The Challenger: Mme de Valsayre | Ladyfencers series
There’s nothing more dangerous than a woman who is well educated and conscious of her worth. Contemporary to Marie-Thérèse Figueur, [read the story here] our new Lady Fencer is always from France and she was in Waterloo… fighting a first-blood duel.
Meet Mme de Valsayre, the Challenger, a progressist woman who left a mark in France’s history and made several newspapers all around the world talk about her!
Introduction: Paris, in a study, April 1886
We are greeted by a great number of cats and dogs.
In fact so many that the other tenants of the building are asking for the eviction of the owner, Mme de Valsayre.
We then come into a study, furnished in a simple manner, where Mme de Valsayre, a small woman of 37 years, receives us to talk about the latest incident.
The incident happened some days ago in the form of a duel between Mme de Valsayre and an American woman called Miss Shelby on the battlefield in Waterloo.
She sat in her armchair and adjusted her oval glasses with a quick gesture.
«My adversary, Miss Shelby or Shelley, maintained that American female doctors were superior to those in our country.
I refuted her, she called me an “idiot” —in response, I threw my glove in her face.
Even though knowing herself to be inferior a fighter in advance, she did not withdraw.
The urge to fight
«The taste for weapons has come to me only recently, in 1884, two years ago. A young man, who signed with his pseudonym «Polignac» in a morning newspaper, insulted me and refused to give me reparation. I had to whip him in public, and nearly fought a duel. Did you think that I could step back against Miss Shelby?
We met on the terrain fifteen days later her offense. I thought to give her ample time for practice in order to gain up on my own skills, her inferiority being great next to mine.
I wounded her slightly on the arm and immediately she extended her hand to me with these most honourable words: “Now, I can offer you my apologies.”
We are reconciled now and probably will go to Congo together to help the civilisation of said country.
But you know, it is no easy thing for a woman to fight a duel in France.
All the French I asked to be my seconds laughed in my face. So the duel had to be witnessed by four Americans!»
The benefit of fencing
After Mme de Valsayre finishes these anecdotes, she shows us a bit around.
First she plays one of her original pieces on the violin. Beautifully, we have to admit.
But no wonder, as she had a thorough musical education before tending to the study of medicine.
After that, she shows us her most interesting possession. Her sword, which she calls «Rolande» and treats with very much respect. While holding the blade in her hands she continues to talk about fencing:
«Fencing for women. That is my new project. Fencing is so beneficiary.
It helps women’s physical rehabilitation, benefits the reproductive organs and general mental health.
Also, fencing’s cultivation of an energetic and well-regulated muscular activity along with the development of the chest is as good as sports like gymnastics, swimming or bicycling.
So I hope more women pick up fencing to empower themselves and grow stronger!»
Conclusion: Paris is not ready yet!
We start to see what drives Mme de Valsayre to promote the usage of swords to women.
And we would really like to hear more about it. But a dog is tearing on our heels and we think it’s time to go.
«Thank you, Mme de Valsayre! We will publish the article on Monday, 5th of April in Le Gaulois! »
– – –
An elegant man, dressed in blue, is sitting in a cafè in Rue Rivoli. He puts his fine hat on and stands up:
«What a woman! Paris is not ready yet!» he chuckles, folding the newspaper and leaving a few coins on the table.
Madame Marie-Rose Astié de Valsayre was a doctor, musician, writer and a pioneer in feminism in France. As a skilled fencer, she really opened a fencing club dedicated to women. During her life she did not shy away from defending her beliefs, and she was always eager to pick up arms to prove her point.
If you want to read the original article from Le Gaulois follow this link HERE
And if you enjoyed “The Challenger: Mme de Valsayre”, you might want to check out our LadyFencers series, where we handpick the most incredible women in history – from noble-hearted ladies to downright nutjobs – who left funny or epic stories behind, for better or worse!
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