Les Parisiennes

Anne Sebba

17th June 2020



This talk is about women in wartime Paris, Les Parisiennes, how they lived, loved and died under Nazi occupation. This is a story of resisters, collaborators, spies and couturiers. Some of whom slept with the German occupiers for romantic reasons others for food for their children and still others because they wanted the Germans to win.

Some bought designer clothes and commissioned jewellery from Cartier or Van Cleef & Arpels while others made their own clothes if they could, determined to look as chic as possible as way of defying the occupiers.

Some went to the theatre, opera and cinema where artists performed to the Wehrmacht. These performers were picked up at the Liberation and punished for supporting the enemy.

But other women in Wartime Paris were tortured or starving, courageous women fighting for freedom to believe in equality for all people, many of whom ended up in the concentration camp of Ravensbruck.

The climax of the talk is Christian Dior’s new look in 1947. But did you know about his sister Catherine Dior who was sent to Ravensbruck but never talked about her life as a resister because she was living in sin with a married man and fellow resister? Her story and the stories of many other women will be revealed in this lecture, but why has it taken so long for the varied and complicated role played by women in Paris to be openly talked about? In this talk I shall reveal some of the many reasons for this long silence, only now being broken.

Lecturer’s CV

Anne Sebba read History at King’s College London then joined Reuters as a foreign correspondent based in London and Rome. She is the acclaimed author of Jennie Churchill: Winston’s American Mother, the international bestseller That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor and seven other works of non-fiction. She is married with three children.