I had never heard of this woman called Simone Veil until I stepped over in France for a holiday. She had recently died and the news of passing away was everywhere on the radio, the newspapers and television. I got curious. Who was she? Why was she so important?
I didn’t have to dig very deep to find out about a woman that captivated me completely. Her personal life was inspiring, a human being capable of overcoming tragedy in order to become a light for other people and for herself.
Simone was born in France on July 13, 1927. She was a jewish girl who had to live the troubled times of the nazi persecution. In 1944, only two days after presenting her bachelor’s degree test she was arrested along with her family and deported to Auschwitz with her two sisters. The three girls survived but her parents were not so lucky. She saw her mother die of typhus and she never saw her father again.
But it was precisely her mother who instilled the passion and courage that Simone needed to survive. She was the one who inspired her to fight for her life in those horrible times. Instead of regretting the tragedy that all have been through, she let the strength of her mother to be a constant in her life.
After returning to France, she studied law and politics and presented her exams to become a magistrate. After doing so and for the next 30 years, she dedicated her life to fight for women’s rights. Simone started as a penitentiary administrator, noticing that although the number of women prisoners was lower than men, their conditions inside the prison were worse and she improved the way they were treated. As a director of civil affairs, Simone fought for dual parental control of family legal matters and adoption rights for women.
But it was her fight for the right to abortion as a Health Minister that gave her a place in history. After a really difficult campaign against those in favour of keeping abortion illegal, the right to abort was declared permitted in France in January 1975. Her arguments were that women were aborting in dangerous conditions all over the country, and legalising it would permit safer procedures as well as regularising education and prevention campaigns such as contraception. Although at the beginning she suffered a lot of personal attacks for defending this law, after many years people starting thanking her for her bravery and determination and later on she became an icon in France.
It is inspiring to me that a whole country pays tribute to Simone Veil and that she will be buried with State honours. This is the type of woman that I admire and follow, strong, independent, intelligent, that fight for her cause, but at the same time is familiar, sensitive and caring and why not, stylish.
The French society has done part of the job as well, accepting women in society as equals, and we, the rest of the world, need to follow their steps.
Note: The pictures have been taken from voguefr, amaze.com, franceculture.fr and parismatch.com