Women are wonderful and I love celebrating them, but sadly women’s history is often overlooked. Since I started doing literature tours around Paris’ Left Bank, a couple of months ago (check them out here at Localers), I have been trying to focus my tour on the women who were writing, publishing, inspiring and creating. For every mention of Hemingway, I talk in length about Sylvia Beach, who created the first Shakespeare Bookshop with support from her girlfriend Adrienne Monnier. Yes, the majority of famous modernist works came from men but to look back at the 1920-30’s you soon realise that it was women who were promoting, advising and publishing – not to mention some great work being created by the likes of Djuna Barnes, Gertrude Stein, Natalie Barney, Janet Flanner, Marguerite Duras et al.
Having increasingly indulged my passion for women’s history over the last few months I was very excited to go on one of the Women of Paris tours, created and led by the lovely Heidi, who having worked as a tour guide for a number of years decided to fill the gaping void that was Paris tours that covered women. As Heidi points out, Paris is often likened to a female muse and over the course of its history women have often taken a backseat fulfilling roles as wives, lovers or muses for men, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have their own history and that we shouldn’t hear their voices. Oh contraire! Heidi’s tours open up a different side to Paris; she is a great storyteller, giving the female perspective as she talks about the women who faced patriarchy and made their mark.
The tour I went on was the Sugar and Spice tour in my usual stomping ground of Saint Germain-des-Prés. It was great to see the area from a solely female angle and I enjoyed learning about Antoinette Fouque, as well as more details about Sidonie Colette, Simone De Beauvoir and George Sand (Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin). The tour is made all the sweeter through interval tastings at famous spots such as Pierre Hermé, Georges Larnicol and Meert.
Hearing all those stories about courageous women was inspiring and I am now looking forward to going on the Essential tour and developing my own research. Companies such as Women of Paris are bringing women’s history to the forefront after year’s of neglect, and making sure that we don’t stop talking about women. I can’t recommend these tours enough.