Biographies of Members of European Parliament (women)
France had eighty-one members of the 1979 European elections of which eighteen were women.
Union for France in Europe
Simone Veil (1927-2017), Lawyer, politician, feminist, Holocaust survivor and first female President of the European Parliament
Simone Martin (1943-). Secretary General to the Hautre-Marne Chamber of agriculture
Louise Moreau (1921-2001), Deputy for Alpes-Maritimes, Mayor of Mandelieu – La Napoule
Marie-Jane Pruvot (1922-), Headmistress, Member of Clubs Perspectives et Realities National Burea
Christiane Scrivener (1925-), former secretary of state for consumer Affairs, Deputy secretary General to the Republican party
Socialists and Radicals of the Left
Gisele Charzat (1941-),Teacher
Edith Cresson (1934), Member of Socialist Party management committee
Yvette Fuillet (1923-2007), Town Councillor for Marseilles, member of Socialist Party management conrnittee
Francoise Gaspard (1945-), Mayor of Dreux, Member of Socialist Party executive bureau, author
Yvette Roudy (1929-), Journalist, author, member of Socialist Party management corunittee
Marie-Claude Vayssade (1936), Working Women’s Training centre leader
French Communist Party
Danielle Demarch (1943-), Central Councillor for Var, Member of central committee
Jacqueline Hoffmann (1939-), Welder, Member of central committee
Sylvie Leroux (1946-), Scientific Research Worker, Assistant to Mayor of Brest
Henriette Poirier (1936-2010), Teacher, Member of the Central Committee
Defence of the Interests of France in Europe
Marie-Madeleine Dienesch (1913-1998), National Assembly, writer
Nicole Chouraqui-Dahan (1938-1998), financial analyst
Louise Weiss (1893–1983) Journalist, politician, feminist and lifelong champion of European values and women’s rights
Read Simone Veil's Biography
Simone Veil (1927-2017) was a French lawyer, politician and feminist, Holocaust survivor and first female President of the European Parliament. Simone Veil became a lawyer and then a judge. She became France’s Health Minister between 1974 and 1979 where, in 1974, she presided over the first bill legalizing abortion and establishing women’s reproductive rights in France. In 1979 she became a Member of the European Parliament and was elected its President, remaining in the role until 1982. This made her the President of the first directly elected Parliament and the first female President of the new European parliament. Veil is recognised in France in particular for the legalisation of abortion and for improving the lives of women and the conditions of prisoners. Veil championed the rights of incarcerated women and legislated for dual parental control of family legal matters, the rights for mothers and their children by undeclared fathers, and adoption rights for women. She is also known across Europe for honouring and preserving the memory of Jewish people killed in the Holocaust during the Second World War, and for her commitment to European values and unity. She is admired for both her political and personal courage, having survived the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Veil’s childhood and traumatic experiences during the Second World War sowed the seeds of a commitment to a unified Europe, a cause she would champion for the rest of her life.
‘Each of us was just a number, seared into our flesh’.
Simone Veil Memoir ‘A Life’.
Simone Jacob was born on 13 July 1927 to a Jewish family in Nice, France. She and the other members of her family were arrested in 1944 and sent to the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bobrek, and finally Bergen-Belsen. While she and her two sisters survived, her parents and brother died in the camps. Simone’s father André was an architect and her mother Yvonne had studied chemistry before going on to have four children, Madeleine (nickname Milou), Denise, Jean and Simone. Simone’s family were non-practising Jewish people and they suffered from the anti-semitic laws which forced Simone’s father out of work. When the Nazi-allied Vichy regime came to power in the southern part of France in June 1940, Simone’s father was forced to register his family on the ‘Jewish file’ which would later be used to assist the French police and German gestapo to round up and deport Jewish families.
Simone was arrested by two members of the SS on 30 March 1944 having only just passed the Baccalaureate exam two days previously, aged 16. Shortly afterwards the rest of her family apart from her sister Denise who had joined the Resistance were also arrested. Simone and her family ‘were forced to suffer the fate reserved for France’s Jews during that dark period in history. The women (Yvonne, Simone and Madeleine) were deported to Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi death camps, on April 13, 1944, arriving after a ghastly three-day journey trapped in an overcrowded cattle cart.’ Over a month later, on 15 May 1944, André and Jean boarded Convoy 73, the only train from France to travel to the Baltic States. The train ‘comprised 878 Jewish males who were taken from Paris-Bobigny to Reval, Estonia (present-day Tallin), with a stop in Kovno, Lithuania. Of these, only seventeen survived. No researchers have been able to determine what happened to André and Jean’.
Arriving at the camp with her mother and sister, Simone was advised by a French man to lie about her age and thus avoided being sent to the gas chambers. ‘She was registered for the labour camp, shaved from head to toe and tattooed with the serial number 78651 on her arm. “From then on, each of us was just a number, seared into our flesh,” she recalled years later in her memoirs. “A number we had to learn by heart, since we had lost all identity”.
Simone, her mother and sister were forced to work in the camps and ‘when Auschwitz was evacuated on 27 January 1945, as Soviet tanks approached, they took part in the grisly “death marches”, eventually reaching Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where Simone worked in the kitchens’. Simone’s mother Yvonne died on March 13 from the typhus epidemics that had swept through the camps. On April 15, Simone and her sister Madeleine who had also fallen ill, were saved when Allied forces liberated Bergen-Belsen. Denise also survived the war having been arrested as a resistance fighter and deported to Ravensbruck Concentration camp for women, from where she returned after the war. Simone’s name (Simone Jacob) is inscribed on the Wall of Names at the Shoah Memorial in Paris ‘as one of the more than 76,000 Jews deported from France during World War II’. The names of her father André, her mother Yvonne, her sister Madeleine and her brother Jean also appear on the wall with only Simone and Madeleine surviving. Sadly Madeleine died in a car crush just seven years after the war.She returned to Paris in May 1945 aged 17 and began her studies in law and political science. She married Antoine Veil in 1946 and had three sons, Jean born in 1947), Nicolas in 1948 and Pierre-François in 1954).
