There can be no doubt that several famous French women altered the landscape of their time and left legacies that continue to influence the modern culture of today.
Historical Famous French Women
The following women can be divided into several different categories: historical, cultural and scientific. Two such historically influential French women include Joan of Arc and Marie Antoinette.
Joan of Arc
Movies have been made in her honor, and modern politicians continue to evoke her inspirational story, but Joan of Arc remains a controversial and misunderstood figure in history.
Her biography is the stuff of legends: A poor peasant girl rises through the military ranks to lead the French army in victory over the English, all the while dressed in men's clothing and claiming divine visions.
In the end, her young life is cut short by a trial claiming heresy and the youth of just nineteen is burned at the stake. Although many argue that Joan of Arc was not a feminist, she remains a touchstone for those seeking equal rights all around the world. Whether it was her passion, her drive or the unshakable commitment to her convictions, Joan of Arc is still one of the most inspirational female figures in history.
Born the archduchess of Austria, and becoming the queen of France by marriage, Marie Antoinette is often looked upon as one of the villains during the French Revolution. Widely condemned for her "excesses", she suffered greatly in her life. However, before she was sentenced to death by guillotine, Marie Antoinette was something of an icon during the late 1700's.Whatever one may think about her response to, and actions during, the French Revolution, one thing is certain: Marie Antoinette left few things to fate, and in fact, conducted herself in a way, that at the time, seemed radical:
- She alone supervised the education and upbringing of her children (something that was virtually unheard of for a member, much less the Queen, of the royal court).
- She also participated in amateur plays and musicals as a creative outlet for her passions? Doing so created quite a scandal.
For whatever reasons, Marie Antoinette remains a controversial figure to this day, and one that historians continue to study.
Beauty and Popular Culture
Two extremely influential famous French women of the beauty and popular culture sector are Coco Chanel and Brigitte Bardot.
Arguably the most influential fashion designer of any time is Coco Chanel. Born into poverty, Coco Chanel did not have an easy life. At the age of twelve, her mother died of tuberculosis and young Coco had little choice but to live at an orphanage. It was there that she learned a trade; that of seamstress.
Her misfortune, however, turned out to be a great fortune for the fashion world as she began to first design creative hats, and then raincoats. Coco Chanel opened a store in the heart of Paris, but with the advent of the war, quickly found herself in debt. With the store closed, Coco dug deep, found steely resolve, and tried yet again. Her fashion genius of elegant simplicity radically altered the fashion landscape of ornate, complicated dressing, and a true fashion legend was born.
Whether you call her a sex-kitten, or a screen goddess, one thing is certain. The arrival of Brigitte Bardot onto the big screen caused quite a commotion, and her legendary beauty was both admired and revered by millions around the world."The Girl in the Bikini", Brigitte Bardot is in fact credited with the popularization of the bikini, and her "bedroom hair" of softly mussed waves, and heavily made up sultry eyes, can still be found on the supermodels of today.
Although she met with controversy in her later years, we can all agree that when Brigitte Bardot appeared on film, she rocked the world of beauty with her heady mix of feminine charms and angelic beauty.
In the male dominated world of science, one woman remains a giant. That woman is Marie Curie. Although she is not French born, she lived a large portion of her life in France.
Marie Curie is one of the most influential physicists and chemists of her time. It is her detailed and time consuming work that became the very basis for The Manhattan Project. Her discoveries of radon, and the interaction of molecules and the atom, are even a part of the blueprint of the Large Hadron Collider of today. If we, as a people, are ever able to observe the seconds after the big bang, we'll have this amazing French woman to thank for it.