SEPTEMBER 30: Jeanne Galzy (1883-1977)

The lesbian French
writer Jeanne Galzy was born on this day in 1883. Although her novels and artistic work has largely
been left out of the canon and forgotten, Jeanne was a staple of the French
artistic community in the 1920s and has been dubbed one of the “pioneers
in the writing of lesbian desire and despair.”

Jeanne Baraduc, known by her pen name of Jeanne Galzy, photographed by Henri Martinie (x).

Jeanne was born as Louise Jeanne
Baraduc on September 30, 1883 in Montpellier, France. Her parents were wealthy
poets who were heavily involved in the literary world. Due to their wealth,
Jeanne was able to attend some of the top schools of her time, such as the
École normale supérieure de jeunes filles in Sèvres, and immersed herself in
academia. After passing the notoriously difficult agrégation exam, she went on to
become the first woman to teach at a boys’ school in Montpellier in 1915.

Not long after beginning her
teaching career, Jeanne contracted tuberculosis and was sent to convalesce in Berck.
While on bedrest, she began writing her first novel, Les Allongés, which would win the Prix Femina Literary
Award in 1923. She kept
teaching for a while, but eventually found enough financial stability to make
writing her career. By the end of her life, she had published 5 novels, written
a play, received multiple literary awards, and even served as a member on the Prix
Femina jury. Her most famous novel, L’Initiatrice
aux mains vides
/Burnt Offering was
published in 1929 and tells the story of a clandestine lesbian relationship between
a student and a teacher. In 1930, it won the Prix Brentano Literary Award and
it is commonly believed that the novel was inspired by Jeanne’s own lesbianism
and the sexual experiences she had during her own school days at all girls’
academies.

Jeanne would pass away on May 7,
1977. At the time of her death, she was a celebrated hometown hero and the
pride of Montpellier, but as time has gone on, her contributions to lesbian
literature and culture have faded from history. Today, only one of her novels
has been translated into English and none of her books are still in print.

-LC

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