Entry into politics
Veil became a magistrate and in this capacity advised successive ministers for justice, including François Mitterrand. In 1970 she became the first female secretary general of the Conseil supérieur de la magistrature (France’s Council of the magistrate). Legend has it that when Valéry Giscard d’Estaing became President of France in April 1974 he went to Antoine Veil’s house with the intention of inviting him to join his new government. Deciding there and then not to appoint Antoine, the President chose his wife Simone instead. She joined French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s government as Minister for Health. She worked to provide easy access to contraceptives and soon after her appointment, she fought a bitter battle to legalise abortion in France, experiencing extreme vitriolic attacks from all sides and only succeeded when the opposition in the national assembly joined her cause to push through the law in 1975. It was seen as a significant achievement and the law would become widely known as la loi Veil.
Throughout her lifetime, Simone often spoke about the grief of losing her family members during the Holocaust and in particular she remembered the courage and bravery of her mother at all times particularly during their internment in Auschwitz.
‘ . . she instilled passion and the will to survive into her daughters. When Veil is asked how she found the stamina to withstand the onslaught of vitriolic attacks during the debate on abortion, she repeats that she owes it all to her mother. Even today, some sixty years after her death, Veil’s mother remains ever-present for her, with her: “I’m often asked what gave me the strength and will to continue the fight. I believe deeply that it was my mother; she has never stopped being present to me, next to me” (Ruth Hottell’s translation).
In addition to her success with ‘la loi Veil’, she achieved a range of successes for women’s rights including the implementation of fairer conditions of incarceration for women prisoners, supporting the rights of Algerian women prisoners to access fair treatment and an education, promoting dual parental control of family legal matters which protected the rights of women, as well as working to end discrimination against women by expanding ‘health coverage, monthly stipends for child care, maternity benefits, etc’.
Committed to a unified Europe
After the war, as a survivor of the Holocaust, Veil found it hard to understand how one European country could wage war on another. As her political career in France progressed, she became more committed to the idea of a Europe in which such atrocities could never happen again. So, when President Giscard d’Estaing asked Veil to head his party list in the first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979, she jumped at the chance.
Veil was duly elected to the European Parliament in 1979, which chose her as its President for a set three year term, thus becoming leader of the first directly elected European Parliament and the first woman at the head of any EU institution. She also served as chair of the legal affairs committee and as a member of the environment, political affairs, foreign affairs and security committees, and the subcommittee on human rights. In addition, she was a member of the special committee on German reunification set up in 1990. During her time at the Parliament, she was also chair and vicechair of the Liberal and Democratic Group, which later became the Liberal and Democratic Reformist Group. She won the Charlemagne Prize in 1981, the award given to honour a person’s contributions to European unity.
Simone Veil believed standing up for freedom was essential in the fight against totalitarianism. She saw the EU as a place ‘of solidarity between people, regions and individuals . . to strengthen that freedom whose value is too often not realised until it has been lost, (a place where) the views of all community citizens can be voiced at a European level . . founded on a common heritage and the shared respect for fundamental human values’.
She was elected to the European parliament again in 1984 and in 1989, and was also deputy-president from 1984. After 14 years in the European Parliament, Veil returned to French politics in 1993, serving as Minister of State and Minister of Health and Social Affairs until 1995. In 1998 she was appointed to France’s Constitutional Council. From 2001 to 2007 she served as the first president of the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah (Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah). According to the New York Times, ‘she published an autobiography in 2007, in which she criticized the long delay in the French government’s acceptance of responsibility for the murder of French Jews, whose deportations were organized by the collaborationist regime based in Vichy. The French state affirmed its ‘collective error’ for the crimes only in 1995, during Mr. Chirac’s presidency, after decades of equivocation.
In 2005 she campaigned in favour of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. When Veil was elected to the Académie Française in 2008, one of only a handful of women to receive such an honour, she had three things engraved on the ceremonial sword that is crafted for each member of the academy. These were: her Auschwitz tattoo number, 78651; the motto of the French Republic, ’Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’; and the European Union motto, ‘United in Diversity’.
In 2011, the esplanade in front of the main European Parliament building in Brussels was named Agora Simone Veil in her honour, and in 2012 she was awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion d’honneur. She has won numerous awards and honorary degrees, having been appointed a Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Merite and Grand Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
Following her death on 30 June 2017, Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, paid tribute to Veil, calling her ‘the great President of the European Parliament, conscience of the EU, campaigner against anti-Semitism and defender of women’s rights. Her message on women and anti-Semitism remains relevant to this day’. In July 2018 her remains were interred in the Panthéon mausoleum in Paris. She was only the fifth woman to receive this honour. She was an inspirational figure as a strong feminist,a committed human rights advocate, and a believer in European integration and cooperation.
Read Simone Martin's Biography
Born on April 14, 1943 in Tourcoing, Simone Martin served three terms in the European Parliament (1979-1994). She started as a member of the Liberal and Democratic Group and by the middle of her second term she sat with the Liberal and Democratic Reformist Group till the end of her mandate.
She was part of the Union pour la France en Europe (France) during her first parliamentary term and then became a member of the Republican Party.
She was a member, substitute member and Vice-President and President of several committees throughout her mandate: on Regional Policy and Spatial Planning, on Inquiry on the Situation of Women in Europe, on Agriculture, on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, on the Environment, on Public Health and Consumer Protection, on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection, on Women’s Rights and in various delegations including for Relations with Japan, for relations with South Asian countries, for relations with Japan, for relations with member countries of ASEAN and the Republic of Korea (AIPO).
