Louise Weiss

"A European's memory"


1893: Born in Arras, on the 26th of January. Her father’s family originated from Alsace (la Petite-Pierre)
1914 : At the age of 21 she becomes the youngest person awarded a diploma in classics from
1914 : War nurse
1918 -1934 : She founds and edits « The New Europe » (L'Europe Nouvelle), a weekly magazine dedicated to the French and international politics
1930 : She founded « The New School of Peace » ( Nouvelle Ecole de la Paix) an independent establishment of higher education aimed to support the activities of the League of Nations (LON)
1934-1937 : She founded the association « The New Women » (la Femme Nouvelle) and militates for the right to vote of the French women
1934 : She marries the architect José Imbert, but will separate in1936
1939 : She was named executive secretary of the Committee in charge with the accommodation of German and Easter European refugees
1943-1944 : She was member of the Patriam Récuperare network
1946-1968 : She made several documentary films in America, Asia and Africa
1965: She founds the Museum of River Fleet (Musée de la Batellerie) at Conflans Sainte Honorine
1965-1970: She becomes executive secretary of the French Institute of Polemology
1968: She publishes the first volume of « The Memories of an European » (Mémoires d'une Européenne)
1971: She creates the foundation Louise Weiss aimed to continue her action in favour of the European unity and the sciences of peace
1976: She was honoured the title Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour
1979: She was elected deputy in the European Parliament, being the oldest member
1981: She donates to the town of Saverne her historical and ethnographic collections
1983: She dies in Paris at the age of 90. She makes the town of Saverne her sole legatee.

Weiss Dankert VeilThree major commitments mark Louise Weiss’ life: Europe, feminism and journalism.

In 1915, she started a journalistic career at the newspaper Le Radical under the pseudonym of Louis Franc. In 1919, she was a correspondent at Prague Information. This position allowed her to meet the new political class of Czechoslovakia in charge of the independence of the country. She also became a member of the Soviet Union where she met the most important leaders.

Since the creation in 1918 of her magazine « The New Europe » (L’Europe Nouvelle), Louise Weiss became interested in women’s right to vote. She believed that the access of French women to vote will avoid a new war. In 1934, after resigning from the chief position of her magazine, she got into contact with the people in charge of the voting movements, only after deciding on a common programme. She founded a propaganda association « The New Woman » (La Femme Nouvelle) through which she organised several manifestations. Louise Weiss forwards her symbolic standing for the local elections in 1935 and at the legislative ones in 1936. In 1935, she counts more than 16.000 votes. The vote for women’s suffrage was not possible because of the hostility of the Senate. Only in 1944 will the right to vote be given to French women.

After the Second World War, she cooperates with the sociologist Gaston Bouthoul, the founder of the Polemology, and analyses by means of her voyages around the world the source of conflicts that emerge in the East-West context and the colonial wars. She brings several voyage testimonies, published as novels, documentaries or travel books (the collection of blue Guides). In 1965, Louise Weiss becomes executive secretary of the French Institute of Polemology (founded by Gaston Bouthoul), but she resigns in 1970 in order to found an Institute of the Sciences of Peace in 1971 in Strasbourg.

In order to honour her Alsatian origins, before passing away she donated her collections to the Museum du Château des Rohan à Saverne, a part of which is dedicated to her. She also gave her correspondence and manuscripts to the National Library, and her books to the National and University Library in Strasbourg. Louise Weiss passed away on the 26th of May 1983, at 90 years old.

Since 1999, the main building of the European Parliament was named Louise Weiss.
79-07 Weiss louiseAfter the First World War, Louise Weiss, like many other young women of her generation, was astonished by the millions of deaths and the scale of destruction. After being introduced to the new geopolitical conditions of Europe by her friends from Czechoslovakia and Slovakia (Bénès, Stefanik, etc), she founded in 1918, at the age of 25, a magazine dedicated to international politics, called « The New Europe » (L’Europe Nouvelle), which she will edit from 1920 to 1934. The articles, which were written by the most known political and university personalities, dealt with economic, diplomatic and literary issues.

