Smart Girl Stories

Germaine de Stael – A Woman of Letters

Today’s SmartGirl highlight is Germain de Stael: a figure in the French Revolution of 1789-1799. Although she is considered a hidden figure, she has left an impactful legacy that is still being paid attention to today.

Germain de Stael was an author who fought for women’s rights as she recognized their importance in society as influential leaders; her novel Corinne further advocated for this belief.

Germain de Stael used her writing and intellectualism to express her true feelings about current events at that time and inspired many worldwide because of her character and traits. Germain de Stael serves as an inspiration to women everywhere who strive to use their intellect to make meaningful contributions.

The Early Years Of Germain de Stael

Germain was born to a financier father and a mother who worked for several years as a governess. In fact, her mother’s training as an educator likely had an impact on the woman de Stael ended up becoming.

Nicknamed, “Minette,” Germaine de Stael showed incredible intelligence at a very young and was said to be reading serious works like Dante and Shakespeare in her young adult years. Her language and writing skills would be useful later when she entered diplomatic and political circles as the wife of a baron.

At age 17, she married Erik Magnus Staël von Holstein, an aristocrat and ambassador representing French interests overseas. Though her husband was the official ambassador, the real diplomatic work was happening behind the scenes by de Stael, who was organizing meetings, speaking at summits, and reviewing policies and programs—all tasks that need attention from a career diplomat.

According to Glenda Sluga (professor at the University of Sydney), De Staël was the real organizer behind official operations for the government of France. Stories like hers raise a lot of curiosity for historians interested in women’s hidden roles during important historical events.

Charisma, Politics, and Publishing

Having some talent in reading and writing at a young age meant that Germaine de Stael was gifted with language and communication. Because of this, she was good at reading books and reading about the larger social and political issues facing the French public during the revolutionary years. Spending years reviewing press statements, novels, protests, and the morale of the rebelling French people meant that she was able to capture the pulse of the moment in a way that led to a role as a leader in the revolutionary era.

Spending years managing projects, leading meetings, and networking with members of government means that de Stael used her quick thinking, sharp perspective, and social skills to build a reputation as an effective politician.

With time, her talents came across not just in diplomatic settings but also in writing. De Stael took up writing books, essays, and magazine articles that were read widely by the people of France during the dramatic years of the French revolution and, as a result, she ended up making quite a name for herself as a leader and speaker on important social issues impacting the day-to-day lives of people.

In her unofficial role as a diplomat, de Stael was an extraordinary woman who led a fulfilling and interesting life during a chaotic era. All of this began by simply reading books.

History and Memory

Though her work and skills shaped the world around her, de Stael was almost forgotten by historians who overlooked the role she played during this important historical event. Stories always have gaps and missing pieces, and history is the same. Germaine de Stael was at the center of the political theatre of the French Revolution, but her work faded out of memory of people who saw her as just a popular girl with a lot of social connections. She wasn’t the only one.

Her story is one example of how reading the past can give us new lessons about the present and how taking a second look at the past can help us understand the problems and possibilities facing us today

Learn about more inspiring girls on our Smart Girls page, or follow our Instagram page for more stories like this!

Hannah

Hannah

Founder, Smart Girl, Survivor, Champion of womens rights and kids rights

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