In Democracy, Social Resources and Political Power in the European Union by Niilo Kappi, Simone says ‘In France there is a very ambivalent feeling about Europe – to such an extent, that my male colleagues were less interested, and so left more room for women’. Kappi states that
The political style of many women politicians appears to be more in tune with the style prevalent in the European Union institutions than with the style dominant in the national political centre, Paris. Some statements reinforce this impression, ‘Women don’t like confrontation as much as men – that’s the only real difference between them. Women prefer to find agreement, to discuss and find practical solutions (Christiane Scrivener quoted in Vallance and Davies 1986, 8). Some scholars have echoed this sentiment by stating that ‘the processes and arrangements of the European parliament itself are an encouragement to greater female participation (Vallance and Davies 1986, 8). Because women often perceive politics as differently than men do, an affinity can be detected between the alternative political competence accumulated in European institutions that many women are eager to promote (Sinead 1988, 199) and the specific political practices in use in European union institutions. European multicultural negotiations favour the search for compromise, and thus favour those qualities that traditionally have been labelled as feminine. This might explain why many women feel more comfortable in Brussels than in Paris.’
While a number of statements in the above can be seen as a reflection of gender stereotyping prevalent in society at that time, and to which the European Union has committed to overcoming, it is interesting to note the importance of European political participation for women in the 1980’s and 1990’s. ‘If one examines access to electoral politics, men and women differ in relation to the significance of a post in the European parliament. For only 3.6 per cent (6/166) of men MEPs was a seat in the European parliament their first political post outside the party structure. In contrast 25 per cent (10/40) of women MEPs found their first political post outside party organisations in the European parliament. Thus for one quarter of women MEP’s a seat in the European parliament was their first electoral office. For women, the European parliament is clearly a significant entry point to national politics.’ Kappi goes on to point out that not only has European political integration provided women with access to national politics through European parliament elections this access has also benefitted more marginal groups in France.
Read Louise Moreau's Biography
Louise Mont-Reynaud was born on January 29, 1921 in Grenoble, Isère.
An avid reader of Anatole France, Charles Péguy, Paul Valéry or René Char, a strong believer in the defence of democracy and tolerance, she aroused admiration, regardless of one’s political inclination. All her actions and involvement were steeped in these two principles. Over the years, her righteousness, determination as well as her commitment as a resistance fighter, turned her into a “political figure”. She admits that “the Liberation of Paris” was one of her best political memories. She obtained a license in science after five years of medical studies in Paris. Married to Pierre Moreau, an engineer and businessman, she became a corporate director. After he died prematurely when she was only forty, she decided to go into politics.
During the Occupation as a member of the Special Services of Free France (only nineteen when she joined General de Gaulle in London in August 1940), she played an active role in several missions (such as transporting military documents, weapons and ammunition), and in the Normandy landings with the allied forces. Her very rich and diversified political background led her to hold responsibilities with different ministries. It was on June 10, 1979 that Louise Moreau was elected to the European Parliament, an experience that will last till June 17, 1984. She was also elected to the Assemblée Nationale in 1978, a mandate renewed until 1997 (with the general elections), then until her death. She was Vice-Chairman at the Assemblée Nationale from April 1st, 1984 to April 1st, 1985. She also headed or worked in several commissions: Commission on Production and Trade, on Foreign Affairs, of Inquiry on Illegal Immigration and Illegal Stay of Foreigners in France, Special Commission responsible for examining the draft law on adoption.
A key figure in her region of the Alpes-Maritimes, she was mayor of Mandelieu-la-Napoule for three terms from 1971 to 1995. She obtained the 3945 Cross of War and the Rosette of the Resistance and was made officer of the Legion of Honor in a military capacity
She died at Cochin hospital (Paris), on February 5, 2001. She was eighty years old.
Read Marie-Jane Pruvot's Biography
Marie-Jane Pruvot was born on December 13, 1922 in Pont l’Evêque in the Calvados. She served a single parliamentary term with the Liberal and Democratic Group from July 17, 1979 to July 23, 1984 and as a member of the national party Union pour la France en Europe (France) from July 17, 1979 to July 27, 1984.
She also sat on the Youth, Culture, Education, Information and Sports Committee from July 20, 1979 to June 13, 1982, on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection Commission between December 19, 1980 to January 20, 1982 and on the External Economic Relations Commission from January 21, 1982 to July 23, 1984.
Read Christiane Scrivener's Biography
Christiane Scrivener was born on September 1st, 1925 in Fries in Mulhouse, and studied law, literature and psychology at the University of Paris. She then studied linguistics at Springfield University, Massachusetts, and finally took courses at Harvard Business School, from which she graduated. She began her professional career in the public service.
She initiated and successively served as the General Manager of several government agencies: in 1985, for the Association for the Organization of Internships in France, in 1969, of the Agency for Industrial and Economic Technical Cooperation (ACTIM) and in 1961 for the Association for the Organization of Technical Cooperation missions.
Nothing could really have predicted her involvement in politics in the government of Jacques Chirac in 1976. Indeed, when she was appointed Secretary of State for Consumer Affairs, it was unknown to the political class as she inaugurated this ministerial function. Only the English and Canadians had such a secretary of state at that time! She will be unyielding in her fight for legislative changes in economic liberalism and three laws will bear her name (Loi Scrinever): on credit, on consumer protection and information and on economic concentration and cartels – laws well-known to the consumer defense and even to the general public.
Christiane Scrivener was elected a member of the European Parliament in 1979 on the Union pour la France en Europe (France), led by Simone Veil. She will be very regularly seen in the hemicycle of Strasbourg and will be nominated in 1984, General Rapporteur for the Community budget.
