Tourists in central Paris got a shock on Wednesday to find that almost all of the street signs on the Ile de la Cité had been changed.
Instead of the Quai de la Tournelle near the Notre Dame cathedral, signs informed passersby that they were standing at the Quai de Nina Simone. Elsewhere, streets were “renamed” after pioneer lawyer Jeanne Chauvin, record-holding sailor Florence Arthaud, and France's first qualified female doctor Madeleine Brès.
The move was a stunt by outspoken French feminist organization Osez le Féminisme, members of which spent Tuesday evening covering around 60 of the real street signs with those only bearing women's names. The move was a protest against the fact that just 2.6 percent of the streets in the capital are named after notable women.
(Quai de Nina Simone near the Notre Dame Cathedral. Photo: The Local)
A spokesperson for the organization said that they were renamed with names of women who made “incredible contributions” to France's history.
When The Local walked the streets of the central island, handfuls of tourists were standing on street corners consulting their maps. Many were asking for directions.
One Italian family burst out in laughter to learn the reason for why their map wasn't matching the road signs.
Others were pleased to hear that people were taking a stand for equality.
“I think it's a good idea,” said a man on holiday from Colorado in the US. “It's a continuing effort of equality. Maybe some day there'll be an Avenue Hilary Clinton.”
(The Rue Madeleine Bres. Photo: The Local)
(Another re-baptised sign by the Notre Dame Cathedral. Photo: The Local)
The organization also hopes to give prevalence to women who are famous for their contributions to society, rather than their relationship to men.
“While there are plenty of men honoured on street signs, just 160 women, mostly wives or daughters of famous men, are given prominence in Paris,” the group noted.
(The team from Osez le Féminisme. Photo: The Local)
“But our history is bursting with female scientists, writers, activists, politicians, artists and Resistance fighters which deserve recognition in our country.”
The organization also notes the lack of female figures represented in the city’s public transport network.
“There’s just one metro station named after a woman, Louise Michel. But that’s not even in central Paris – it’s in Levallois,” Allibert said.
And there is hope that the mayor will take the initiative seriously. in 2012, officials named nine of the 18 stops on the 3B tramline after women, following complaints about the lack of female figures represented on the public transport network.
(Another street in the first arrondissement. Photo: AFP)
Additional reporting by Sophie Inge.