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Celebrating women of Normandy this International Women’s Day

On this International Women’s Day we take a look at the remarkable women who have have helped make Normandy the place we love.

In no particular order they are:

Designer Coco Chanel

When Coco Chanel opened her first dress shop in Deauville, overheated over-corseted ladies summering in the town were startled then delighted by Chanel’s collection of simple and stylish designs. We discovered how love took Coco to Deauville and quite a lot more in A little Deauville shop that changed the world.

Coco Chanel 1920
Coco Chanel 1920

Rose-Alphonsine Plessis, La Dame aux Camélias

From Normandy peasant girl to courtesan queen of Paris, the short life of Rose-Alphonsine inspired books, opera and films.

Marie Duplessis
Rose-Alphonsine Plessis, La Dame aux Camélias

Artist Marthe Flandrin

The tall tower by the side of a market square was an unremarkable medieval remnant, until we saw what Marthe had created inside…  The secret in the tower at Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët

Marthe Flandrin
Marthe Flandrin

Matilda of Flanders, wife of William the Conqueror

Matilda presented William with Mora, the ship he would sail to England in 1066.

While William was away battling, his dainty wife kept an iron grip on things back home in Normandy as we discovered in The very private castle of William the Conqueror, at Bonneville-sur-Touques

Matilda of Flanders
Matilda of Flanders

A pagan goddess and a black Madonna

The story of how Douvres la Délivrande lost a pagan goddess down a well, but gained a stylish Madonna, are revealed in this post A Goddess and the black Madonna of Douvres-la-Délivrande

The black Madonna and child of Douvres-la-Délivrande
The black Madonna and child of Douvres-la-Délivrande

Singer Edith Piaf

Neglected Paris urchin Edith Piaf was rescued by her father and sent to live with his brothel-keeping mother in Normandy.  Edith went on to became one of France’s greatest and most dishonest singers. Read about her childhood here Falling down the rabbit hole with Edith Piaf, in Bernay

Young Edith

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

Find out how a rather naughty little girl grew up to change the lives of millions in How to become a Saint, or…the early life of St. Thérèse, the little flower of Lisieux

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

Mabel de Bellême

Surviving medieval Normandy took bravery and intelligence. Mabel had both but why was she considered a monster? We found out in Sées.  

11th century Norman ladies of high rank

Queen Victoria

Why did Queen Victoria sail off in a huff from Cherbourg? We reveal all… Queen Victoria is not amused in Cherbourg

Queen Victoria photographed by Bassano

Writer and traveler Anna Bowman-Dodd

Honfleur is an evil-smelling place” Anna’s blisteringly review of her visit to Honfleur gave us a fascinating insight into this pretty port’s pongy history;  The bad review; Guest blogger Anna tells us about her visit to Honfleur, in 1890

Travel writer and our guest blogger Anna Bowman-Dodd - not afraid of a bit of dirt!
Travel writer and our guest blogger Anna Bowman-Dodd – not afraid of a bit of dirt!

Famous romantic Madam Bovary

Our visit to Rouen cathedral reminded us of a shocking afternoon in the life of silly, sexy Madam Bovary that began with a meeting inside these hallowed walls; A wicked cab ride around Rouen, with Madame Bovary

Emma Bovary and friend (don’t get in that cab Emma!)

Once the richest woman in France, Marie de Montpensier

A visit to Mortain revealed the sad story of a poor little rich girl used as a political pawn; A tiny duchess, happy hermits & Old Hickory bravery at Hill 314, in Mortain

Maria de Montpensier
Maria de Montpensier

Artist Danièle Perré

Danièle Perré was one of the many artists who used their creativity to help Normandy heal after WW2.  Her stained glass windows in Caen are exquisite, have a look here.

The brilliant and beautiful Danièle Perre
The brilliant and beautiful Danièle Perre

Catherine Dior, Resistance fighting sister of Christian

Christian and Catherine Dior were always close and enjoyed months every year by the sea in Granville.  As adults living through WW2 Catherine’s bravery led her to a concentration camp but she survived and inspired her brother to make one of his greatest creations ‘Miss Dior’. . .

Catherine Dior
Catherine Dior

Gertrude Käsebier, photographer

Gertrude was studying art as a mature student in Paris when she took a few days to visit Normandy.  Her photographs of peasant life reveal a world now long lost. Gertrude went on to become one of America’s most influential photographers of the 20th century.

Gertrude Kashehier, twilight, Normandy

Find out more about International Women’s Day on the IWD website.


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