Dedicated to her political role in the European Union, in 1989 Christiane Scrivener took over from Claude Cheysson (former Minister of External Relations) as European Commissioner in Brussels until 1994. Member of the National Council for French Democracy, she led the Giscardian clubs. This close friend of Simone Veil also chaired the Avenir-Europe association. In 1984, she published a work entitled L’Europe, une bataille pour l’Avenir.
Her service to the greater European community earned her prestigious commendations from such countries as Belgium and Luxemburg, and she was named an officer of the Legion of Honor in 1995.
Read Gisèle Charzat's Biography
Born on April 17, 1941, Paris-born Gisèle Charzat was elected at the European Parliament twice, July 17, 1979 to July 23, 1984 and July 24, 1984 to July 24, 1989, with the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, representing the French Socialist Group.
Barely arrived in Strasbourg in 1979, she became an active member of the then called CERES (Centre d’études, de recherches et d’éducation socialiste – Mr. Jean-Pierre Chevènement’s political trend), later renamed Socialisme et République, pursuing her interest in energy problems. She faced a hostile environment when defending the French nuclear option. Ms. Charzat got more and more involved in oil issues, which raised her interest in the Middle East. When she joined the political commission in 1981, she set out to explore this region and summed up her findings in a study for the Socialist Group.
In February 1986, as a Rapporteur for the European Parliament, she presented her findings on a mission that took her through Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel. The report which called for respect for human rights in the territories occupied by Israel, for the recognition of UN resolutions by the PLO and for the organization of an international conference, was adopted almost unanimously, except for eleven parliamentarians around Mrs. Simone Veil, voting against.
Auditor at the Institut des Hautes Etudes de Défense Nationale, one of the few women to specialize in the “star wars” that is, in Defense and Security issues, she became State Councilor in extraordinary service, at the Court of Auditors, Honorary Prefect, member of the Economic and Social Council. She was President of the Road Safety and of the International Foundation of the Francophonie.
Read Edith Cresson's Biography
Edith Cresson (born Campion) was born on January 27, 1934 in the upscale Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt. Raised by a British nanny, she became fluent in the English language. She is the first woman in French history to serve as Prime Minister.
She earned a degree from the School of Business Studies for Young Girls and later a doctorate in demography. She married Jacques Cresson in 1959 and they have two daughters.
A successful businesswoman, she moved to politics in 1965 in the wake of François Mitterrand and worked vigorously in his failed presidential campaign of that year against Charles de Gaulle. She ran unsuccessfully for a parliamentary seat in 1975 but was subsequently elected mayor of Thuré (1977-1983), member of the European Parliament (1979–81), and mayor of Châtellerault (1983).
After Mitterrand’s election to the presidency in 1981, Cresson was appointed to several traditionally “male” ministries. She served first as Minister of Agriculture (1981-1983), then as Minister of External Trade (1983-1986), of Tourism (1983-1984), as Minister of Foreign Trade and Industry (1984-1986), and finally Minister of European Affairs (1988-1990). During her two-year mandate, she signed the Schengen agreements. She was three times elected a deputy to the Assemblée Nationale from the Vienne province (1981, 1986 and 1988).
She resigned from the government on October 3, 1990, to work with the Schneider group as a consultant on international development. She tackled difficult issues such as matters related to relocation, to the reform of the status of dockworkers, to the opening of stores on Sundays, to health expenditures, vocational training and apprenticeship.
When Michel Rocard resigned as Prime Minister in 1991, her friend President Mitterrand appointed her to the prime ministerial post on May 25, 1991. She assembled a cabinet of 29 members of which 5 women, three to ministerial posts (Labor, Development and Youth & Sports). Known for her combativeness and outspokenness, she sought to strengthen France’s industrial power and to “protect” French and European products from the inroads of Japanese and American products. She also aimed to reduce social inequities.
She often made controversial comments and diplomatically, her outspokenness was creating unease in international circles. The rising unemployment and declining public support prompted Mitterrand to replace her in April 1992 after she had been in office less than a year. She has so far spent the shortest time in office for any French Prime Minister of the Fifth Republic.
From 1992 to 1994, consulting and international cooperation occupied Edith Cresson’s entire time at the head of Services, Industries, Strategies, International and Environment (Sisie).
In 1995 Mitterrand appointed Cresson to serve as Commissioner for Science, Research and Development to the European Commission. In 1996 she launched the pilot action “European Voluntary Service” with the main aim of promoting the involvement of young Europeans in a volunteer program throughout the European Union. Some of her subsequent decisions elicited controversy and criticism, as did her inaction to correct known financial irregularities. Cresson and the entire European Commission resigned in 1999 because of alleged fraud and corruption. Charges of corruption against her and several former staff members came in 2003, although they were reduced the following year. In 2006 she was found guilty of blatant favouritism she showed to a friend and misconduct; however, no penalty or punishment was decreed.
Edith Cresson is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders (as is Angela Merkel), an International network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers, whose mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women and equitable development.
Read Yvette Fuillet's Biography
Yvette Fuillet was born in Marseille on March 1st 1923
Representing the French Socialist Party she was a member of the Socialist parliamentary group (of which she was also the treasurer) for two legislatures.
During her first term, she was Vice-President of the Regional Policy and Regional Planning Commission (January 21st, 1982 to July 23, 1984) and Vice-Chair for the Delegation for relations with the Maghreb countries (April 11, 1983 to July 23, 1984).
From 1979 to 1989, she was part of various committees: On the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection, On Budgetary Control, On Regional Policy and Regional Planning, in delegations for: Relations with Austria, Relations with Switzerland, Relations with the Maghreb countries (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia).
