vives et vaillantes : Sept héroïnes de contes, children’s book, album

Seven heroines who take their destiny as women into their own hands.

They disguise themselves as men, challenge princes, give advice to monarchs and fight for their freedom… Seven tales from the Mediterranean featuring amazing and intrepid heroines !

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