In 1924, she met Aristide Briand at the National Assembly of the League of Nations (LON) in Geneva. In her magazine, she supports his politics in favour of peace (reconciliation between France and Germany, and disarmament) and stands for the ideas regarding the European construction (memorandum about the European Federal Union and Plan of the European Union). She will name Briand « peace pilgrim ».

In January 1934, due to a hostile international circumstance blocking her struggle for peace (the accession of Nazism in Germany), she resigned from the leadership of the « New Europe ». In 1940, she became part of the French Resistance under the name of Valentine, and she took part in the editorial activity of the secret newspaper “The New Republic” (La Nouvelle République). After 1945 she considered returning to her magazine and she voyaged to the continents of America, Africa and Asia.

In 1979, at the age of 86, she was elected on the occasion of the first European elections with universal suffrage to the European Parliament, on the Gaullist list. During the opening session, which took place on the 17th of July 1979, she held a speech as the oldest member of the Parliament, where she mentions those who had a role in the European construction. For the future, she distinguishes three major issues: identity, natality and legality. Finally she makes a call for unity, stating: “Europe will find its radiance only by lighting the leading light of the conscience, the life and the right”. As a deputy (1979-1983) she was a member of the European Commission of Culture, Youth and Sports. She envisioned the founding of a European University, the teachers exchanges and even the founding in Strasbourg of a Museum of the European conscience. Thus, many of the accomplishments of the European Union were based on her initiatives.

Political Works
-“The Republic of Czechoslovakia”( La République Tchécoslovaque), 1919
-"Milan Stefanik" , Praga 1920

- “Memories of a republican childhood”(
Souvenirs d'une enfance républicaine), Paris, 1937
- “What the woman wants”(
Ce que femme veut), Paris, 1946
-"Memories of an European"(Mémoires d'une Européenne), Paris, 1968-1976

-"Liberation"(Délivrance), Paris, 1936
-"The Marseillaise"(La Marseillaise), Vol I and II Paris, 1945 ; Vol III Paris, 1947
-"Sabine Legrand", Paris, 1951

-"Tha Last Pleasures"(Dernières Voluptés), Paris, 1979

Theatrical Works
-"Arthur or the joy of suicides"(Arthur ou les joies du suicide)
-"Sigmaringen or the potentate of nothingness"(Sigmaringen ou les potentats du néant)
-"The new arrival"(Le récipiendaire)
-"The leader"(La patronne)
-"Adaptation of The Last Pleasures"(Adaptation des Dernières Voluptés)

Sociological Essay
-"Letter to an embryo"(Lettre à un embryon), Paris, 1973

Art, Archeology and Folklore
-"Stories and legends of the Grand-Nord"(Contes et légendes du Grand - Nord), Paris, 1957

Travel books
-"The gold, the lorry and the cross"(L'or, le camion et la croix), Paris, 1949
-"The charming voyage"(
Le voyage enchanté), Paris, 1960
-"The Kashmir, the Albums of the Blue Guides"(
Le Cachemire, Les Albums des Guides Bleus), Paris, 1955


The Foundation Louise Weiss

In 1971, Louise Weiss creates the Foundation Louis Weiss and an annual prize offered as a reward to the authors or the institutions that have brought the biggest contribution to the development of the sciences of peace, to the improvement of human sciences and to the efforts towards Europe. The Science Council of the Foundation Louis Weiss awards this prize every year. Among the prize-winner are: Helmut Schmidt (1977), Anouar el Sadate (1980), Simone Veil (1981), Jacques Delors (1988), Vaclav Havel (1990) and Adrien Zeller (1998).

A Museum Louis Weiss in Saverne

In the right wing of the castle of Rohan in Saverne, it is the Museum Louise Weiss, where we can find the collections of Louise Weiss, donated to the town of Saverne before passing away. These collections count around 600 art objects, paintings, ethnographical objects and also personal archives.

A rose dedicated to Louise Weiss

In 1993, on the occasion of celebrating 100 years since the birth of Louise Weiss, she was paid a tribute by baptising, in the rosary of Saverne, a rose “Louise Weiss”, by Catherine Lalumière, who was then executive secretary of the Council of Europe. All the rights regarding this yellow rose have been transferred to the Rosary of Saverne.

© Photos : Parlement européen