She was made Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur on April 19, 2000.
She died on December 15, 2007 in l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
Read Françoise Gaspard's Biography
Françoise Gaspard was born on June 7, 1945 in Dreux.
She is seen as a determined woman, a person of conviction and ideal. The speech of this ENA graduate (1975-1977) is often marked by the anti-racist struggle and the denunciation of the populist excesses of the Far-Right. “In the election campaigns”, she declared one day in front of the hemicycle, “some candidates dare to say that immigrants eat our bread, steal our jobs and aggravate the imbalance of the nation’s social accounts. (…) Integration is an essential policy, a political affirmation necessary both to prepare the French to accept foreigners on our territory and to explain to immigrants that it is mandatory that they respect certain rules of the French society. “
Françoise Gaspard showed a tenacious involvement in the fight for the liberalization of abortion, for women’s rights and the abolition of the death penalty. After earning an aggregation in history and a diploma from the Institute of Political Studies of Paris, she undertakes to teach. She alternately became a technical collaborator at the University of Paris-Nanterre (1968-1970), lecturer at the Sorbonne (1970-1974) before teaching at the Lycée Michelet de Vanves (1971 -1974). She subsequently changed path and in June 1977 became an advisor to the administrative tribunal and was assigned in 1978 to Versailles’ Administrative Tribunal.
She had a diversified political activity. From 1977 to 1983, she was elected mayor of Dreux, representing the Socialist Party, on June 10, 1979, she was elected to the Assembly of the European Communities and from 1981 to 1988, she served as deputy for Eure-et-Loir and Regional Councilor for the Center-Val de Loire region. In the 1980s, she publicly revealed her homosexuality, becoming one of the first French politicians to do so and even married journalist Claude Servan-Schreiber in 2013.She is a member of the sponsorship committee of the French Coordination of the Decade for the Culture of Peace and Non-violence.
In 1994, together with Colette Kreder, Françoise Gaspard founded Demain la parité, a network which regroups women’s associations to empower women in all fields. In 1991, she was appointed expert for France of the “Women in Decision Making” network set up by the European Commission.
Lecturer at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences sociales, she is the author of several books, notably: La fin des immigrés (1984) ; Une petite ville en France (1991) ; Au pouvoir, Citoyennes (1992) ; Le foulard et la République (1995), Femmes dans la prise de décision en France et en Europe (dir.), (1997), Comment les femmes changent la politique, co-written with Philippe Bataille, Paris, (1999, translated into Spanish and Arabic), Le Livre noir de la condition des femmes (2006).
Read Yvette Roudy's Biography
Yvette Roudy was born in Saldou on April 10, 1929 in Pessac in the Gironde department.
Yvette Roudy is a woman of conviction and determination. Her bold stand in favor of women’s rights quickly made her an emblematic figure. “I always set the tone when I come in,” says Yvette Roudy, “I warn that I am both a feminist and a socialist, which, moreover, are completely linked since it is about power and the fight against inequalities! Anyway, it is definitely a political issue”.
But to restrict this “devoted friend”, as described by her inner circle of friends, to the sole cause of women would be a mistake. She is at the front line of campaigns against all injustices and all forms of intolerance. Raised in a modest family, she is a self-made woman.
She studied at Pessac in Gironde and attended a technical high school for young girls in Bordeaux. She pursued her secondary and higher studies by correspondence at the National Center for distance learning in Vanves. In addition to her job as a secretary, she embarked on English studies and obtained a bachelor’s degree. When she was 22, she married Pierre who was also studying English. They spent two years in Scotland where she mastered the language and became a translator. In 1964, she translated The Mystified Woman, (La Femme mystifiée) a feminist essay by the American Betty Friedan. Secretary General of the Democratic Women’s Movement, she was the founder and editor-in-chief of the movement’s journal, La Femme du XXème siècle (1964-1967). Yvette Roudy joined the Convention of Republican Institutions in 1965.
Her political career began in 1973, when she sat on the Steering Committee of the Socialist Party. From 1975 to 1977, Yvette Roudy was General Delegate of the Socialist Party for Training and, from 1977 to 1979, National Secretary for Women’s Action and member of the Executive Board. On June 10, 1979, she was an elected member of the European Parliament and chaired the ad hoc committee on Women’s Rights. From March 1981 to March 1986, she was appointed Minister Delegate to the Prime Minister, Minister for Women’s Rights in the governments of Pierre Mauroy and Laurent Fabius. She fought for the political empowerment of women: “The action that I have spearheaded for five years within the government, guided by common sense, justice and progress, is widely approved by the French. The world is on the move, so are women. Let’s not let go of this impetus carried by each one of us. Let’s not only believe in the impossible but strive to make our dreams come true! “
Her political investment resulted in six major laws:
– May 7, 1982: Law for Equal Access Rights to Public Employment
– July 10, 1982: Law on the Status of the Spouses of Craftsmen and Traders
– December 31st, 1982: Induced Abortion Reimbursement Law
– July 13, 1983: Law on Professional equality between Men and Women
– December 22, 1984: Law for the Recovery of Spousal Support
– December 23, 1985: Law on Equal Rights for Spouses in Matrimonial Regimes
She failed to pass the 1983 anti-sexism law, while she was minister for Women’s Rights, facing a rough opposition from advertisers and defenders of the “freedom of the press”. However, her perseverance set in motion awareness campaigns, particularly on contraception in 1982, and launched vocational training and educational guidance (1984-1985).
In May 1987, she was appointed national delegate of the Socialist Party for the training of militants, in 1988, was made Vice-President of the International Socialist and mayor of Lisieux in 1989, “the election of which I am most proud” as she liked to remind everyone. In 1990, as a deputy of the Calvados, she voted for a text condemning sexual harassment.
