01-early-life




Early
Life
(1876
1905)









French writer Simone Bodève was born Jeanne Chrétien at 113 Rue d'Aboukir, in Paris Second district, on February 1st 1876. She was the eldest daughter Eugène Chretien (born 1849) and Eugénie Debove (born in 1854). Both parents worked as florists (artificial flower makers). Did the writer derive her pseudonym from her mother's maiden name? The street  is still the home of several textile-related small-businesses, one of which is located opposite 113 rue d'Aboukir. By the time, her brother Henri was born in 1879, the family had settled at 12 rue Faubourg Saint-Denis and
Eugène was working as an upholsterer while his wife Eugenie still worked as a florist. Jeanne had five brothers  and sisters.  her younger sister Marguerite was born in 1889. ). Her other siblings were called: Mathilde, Leon and Georges.
 
On Jeanne's birth record, we see that the two witnesses Louis Chrétien (born 1854) and Théodore Larcanger also lived at 113 rue d'Aboukir. Louis was also a florist and Theodore was a  shoemaker. The clerk who registered the birth was called Roger Dhostel. 



According to the journalist Claire Geniaux  , Simone
Bodève was a precocious girl with a serious spirit. She went to a communal school and she showed good promise in science, according to author Henri Poulaille, she learnt science, English and German.  In one of his letters, Romain Rolland also refers to her interest for science. Simone Bodève left school at 14 after her leaving certificate to train as a florist. Her brother Henri was apprenticed at the age of 12 at the Chaix the printer's (now famous for printing Toulouse-Lautrec posters) , the printer also published "Journal des mathematiques elementaires" which inspired Henri to study astronomy . He joined Flammarion's French Astronomical Society  graduated from the university of Paris in 1902 and also obtained an engineering diploma.    Decades later, he  was involved with the optical theory that lead to the development of the hypergonar lense used for cinemascope films and received an oscar in 1954.  Henri is also credited for the co-invention of the  Ritchey-Chrétien telescopeA crater on the moon is named after him.
It was quite common in those days for working-class children to be apprenticed at a young age.  Working-class girls were expected to earn money and marry. Jeanne continued her education at her own costs and  in her spare time. 
She also attended lectures on mathematics and philosophy. The philosopher Pascal interested her. She also became a member of the French astronomical society in 1897. Information about her relationship with her family is scant, finding photographs of her has proven to be a difficult task. Her future brother-in-law wrote in his diary that Jeanne was obedient to her mother.  Jeanne witnessed the boom in the French textile industry  as there was a great demand for artificial flowers which were used as corsage brooches and embellishment. it is estimated that 6.000 workers were employed in that profession. She also witnessed that the boom did not translate into higher wages for those workers. It was very much a busy cottage industry that was run from home selling to the  fashion industry (dressmakers, milliners, haberdashers, fabric seller, accessories). Paris and New York were the two main centres for these products which were exported all over the world. Some of these small businesses employed workers on a zero hour contract basis and they earned roughly about 3.50 francs a day (the price of a paperback book or a week's rent of an unfurnished attic room) but did not receive any unemployment nor incapacity benefits. Nowadays, there are still shops on rue d'Aboukir who sell to the trade and small boutiques. Sajou's the haberdashery shop  used to trade at the time of  Simone Bodève until it closed down in the 1950s - it has been revived a decade ago as an artisan small business selling French-made haberdashery, the old pattern and threads made by the last spinning-mill in France. 
 Flower makers (Paris 1867)

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