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September 21: Ministre de la Culture

September 20, 2016

Françoise Giroud (Lea France Gourdji), a writer, screenwriter, journalist, and political activist who co-founded the French news magazine L’Express in 1953 and edited it until 1971, was born to Sephardic Turkish parents in Lausanne, Switzerland on this date in 1916. Giroud also edited Elle magazine from 1946 to 1953 and wrote some thirty books, fiction and non-fiction, in the course of her eighty-six years. She served as Minister of Women’s Affairs and as Minister of Culture in the cabinets of Jacques Chirac and Raymond Barre. Giroud “encouraged a new generation of women journalists” in France, writes Anne-Elisabeth Moutet in The Guardian, “helping them polish their writing and personal style, then sending them to ferret out stories from France’s notoriously vain male politicians.” “A determined leftist from her earliest years,” writes Benjamin Ivry in the Forward, “she . . . fervently supported the Popular Front led by Jewish politician Léon Blum after experiencing the ‘cruelty of the bourgeoisie’ in France. Her first major challenges came in Occupied France, where Françoise and her older sister, Djenane, known as Douce, were active in the Résistance. In 1943, Giroud was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Fresnes Prison, near Paris, but she was freed in July 1944, due to a lack of evidence against her and to the fact that the Germans had no idea she was Jewish.” Douce died at Ravensbruck. Her long love affair with her married L’Express co-founder Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber became a public gossip item throughout France — as did her two suicide attempts.

“Equal rights for the sexes will be achieved only when mediocre women occupy high positions.” --Françoise Giroud