CENL Event

8th March 2021

BnF: History of women from the 16th to the 20th century

8 million documents scanned in Gallica

Gallica has just passed the symbolic milestone of 8 million documents online. The BnF has chosen to celebrate this milestone from 8 March 2021 – the date of international Women’s Rights Day – by unveiling, for 8 days, 8 treasures sketching a history of women from the 16th to the 20thcentury. Many portraits of singular women are also to be discovered every week on the blog.

Gallica, a shared tool to write women’s history

For those who seek to write or understand the history of women, Gallica is an essential tool: the application of the Gallicanaut Sarah Sauquet, the chronicle“Proudof Letters”in Libération and theregularly published posts on this blog are all examples.

An exceptional portrait gallery

Who wants to know the women who made history or not, can, independently, follow in their footsteps in the digital library. In order to illustrate the richness of these funds freely accessible online, Gallica’s blog offers, each week, several posts drawing a gallery of portraits of well-known or unknown women. Various series of articles retrace the careers of women of letters,reporters, visual artists, art critics,composers, theatre directors, designers, bosses in the industry, bankers, traders, sports champions, pioneers of medicine,naturalist illustration, mapping, physics. Organized as part of the Gender Equality Generation Forum 2021, this program is set to continue and grow month by month.

Discover the Gallica blog programme

8 treasures related to the history of women from the 16th to the 20th century

To celebrate this week this symbolic milestone of 8 million documents online, Gallica also presents, for 8 days, 8 treasures that tell 8 unique stories and illustrate the variety of documents to be found in your digital library.

Mary Cassatt’s color aquatintes (1844-1926)

Born in Pennsylvania, Mary Cassatt showed an early desire to pursue an artistic career. This vocation led her to travel to Europe and then to Paris, where she became associated with the Impressionists through Edgar Degas. From 1879, she became interested in engraving, a medium in which she excelled. The discovery of the Japanese print in 1890 led to a series of ten colour engravings with aquatinte, which she then retouched at the dry tip, drawing the admiration of her contemporaries. This rare series, with a set of fifty other black and white engravings of equally exceptional quality, has just been digitized in Gallica. They convey the image of a woman who flourishes in motherhood but is open to the outside world, whom Cassatt, a fervent advocate for women’s emancipation, strives to represent. The collection of the collections of the BnF and the NHA Library in Gallica allows us to appreciate their differences and compare the different prints.

See you today, Monday, March 8, on the blog, Selections and social networks Gallica to learn more.


The Medical Work of Nicole Girard-Mangin (1878-1919)

In 1896, at the age of 18, Nicole Girard-Mangin began studying medicine and was admitted to the paris hospitals in 1899. Following her marriage, she interrupted her studies. After her divorce, she resumed her studies and became a doctor in 1909. She was particularly interested in tuberculosis and in 1913 wrote an essay on tb hygiene and prophylaxis at the beginning of the 20th century. The press praises the pedagogical qualities of its anti-tb guide. Following a misunderstanding, she was the first and only female doctor sent to the front in 1914: the army health service believed she was dealing with a man. His untimely arrival at the military hospital in Bourbonne-les-Bains caused a lot of uproar. Realizing its mistake, the administration pushes cynicism to the point of claiming to pay her as a mere nurse. The young woman’s run-ins with the military authorities are probably no stranger to her nascent vocation as a suffragette. Her courage and dedication were praised by the press. In 1916, she rose to the rank of assistant-major physician and was appointed head of a hospital-school whose mission was to train professional military nurses. At 41, probably a victim of a burnout, she commits suicide. His death is modestly attributed to an embolism.

Visit the Gallica blog and social networks on Tuesday, March 9th to learn more.

Hélène Guertik’s children’s albums (1897-1937)

Hélène Guertik (Elena Pavlovna Gertik) is one of the Russian artists recruited by teacher and publisher Paul Faucher in the 1930s to create the Albums of Father Castor. She published ten books for young people in this fertile period, including Album Fairy (1933) which plays on optical illusions or The Farm of Father Castor (1937). It is famous for its coloring albums,in the tradition of Father Castor’s activity books that appeal to the child’s creativity.