Besides her numerous translations, she is also a woman of letters of which, La réussite de la femme (1969), La femme en marge (1975) prefaced by François Mitterrand, Les métiers et les conjoints (1981), A cause d’elles (1985) prefaced by Simone de Beauvoir, Mais de quoi ont-ils peur ? (1995).
Read Marie-Claude Vayssade's Biography
Born on August 8, 1936 in Pierrepont in Meurthe et Moselle, Marie-Claude Vayssade served three successive terms between 1979 and 1994.
As a member of the French Socialist party, she was an elected member of the Socialist parliamentary group between July 17, 1979 and July 27, 1984 and maintained her seat for her 3 legislatures.
She vice-chaired on the Rules of Procedure and Petitions Committee between July 20, 1979 and January 20, 1982, on the Inquiry Commission on the Situation of Women in Europe between January 21, 1982 and July 23, 1984 and on the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Petitions between June 4, 1983 and July 23, 1984
She was a member of the Legal Commission, Rules and Petitions Committee and Delegation for Relations with ASEAN Member Countries and the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization (AIPO), between July 20, 1979 and July 11, 1979. April 1984.
She again chaired the Legal and Citizens’ Rights Commission during her second term and was a member of several committees such as the Women’s Rights Commission during the 2nd and 3rd terms.
Danielle De March
Read Danielle De March's Biography
Danielle De March was born on August 6, 1939 in Lérouville, in the Meuse. She is the daughter of a stonemason and an office worker. Her first job was as a mechanograph at the URSSAF.
She signed for the French Communist Party (PCF) (without informing her father who was also a member) in 1954, at the age of fifteen. She was actively involved in the trade union and political struggles as a member of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) and the French Communist Party.
Elected to the European Parliament in June 1979, Danielle De March had the great honor of vice-chairing for five years, the only vice-presidency assigned to her group in Parliament. She was re-elected in 1984.
During her second term she remained in the same parliamentary group and sat again in committees until 1989: Committee on Economic, Monetary and Industrial Policy, Delegation for Relations with Japan, Committee for Social Affairs and Employment, Delegation for Relations with Japan, Committee for Women’s Rights, Committee for Social Affairs and Employment. She was also a deputy member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection and of the Committee on Regional Policy and Regional Planning.
She is the only woman to sit on the Var General Council in 1979. She was also elected as Toulon’s Municipal Councilor in 1989 and 1995. Heading the list in the regional elections, she was elected in 1994 and re-elected in 1998.
She sat on various committees such as the Committee on Youth, Culture, Education, Information and Sports in 1979, Delegation to the EEC-Greece Joint Parliamentary Committee between 1979 and 1980 and from 1982 to 1984, on the Committee for Policy and Regional Planning.
In February 2004, she became President of the Association of Communist Veterans of the Var.
She also enjoyed writing and authored the following: Cet homme face au soleil (2005), Les mots de flamme (2008) L’empreinte des saisons (2011), Les cahiers de Nina ( 2015), Mon Toulon, nos résistances (2017).
Read Jacqueline Hoffmann's Biography
Jacqueline Hoffmann was born in Bézier in the Hérault Department on December 26, 1943. She was a Communist Member of the European Parliament from 1979 to 1986, then Member of the Yvelines from 1986 to 1988.
When Jacqueline Hoffmann started her job as a welder at the Escaut establishments, she only had her primary school certificate. Her involvement in the Communist Youth of France and the Union of Young Girls of France gave her a taste for politics. She became a Communist Party activist at the age of 17 when she was a delegate of the General Confederation of Labor (C.G.T.) of staff and member of the Works Council. She joined the French Communist Party (PCF) and became a member of the board of the Yvelines PCF federation in 1970, then a member of the central committee in 1972 in charge of health, social protection and family issues. Unsuccessful at the elections of 1981, Ms. Hoffmann headed the PC list and was the only one elected at the elections of March 16, 1986.
This woman of deep convictions has been a member of the Communist Party’s political office since 1987. Her first election was European: in 1979, she was the first female worker elected to the European Parliament and re-elected from 1983 to 1986.
In 1994, at the suggestion of the then Prime Minister Édouard Balladur, she was appointed member of the Economic and Social Council (CES) as an expert with regard to her long experience in the field and has been a member since then.
Member of the Commission for Cultural, Family and Social Affairs at the National Assembly, she was attentive to economic issues, labor law and family affairs. In this spirit, on December 4, 1986, she filed a bill for the Freedom and Dignity of Families: “Inequalities are growing in all areas and a new kind of poverty is emerging. Unemployment increase, decrease in purchasing power, wages and family allowances, growing precariousness and enforced part-time work cause an increase in the number of struggling families. (…) Starting today, in our sustained fight for social justice, we can make progress in the area of Family Rights. (…)This humanism is the basis of the Communists’ fight for a more human and just society.: socialism with a French touch”.
Jacqueline Hoffmann left the Palais-Bourbon in 1988. She is a mother of two, Rachel and Eric.
Read Sylvie Leroux's Biography
This researcher in marine biology, born in Nice on October 13, 1946, was elected three consecutive times to the European Parliament (1979 – 1994). As a member of the French Communist Party, Ms. Mayer had a seat with the Communist and Allies Group. During her second mandate she was Vice-President of the Commission for Youth, Culture, Education, Information and Sports.
She was also a member or deputy of the following committees: Inquiry Commission about the Situation of Women in Europe, Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection, Delegation for relations with Israel, Committee on Energy, Research and Technology, Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development, Committee on Budgetary Control, Delegation for Relations with Israel, delegation for relations with Finland…
She was responsible for the Social and Solidarity Economy (ESS) working group of the PCF (Parti Communiste français) and co-facilitator of Agir pour une, economie équitable.
