Text read by Mary Peters

Michèle read a book about a courageous woman.

This week, I read a recent book from Laetitia Colombani, entitled « Les Victorieuses ».

It speaks about a woman who is a lawyer and who, after a burnout, will become a volunteer in a reception centre for women in difficulties and find again meaning in her life there. This foster home is the « Palais de la Femme » which actually exists in Paris, in the eleventh district.

Thanks to this novel, I discovered the enormous work of two people, Blanche and Albin Peyron, I didn’t know they existed, until now. Blanche is a woman with astonishing fate. She was born in 1867 in Lyon. When she was 17, she met one of the pioneers of the Salvation Army in France, a woman nicknamed la Maréchale. This encounter was decisive: she left everything to get involved in the Salvation Army, she wanted to help the poorest, the most disadvantaged, whatever their faith. She married Albin Peyron, also engaged in the fight against misery. Together, they dedicated their life and their energy to the poorest.

But if Blanche is famous, it is best because she had the audacity to lead the Armée du Salut in an incredible challenge. In the 1920s, a large hotel on Rue Charonne was for sale for several million francs, at the time. She was sure that the building (with 630 rooms) was the perfect place to welcome many single and homeless women, who roamed Paris and were exposed to all the dangers. She organized several major fundraising campaigns and brought together the sum of eleven million francs, necessary for the purchase and the work to be carried out. And the goal was reached! The Palais de la Femme was officially inaugurated in 1926.

Today, almost one hundred years later, this Palais remains faithful to its vocation, it welcomes women (and now also men) in search of a home.

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