Brigitte Bardot is a French former singer and actress. One of the most popular sex symbols of the 1950s and 1960s, Bardot remains a major pop culture icon despite quitting the entertainment industry in 1973. Bardot is credited with popularizing the bikini. She also popularized the town of Armação dos Búzios and the city of St. Tropez in Brazil.
If others thought the body was the prison of the soul, Paul-Michel Foucault felt the other way round. The French philosopher, literary critic and Leftist who interpreted the link between power and knowledge, was a post-structuralist whose theories have left a mark on anthropology, psychology and criminology. The feminist was one of the noted personalities to have died of HIV/AIDS.
Olympe de Gouges was an 18th-century French playwright and political activist. Her writings on women's rights and abolitionism were popular in various countries. She was an outspoken advocate against the slave trade in the French colonies. She demanded that French women be given the same rights as French men. She was executed during the Reign of Terror.
Known widely as Turkey’s most popular female author, Elif Shafak is best known for her Booker-shortlisted bestseller 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World. A fierce advocate for gender equality and LGBTQ rights, she is also a 3-time TEDGlobal speaker. She now lives in London, on a self-imposed exile.
Jean-Michel Cousteau is a French environmentalist, oceanographic explorer, film producer, and educator. He is also an ardent advocate of a world without nuclear weapons. Cousteau is also credited with founding an education organization and marine conservation called Ocean Futures Society. Inspired by his documentary Voyage to Kure, President George W. Bush took measures to safeguard the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
Marina Picasso is a French humanitarian best known as the granddaughter of popular Spanish painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso. After inheriting a fifth of Pablo Picasso's estate, Marina Picasso used much of the inheritance to support humanitarian programs for children in need. Marina Picasso is credited with establishing a charitable organization called The Marina Picasso Foundation.
Eighteenth-century philanthropic educator Charles-Michel de l'Épée is regarded as the Father of the Deaf for pioneering the education of the deaf and dumb. He laid down the Signed French system, which enabled the deaf to participate in legal proceedings. His French Sign Language laid the path to the American Sign Language.
Hélène Cixous is a professor, poet, playwright, rhetorician, literary critic, philosopher, and French feminist writer. She is best known for writing an article titled The Laugh of the Medusa, which earned her popularity and established her as a thinker in post-structural feminism.
Alexander Berkman was a Russian-American anarchist and author. He was famous for both his political activism and his writing and was a leading member of the anarchist movement in the early 20th century. He served as the editor of fellow anarchist Emma Goldman's anarchist journal, Mother Earth. He suffered from ill-health in his later years and died by suicide.
Lebanese-born-French actress and film-director Delphine Seyrig played diverse roles in films and stage works. She garnered international recognition performing in the film Last Year at Marienbad and bolstered her career with other films like The Day of the Jackal and Muriel ou Le temps d'un retour. A prominent feminist-figure in France, Seyrig also directed films like Sois belle et tais-toi.
Luce Irigaray is a Belgian-born French philosopher, feminist, linguist, psychoanalyst, psycholinguist, and cultural theorist. She is best known for her research that examined the role of language in relation to women. Luce Irigaray's 1974 book Speculum of the Other Woman analyzes the texts of Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Freud, Descartes, and Hegel through the lens of phallocentrism.
Best known as the partner of legendary French philosopher Michel Foucault, Daniel Defert was initially a professor of sociology. After Foucault died of AIDS, Defert turned into an AIDS activist and formed AIDES, France’s first AIDS awareness organization. He inherited Foucault’s estate, despite opposition from Foucault’s family.
Bulgarian-born French author and literary critic Julia Kristeva is also a professor at the University Paris Diderot. Her writings, such as the Female Genius trilogy, are centered around feminism, semiotics, and psychoanalysis. She has also pioneered semanalysis and has been recognized with honors such as Commander of the Legion of Honor.
A significant figure of the Paris Commune, Louise Michel was born as an illegitimate child of a maid. She had initially been trained to be a teacher but later began developing an interest in revolutionary socialist ideas. She was also once sent behind bars for inciting riots.
Swiss-French activist and author Benjamin Constant is best remembered for penning the classic French novel Adolphe, which was one of the earliest psychological novels. Initially the chamberlain to the duke of Brunswick, he later supported the French Revolution and became a Member of the Chamber of Deputies.
Beate Klarsfeld is a Franco-German journalist best known for her work as a Nazi hunter. Beate and her husband Serge Klarsfeld achieved popularity for their documentation of many Nazi war criminals, including Alois Brunner, Kurt Lischka, Klaus Barbie, and Kurt Asche. Over the years, Beate Klarsfeld has been honored with numerous prestigious awards, including National Jewish Book Award.
The wife of Jean-Marie Roland, Madame Roland was a leading French revolutionary and often hosted significant political meets at her salon. She often directed her husband’s political actions and was responsible for creating a rift between the Jacobin and Girondin factions. She was later arrested and guillotined.
Her activism and outspokenness had earned Princess María Teresa of Bourbon-Parma the nickname Red Princess. Part of the Spanish royal family, she was educated at the Sorbonne. She later supported the Carlist movement and was a champion of women’s rights, too. She eventually died of COVID-19 at age 86.
Serge Klarsfeld is a Romanian-born French Nazi hunter and activist. He is best known for recording the Holocaust in order to enable the trial and prosecution of war criminals. Klarsfeld is also renowned for his efforts to commemorate the victims of German-occupied France.
Louis Auguste Blanqui was a French socialist who gave rise to Blanquism, a form of radicalism. While he initially studied both medicine and law, he later stepped into politics. He had been imprisoned for more than three decades and died of a stroke after a political speech at age 75.
Celine Cousteau is a public figure and socio-environmental advocate. She is renowned for her work as an explorer, documentary filmmaker, artist, public speaker, designer, and brand ambassador. Céline Cousteau is credited with founding CauseCentric Productions, which produces multi-media content.
Margaret of Valois-Angouleme, the wife of Henry II of Navarre, was a significant figure of the French Renaissance, and is also regarded as The First Modern Woman. She patronized artists and was herself an author, with several short stories and a religious poem to her credit.
Frédéric Passy was a French pacifist and economist. He is credited with co-founding the Inter-Parliamentary Union as well as many peace societies, such as the Société Française pour l'Arbitrage entre Nations. He is best known for his involvement in the European peace movement, for which he received the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.
Zineb El Rhazoui is a French journalist best known for her contribution as a columnist for the popular magazine Charlie Hebdo where she worked from 2011 to 2017. Rhazoui was in Morocco on 7 January 2015 when the Charlie Hebdo massacre took place. Since 2015, Rhazoui has been working as a human rights campaigner, speaking about free speech and Islam.
Born in Senegal, French politician and author Rama Yade started her career as a top-level civil servant with the French Senate. The UMP member has led France as its Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights and for Sports. She has also represented France at the UNESCO.