She is part of the board of directors of the Gabriel-Péri Foundation.
Read Henriette Poirier's Biography
Henriette Poirier was born on October 26, 1936 in Bordeaux to Henri Chassing and Régine Allo, two communist activists. Her mother was arrested in November 1940, interned in the Mérignac camp from which she escaped. Arrested a second time on March 24, 1944 in Châtellerault, tortured, she was deported to Ravensbruck and was released at the end of the war. Two of her uncles, Louis and Roger, took part in a fight in Spain with the International Brigades. Only Roger returned in 1938 but is apprehended by the French Police and handed over to the Germans as hostage and shot on October 24, 1941 at the Souge camp
Nicknamed Cany, Henriette became a member of the central committee of the French Communist Party, leader of the Gironde Federation of the PCF, Regional Councilor and Municipal Councilor of Floirac.
She was elected to the European Parliament on July 17, 1979 for a single term till July 23, 1984 with the Communist Allied Group. She also sat on the Committee on External Relations from July 20, 1979 to July 23, 1984.
In the last part of her life, she recalls the painful reminder of the Souge shooting: “Young people share sufficient generosity in their heart to pursue the values of the martyrs of Souge; let us find the right communication mode to interact with them so that the collective memory remains vivid. “
Henriette was married to Guy Poirier who was also a teacher. They have two daughters, Sylvie and Mireille, and three grandchildren.
She died on February 24, 2010 in Bègles.
Read Marie-Madeleine Dienesch's Biography
Marie-Madeleine Dienesch was born on April 3, 1913 in Cairo (Egypt). She attended a school for girls in Neuilly-sur-Seine and later graduated in classical letters from the Faculty of Letters in Paris). From 1939 to 1945, she taught at the College of Saint-Brieuc.
As a member of the French Resistance, she joined the group “Libération Nord “. She decided to continue her political struggle and spontaneously registered on the Mouvement pour la République (M.P.R.) list of Côtes-du-Nord for the legislative elections of October 21, 1945 and then with the Rassemblement pour la République (R.P.R). In the seventies, Ms. Dienesch sat on the Côtes-du-Nord General Council, representing the canton of Plouguenast and was also a member of Brittany’s Regional Council. She was twice elected Deputy of the Côtes-du-Nord between 1945 and 1969 and 1972 and 1981. In those days, politics was a ‘men’s affair’ in a ‘traditional male environment’, as she often repeats. To be honest, she said to Jean-Pascal (author of ‘Female Deputies’) I love this battle, but more than that, I love to convince. Now a days we are respecting our ‘enemy’s’, themselves driven by sincere convictions. The people who attacked me, they were not socialists or communists, they are anti-feminists, people who doesn’t accept to see that women are taking new responsibilities.
Marie-Madeleine Dienesch holds the current record of the longest career in the National Assembly (under the Fourth and Fifth Republic). She sat practically without interruption at the Palais-Bourbon from 1945 until 1981 On November 8, 1945, she was the first woman to be elected secretary of the National Assembly bureau and to chair the Committee on Cultural, Family and Social Affairs. She was constantly re-elected during the consecutive legislative elections: November 46, June 51, January 56, November 58 (when she was named Vice-President for one year), November 62, March 67, June 68, March 73, March 78.
In the legislative elections of 1958, she stood alone and drove a tough struggle against her left-wing opponents, earning her the image of a fighter. Over that period of twenty-six years in office, she focused on public health, on the situation of women, widows and war orphans, and in particular, national education and wrote thirty-three reports or opinions, submitted sixteen bills and eight motions for resolution.
She was also nominated Secretary of State: for National Education in 1968, for Social Affairs from 1968 to 1969, for Social Action and Rehabilitation from 1969 to 1972, to the Minister of Public Health heading the ministerial department of Social Action and Rehabilitation between 1972 and 1973, and finally for the Minister of Public Health and Social Security from 1973 to 1974. While she was presenting the financial report of the year, on November 16th, 1973 she said: ‘Our Politics must be based and will be based in the actions I wish to tribute, like the organisations that will be fighting to resolve problems and develop projects in different areas like the ‘Action Plan against the Slums ‘, the ‘Accommodation and Social Centre Federation’, the ‘Emergency aid centre ‘. (…) My ministry has already contributed a lot for this kind of projects, for the social integration by giving money support (subventions) and our support was almost double this year. ‘ She left the government for good in 1974.
Ms. Dienesch continued her brilliant career as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in Luxembourg from 1975 to 1978 during the three years before her return to the National Assembly. Also concerned by European issues, she held the international vice-presidency of the European Women’s Union, heading the French section from 1963 to 1969. Ms. Dienesch was then representative to the Assembly of the European Communities, elected to the list Défense des intérêts de la France en Europe (France) from July 17, 1979 to September 30, 1980.
After she gave up her mandate on May 22, 1981, “Mado”, as she was commonly called in central Brittany, addressed her friends of the constituency of Loudéac with these words: ” I devoted my time and my heart to serve you all. » Marie-Madeleine Dienesch was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
After she retired from politics, she enjoyed poetry and literary criticism. She died on January 9, 1998 in Paris.
On October 19, 2016, a plaque in her honor (with the name of other resistance fighters and the first deputies Rachel Lempereur and Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier) was unveiled at the Palais Bourbon, seat of the National Assembly.
Read Nicole Chouraqui-Dahan's Biography
Nicole Chouraqui was born on March 18, 1938 in Algiers, Algeria, in a Pied-Noir Jewish family. She is the daughter of Félix Dahan and Marcelle Cohen-Bacri. Her childhood dream was to become an opera dancer, but she eventually studied economics and graduated from Sciences-Politiques in Paris. In 1960, she became a financial analyst, responsible for managing securities portfolios and company mergers, at the Paris Union Bank which was then the second French investment bank. In 1970, she was named director of the Office of Radio and Television of France (O.R.T.F.) and conceived a new business magazine.
