The flower index
Now back in London (sadly, except for the joy of being able to touch type on an English keyboard again), but time to gather a brief report on yesterday's lovely stroll around the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris's premier place of eternal rest. To plot a course around the mini-city of the dead, I decided to track down every woman marked on my map of famous graves. (No, I didn't succeed - it did eventually get a bit too depressing.)
In visitor popularity, as judged by flowers left, Edith Piaf was a definite winner among the women, well ahead of Oscar Wilde, although the real forest of blooms was for Allan Kardec, a spiritualist whose reverential society is here).
1. The women on whom I don't have to comment further:
Colette (interesting that she is the only woman on the map sufficiently identified by the one name, while many of the men need no such qualified)
Heloise (and Abelard) - although this can't have been where they were first buried.
The women of letters and arts
(Comtesse) Marie d'Agout (Marie Sophie Catherine de Flavigny, d. 1876), who wrote under the pseudonym Daniel Stern - as is acknowledged on the grave. She has a very grand tomb halfway up the hill with a portrait sculpture.
She wrote a well-regarded history of the revolution, played an active part in politics, particularly in the 1840s, and ran a salon, although she is best known as a long-time mistress of Lizt (of course). There's an excellent English outline of her life here, including a short bibliography.
She was, I think I might say not too anachronistically, a feminist. In "Essai sur la liberté" she wrote "Les lois qui retiennent le sexe féminin dans l'asservissement ou l'infériorité sont des lois inintelligentes, restes de la barbarie." (My - inexpert - translation: "The laws that keep women in slavery or in an inferior condition are stupid, and founded in barbarism.")
Countess Anna de Noailles (1876-1933) a writer and poet from an exotic Greek and Romanian aristocratic background, of course the patron of a salon. And she certain has the looks for these roles. Extracts from poems (in French) here and an outline of a book (in English) on them.
Mme de Senonnes, subject of a famous painting by Ingres, who seems to have also been a salon type?
Rose Bonheur, (1822-99), a celebrated painter, particularly of animals, and a character who is said to have had special permission from the police to wear trousers in public - an excellent biography here. A list of her works here.
The political campaigners
Marthe Richard, a spy during the two world wars, (and maybe a former prostitute - so some sources say) who used the influence of that claim to service to campaign, successfully, for the closure of Paris's official brothels in 1946. There's a short, not very good, article here. And a piece on the continuing debate here.
Mlle Georges, considered the greated actress of France in the 1830s and their environs. She starred in Dumas's Christine, about the Swedish Queen (among many other parts) and features in anecdotes about him. As is classical for the time she was also a courtesan, her conquests including Napoleon, Talleyrand and Wellington.
Alice Ozy, who has a lovely mini classical temple on one of the main avenues, housing incongruously a Madonna and child, was the one of the most prominent of the women's graves. It describes her as an actress and musician. She was romantically linked for a while to Victor Hugo and the artist Théodore Chassérieau, among others. There's a painting of her here.
Jane Avril (1868-1943), a dancer who was locked in a lunatic asylum by her mother but escaped to become a cafe dancer at the Moulin Rouge. When you see Toulouse-Lautrec's portrait you'll recognise it immediately.
Mlle Lenormand, (1722-1843), after whom a certain type of tarot cards was named, indicating how she made her fortune.
Germaine Dulac (1882-1942), a film director who was important in the development of the theory of the auteur. She also wrote about the cinema.
Ginette Niveau (1919-1949), whose tomb bears the image of a violin, is widely described as a legendary performer. She was buried with her brother after both died in a plane crash in the Azores.
Lise Topart (1927-1952), a film actress who was killed in a plane crash in 1952.
Nicole Berger (died 1967), a film actress killed in a car crash.
Sylvia Montfort (1923-1991), an actress: a list of films here.
Marguerite Jamois, actress and director of Théatre Montparnasse.
Eleonore Duplay, stage and screen actress.
Marie Dubas (1894-1972), a singer.
Women for whom I couldn't find information:
It'd be nice to complete the set; more information welcome.
Whew - I hadn't really thought about what I was taking on when I started that! (Had I been doing the men I probably would, however, have had seven or eight times as much work.)