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France

Feminists want 'great women' buried in Pantheon

© Fabienne Roumet for French feminist group 'La Barbe'.

Text by Sophie PILGRIM

Latest update : 2013-08-30

Around a hundred feminists gathered outside the Paris Panthéon on Monday to protest against the lack of women buried in the prestigious mausoleum, where the remains of Victor Hugo and Voltaire, among others, are interred.

Around one hundred women and a dozen men gathered outside the Pantheon mausoleum in Paris on Monday to demonstrate in favour of interring more women in the prestigious sanctuary, which is home to the remains of the country’s most treasured national figures.

There are currently only two women to 71 men buried at the site: Marie Curie, whose scientific breakthroughs changed the face of modern medicine; and Sophie Berthelot, who was buried alongside her husband, the chemist and politician Marcellin Berthelot.

In March, French President François Hollande said he wanted to grant due recognition to female historical figures in French history and has hinted that more women should be buried at the Pantheon in order to “represent the principles of the country”.

Monday’s demonstrators launched an online campaign to promote their idea, and put forward the names of five women they think the authorities should honour by transferring their remains to the site.

1. Olympe de Gouges, feminist pioneer (1748-1793).
2. Solitude, Guadeloupian freedom fighter (1772-1802).
3. Louise Michel, revolutionary (1830-1905).
4. Germaine Tillion, ethnologist and resistant (1907-2008).
5. Simone de Beauvoir, feminist philosopher (1908-1986).

An online petition by the campaigners calling on Hollande to “Pantheonise women” has already garnered almost 3,000 signatures.

On Tuesday, Centre for National Monuments director Philippe Bélaval announced that the general public will be able to vote in September for who should be “Pantheonised” next, in an online vote.

“Rather than limiting the debate to just institutional leaders, it seemed useful to me to open it to the wider public, so that everyone can offer their opinion,” Bélaval said. He did not mention the current gender imbalance.

Feminists have long complained of gold lettering on the façade of the building itself, which reads “To its great men, a grateful fatherland,” which they say should be altered to add “and women”.

 

Date created : 2013-08-27

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