On the political level, she was first involved with the Radical Party alongside Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, then joined the Rassemblement pour la République (R.P.R) in support of Jacques Chirac. She was an elected member of the European Parliament for two terms in 1980 and 1984 representing the European Progressive Democrats group which she vice-chaired at one point. She was also a member of the Defense of the Interests of France in Europe and sat on the Committee on External Economic Relations.
During her second legislature she switched to the Group of the European Democrats, of which she was Vice-President until 1987. She continued as a member of the bureau and then of the Rassemblement pour la République.
During her second term, she sat on the following commissions:
- Social Affairs and Employment,
- Budgetary Control
- Economic, Monetary and Industrial Policy and then as a deputy member of the same commission
And on the following Delegations for:
- Relations with Canada,
- Relations with the Maghreb Countries,
- Relations with Canada,
She was also appointed Councillor of the 16th arrondissement of Paris and Regional Councillor.
She died on August 31, 1987 in Paris. Since 1998, a street bears her name in the La Villette area of Paris.
Read Louise Weiss's Biography
Louise Weiss (1893–1983) was a journalist, politician, feminist and lifelong champion of European values and women’s rights. The journalist and politician Louise Weiss was an influential voice in French and international affairs from the 1920s until her death in 1983. Her experiences working in field hospitals during the First World War profoundly affected her. She dedicated her life to the pursuit of peace, first through her work on several newspapers and then in her dedication to the cause of female suffrage; her belief being that giving women the vote would help prevent the looming threat of a Second World War. During that war, she helped save thousands of Jewish children from the Nazis and joined the French Resistance. Post-war, she promoted the idea of Europe as a counterpoint to the superpowers during the Cold War. She was elected to the European Parliament in 1979 at the age of 86, and made the inaugural speech at its opening session. After her death, the European Parliament named its main building in Strasbourg after her in recognition of her lifelong support of European values.
Louise Weiss was born in Arras (Pas-de-Calais, France) on January 25, 1893, the eldest of six children in an upper middle class family of mixed Protestant-Jewish background. Her father, Paul-Louis Weiss, was a mining engineer and her mother Jeanne, a descendant of the prominent and influential Javal family which hailed from Alsace. Jeanne supported her daughter’s desire to achieve in education and Louise excelled in her studies. In 1914 she successfully completed the agrégation – the exam taken by those wanting to join the civil service. She obtained degrees in literature from both the Universities of Paris and Oxford before the First World War began to dominate her thoughts. Eager to contribute to the war effort, Weiss returned to France to set up a small military hospital in Brittany for wounded French soldiers and establish a home for refugees. As the conflict ended, Louise went to Switzerland to nurse former French prisoners of war and wrote an exposé of their treatment in German prison camps in the newspaper Le Radical under the pseudonym Louis Lefranc. Weiss saw journalism as a means to ‘make war on war’ and as women were excluded from politics in France at the time, she used her writing as a way of voicing her opinions and promoting the causes dear to her, such as peace and equality. She co-founded, with fellow journalist and publisher Hyacinthe Philouze, the weekly journal L’Europe Nouvelle, in January 1918. It soon became an important and respected journal on international affairs. She also became a correspondent for the Parisian daily, Le Petit Parisien, in 1919. While she continued to be a strong advocate for peace, her pacifistic tendencies began to waver as Hitler rose to power in Germany in the 1930s.
The policy of appeasement pursued by the League of Nations concerned Weiss, who began to support the use of force to guarantee peace and as a result, she relinquished her role with L’Europe Nouvelle in 1934. Her focus turned to women’s rights and especially women’s suffrage, which she believed could help turn the tide against war. She created a new organization, La Femme Nouvelle, which was dedicated to securing the vote for women.
As war with Germany became inevitable, Weiss – as one of the few journalists to devote significant attention to the Nazi persecution of political dissidents and Jews – used her influence to persuade French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet to create a government-sponsored refugee committee in December 1938 to help Jews fleeing the Nazis. She also helped to secure French visas for one thousand Jewish refugee children from Germany and Austria after the ‘Kristallnacht’ pogrom, and secured permission for several hundred refugees stranded on board the transatlantic liners Saint-Louis and Flandre to settle temporarily in France after they had been refused entry into the United States.
When France fell under Nazi occupation in 1940, life for Weiss and her family became increasingly difficult and dangerous. When her brother narrowly avoided arrest in 1943 on suspicion of aiding the resistance, Louise went into hiding and joined the resistance’s cause, editing the underground newspaper, La Nouvelle République. After the war, Weiss undertook a period of extensive travel around the globe, which lasted for almost a decade, during which she wrote many articles for prominent French magazines and newspapers on the leading role that the West, and Europe in particular, could take in promoting democratic values around the world. It was this belief that led to her championing Europe as a counterpoint to the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In 1971, she established the Louise Weiss Foundation to award an annual prize to the person or institution who contributed most to the advancement of the “science of peace”. Among the winners of this award are Vaclav Havel, Helmut Schmidt and Simone Veil.
With her focus now on Europe, Weiss successfully ran for election to the European Parliament in 1979, and gave the inaugural speech at the Parliament’s first session at the age of 86. In her speech she called on all Europeans to unite on the basis of common culture and not merely shared economic interests. Louise Weiss remained a member of the European Parliament and its oldest member until she died in 1983 at the age of 90. After her death, the European Parliament named its main building in Strasbourg after her in recognition of her lifelong support of European values.