Elite French school chooses ‘figure of emancipation’ Louise Weiss as patron

Louise Weiss (front) was a prominent figure in France's suffragette movement. [Wikipedia]

France’s prestigious National School of Administration adopted the great feminist, journalist and European activist Louise Weiss as its patron for the class of 2016-2017. Alumni of the ENA include François Hollande and Jacques Chirac. EURACTIV France reports.

After a long debate and vote on Friday (10 February), the class of 2016-2017 at the National School of Administration (ENA) in Strasbourg settled on the name of Louise Weiss “in homage to a courageous woman of action, journalist, writer, European and feminist”.

In choosing Weiss as their patron, the students aimed to show their admiration for a “figure of feminine emancipation and a committed European”.

The ENA is an elite school famed for producing top members of the French administration, as well as several presidents.

“After carrying out ambitious studies against the will of her family, at 21 Louise Weiss became the youngest woman ever to obtain a degree in classical literature. She then joined up as a nurse during World War One and later became a great correspondent. From the end of the war she campaigned for the League of Nations, then the European ideal, which she continued to defend as France’s first female MEP in 1979. All her life, she fought for women’s rights, particularly the right to vote,” the ENA stated on its website.

Weiss launched the publication l’Europe Nouvelle in 1918. The review of European political, economic and social issues was published until 1939.

The other names proposed by the ENA were Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus in Greek mythology, who braved great danger to bury her brother, as well as Louis German, the teacher of Albert Camus and ardent supporter of lay schooling, and the novelist Joseph Kessel.

The European Parliament’s Strasbourg building already carries the name of Louise Weiss, as does the literary prize awarded by the Association of European Journalists, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Hippocrène Foundation.

For a school where gender balance remains a distant aspiration, the choice of a prominent feminist as patron is no small matter. Just one third of ENA students are women, despite the fact that the school has been run by a woman, Nathalie Loiseau, for the last four years.

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