The November lecture, will be given by Anna Sebba and is the story of the women of Paris during the 1940’s.
Les Parisiennes is a story about women’s lives during the dark years of Nazi occupation and beyond and includes British and American women caught in Paris as well as native born resisters who were eventually sent to camps.
The lecture opens with a magnificent surrealist circus ball held by Elsie de Wolfe at the magnificent Villa Trianon, a Louis XV chateau in the grounds of the Palace of Versailles. Many of the guests there could not believe that war is imminent but, in a different part of Paris, thousands of refugees such as Miriam Sandzer are only too aware that they must escape as soon as they can, but how?
By 1940, following the swift defeat by Germany, Chanel moved into the Ritz with her German lover as wartime Paris became a city of women. The men were either prisoners of war in Germany, with de Gaulle and the Free French in London or in hiding.
Several British women working as secret agents began living clandestinely in the city escorting downed Allied airmen from one safe house to another. Women were essential because they attracted less attention and many of those who joined Winston Churchill’s secret army of SOE (special operations executive), first had to get to Britain for training before being flown back in. Most, such as Violet Szabo and the Indian princess, Noor Inayat Khan, were caught and tortured. Few survived.
While these women were leading highly dangerous lives, actors were performing at the Comédie Française and the Wagnerian, Germaine Lubin, singing at the Opera House as the Germans wanted to create an illusion that everything was carrying on as normal. The wealthy heiress and keen horsewoman Beatrice de Camondo foolishly believed it was and since her family had already given so much to the state, including her magnificent home, she would be safe.
Alongside the creativity of jewelers such as Cartier and Van Cleef, designers including Jeanne Lanvin and Maggie Rouff ware flourishing partly because they were making costumes for stage and screen as well as gowns and jewels for the wives of German officers. But at the same time the brilliant story teller Irène Nemirovsky, author of Suite Française, was sent to her death.
After the war, American and British diplomats, tourists and secretaries flooded in to Paris. There were cultural, diplomatic and economic initiatives – as well as affairs – and in 1947 Paris celebrated Christian Dior’s New Look as well as a perfume, Miss Dior, named after his sister Catherine, a resister, who had only just survived a prison camp and never wanted to talk about her experiences.
The lecture ends with two Americans arriving in Paris for short stays with dramatic results; Julia Child, a former diplomat discovered French cuisine and wrote a ground breaking book about it while Jacqueline Bouvier stayed with a countess, a war widow in hard times who had survived a camp, and discovered the Parisian style for which she was forever renowned.
Anne a biographer, historian and author of eleven books who lectures to a variety of audiences in the US and UK, including the English Speaking Union, Royal Overseas League, National Trust, British Library and Imperial War Museum. A former Reuters foreign correspondent, Anne is now a broadcaster – she presented a BBC R3 documentary about the pianist Harriet Cohen and for Radio 4 the documentary Who was Joyce Hatto? she regularly appears on television talking about her books, mostly biographies including Jennie Churchill, William Bankes, Laura Ashley and Wallis Simpson. The latter, published as That Woman, was an international bestseller. Her latest book is a history of Paris between 1939-49 through women’s eyes published in 2016 as Les Parisiennes How the women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died in the 1940s. Anne is a former chair of Britain’s 9,000 strong Society of Authors.
If you didn’t attend the Anniversary Lunch last month then your copy of 50 Treasures of Dumfries and Galloway will be available to pick up, additional copies will be available for sale as they look like very good stocking fillers.
This month we will be raffling an appropriate book, so don’t forget your tickets.
The annual Malcolm Sergeant Click Christmas Fair at Easterbrook Hall on Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th November. 4 pm -7 30pm on Monday ,entrance £6.00 which includes a cocktail and canapes, and Tuesday opening times are 10.00am to 3.30pm
After the summer recess the Committee start to view available lectures and their suitability for 2019-2020 and beyond. If any member has a subject that they think would be suitable, would they contact anyone of the committee or Susan Leask, our Programme Secretary.
Finally, would any of you fancy joining the committee, you would not be dropped in the deep end but would be tutored before going solo, if you are interested please contact any committee member.