In the late 19th century France, Marguerite Durand was tired of your shit. And if you didn’t like that her pet lion took a shit on your carpet, that was too damn bad. She launched a feminist newspaper that was staffed solely by women, except for the janitor. He was a man. Someone had to clean up the lion poop.
--On This Day in History Shit Went Down: December 9, 1897--
Durand was born in 1864 in Paris to an unwed mother and sent to a convent for her early education, then she went on to the Paris Conservatory to study performing arts before joining the famed theater group Comédie Française at the age of 17.
Seven years later she gave up her acting career to marry a lawyer who introduced her to the world of politics, getting her involved in writing pamphlets. The marriage wouldn’t last, but her passion for writing would. She took a job writing for the leading Parisian paper Le Figaro; in 1896 they sent her to cover the International Feminist Congress with the intention that she would pen a humorous take on it. Instead, it radicalized her, because the idea that women are equal to men still seems a radical idea to many, even though an entire fucking century has gone by since then. Jesus. The fuck is wrong with us?
Anyway, the following year, on December 9, 1897, Marguerite Durand launched her own daily feminist publication called La Fronde, which meant “slingshot,” referring to a mid-17th century rebellion against the French monarchy. The paper advocated for women’s rights across a multitude of areas, including not just voting rights but admission to the bar and acceptance into a men’s-only art school.
A brash and audacious woman with a background in public performances, Durand took no shit. She became known for walking the streets of Paris with her pet lion, named “Tiger.” One journalist said of Tiger, “She is at once a great spoiler of carpets and a symbol.”
Coupled with her beauty, which Durand admitted she used as a weapon to spread her message of equal rights for women, she could not be ignored. Her publication, her persona, and her activism raised feminism’s profile in France to new heights. Besides all of her employees at the paper being women, they were paid the same wages as men for the same work. The paper changed many attitudes regarding women’s capabilities in various areas previously believed to be solely the dominion of men.
Get both volumes of ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY SH!T WENT DOWN at JamesFell.com/books.