Visit the Gallica blog and social networks on Wednesday, March 10th to learn more.

Portraits by Selika Lazevski’s Nadar Workshop

The only known testimony of the existence of Sélika Lazevski is a set of 6 photographs of the Nadar workshop, 4 of which are kept at the BnF. She would have been a squire at the New Circus at the Belle Époque, and would have practiced high school, an advanced training technique, but there is no evidence to support this. It is, however, a notable exception at a time when black performers were not or very little represented.

Visit the Gallica blog and social networks on Thursday, March 11th to learn more.

Facing censorship: the copy of The Essay De l’Allemagne, by Germaine de Stael (1766-1817)

A seminal work of a new era of sensibility, which celebrates German genius and rehabilitates the creative virtues of imagination, The essay Germaine de Stael’s Germany heralds, at the dawn of the 19th century, the Romanticism to come. The book was to be published in Paris when Napoleon deemed it contrary to the interests of France. In October 1810 he renewed Madame de Stael’s conviction in exile and ordered the destruction of the print, of which only four copies remain. The BnF, acquired in 1926, was the one that had been censored for review(Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 ).

Visit the Gallica blog and social networks on Friday, March 12th to learn more.

Naturalist illustrations by Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)

Artist, naturalist, explorer, independent woman: Maria Sibylla Merian is an extraordinary figure. The daughter of the engraver and cartographer Matthaus Merian the Elder, she is the sister of the engravers Caspar and Matthaus the Younger. Her mother remarried the painter Jacob Marrell, who introduced her to painting and married one of the students. She has two daughters, painters of flowers and insects like their mother. His naturalistic knowledge is no less remarkable than his artistic talent. Maria Sibylla Merian is passionate about insects, students from the egg to the butterfly to the caterpillar and the cocoon. Separated from her husband, she moved with her daughters to a Labadist community, then to Amsterdam. In this city, the mayor found her the funds for a trip to Surinam, a Dutch possession in South America, where she went in 1699-1701, accompanied by her daughter Dorothea. She returns ill but rich in first-hand documentation on the insects of Surinam, which she published in 1705, making the text and the plates.

Visit the Gallica blog and social networks on Saturday, March 13th to learn more.

Catherine de Medici’s pendant (1519-1589)

Decorated with a large emerald flanked by precious stones and enamelled decorations, the pendant known as “Catherine de Medici” is a remarkable example of French Renaissance silversmithing. The object was made at the request of the Queen Mother to be offered at Christmas 1571, probably to her son, Charles IX. In addition to the richness of the décor, this jewel is exceptional because the BnF also retains the letter of command of the Queen’s hand. It shows the sovereign’s direct involvement in the design of the object, including the elaboration of the message it was intended to deliver.

Visit the Gallica blog and social networks on Sunday, March 14th to learn more.

A plea for the legalization of the divorce of 1841, the factum of Marie Lafarge (1816-1852)

Accused of poisoning her husband, Marie Lafarge was sentenced in 1840 to forced labour for life. Gallica invites you to discover this factum, published in 1841, which is a vibrant plea for the legalization of divorce. It is attached to the BnF’s collection of factums publications written as part of a legal action by either party between the 16th and 20th centuries available in Gallica. The Marie Lafarge case inspired many authors, including Gustave Flaubert to write Madame Bovary.

Visit the Gallica blog and social networks on Monday, March 15th to learn more.

Portrait of Marie Lafarge in The Lafarge Affair by Marcelle Tinayre, 1935

To go further

Many posts related to women’s history are published on this blog throughout the year. The multiplication of portraits dedicated to writers or women artists at the Academy allows us to question the place of creators in society but also the social, economic and cultural contexts of the production of the works cited, beyond individual trajectories.

Similarly, the iconographic backgrounds available in Gallica are useful references for studying the representations of women in the visual culture of sport or the performing arts..

Other online resources are finally used to trace the history of collective struggles, as illustrated by the Selections dedicated to the feminist press from the 1830s to the mid-20th century and the posts devoted to mobilizations for women’s rights in the 19th century or the history of abortion..

8 million documents in Gallica: follow the event on social networks with the hashtag #Gallica8Millions

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