On This Day … 29 December [2022]

People (Deaths)

  • 1939 – Madeleine Pelletier, French psychiatrist, feminist and political activist (b. 1874).

Madeleine Pelletier

Madeleine Pelletier (18 May 1874 to 29 December 1939)[1] was a French psychiatrist, first-wave feminist, and political activist. Born in Paris, Pelletier frequented socialist and anarchist groups in her adolescence. She became a doctor in her twenties, overcoming a large educational gap, and was France’s first woman to receive a doctorate in psychiatry. Pelletier joined freemasonry, the French Section of the Workers’ International, and came to lead a feminist association. She set out to join the October Revolution but returned disillusioned. In France, she continued to advocate for feminist and communist causes, and wrote numerous articles, essays, and literary works, even following a stroke in 1937 which made her hemiplegic. Pelletier was charged with having performed an abortion in 1939 despite her condition precluding her ability to perform this act. She was placed in a mental asylum where her health deteriorated and she died of a second stroke later that year.

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