Contributions of French Women

June 20, 2019
Julia Ullmann

From Marvel-inspired movies to “Ada Twist the Scientist,” girl power is the new norm. We, as society, are starting to recognize how important it is for our daughters and granddaughters to see strong and inspiring role-models who do look like them.

A group of French authors, including Blanche Cardoner, Emma Dechorgnat, Sirine Dutot, Martin Louette, Raphaëlle Reynaud, Lou Desance, and Delphine Bourdon, have taken the gender-equality issue to the next level with a project that is designed to incorporate the contributions from women into major Paris landmarks. The project is called Le Matrimoine Parisien and is a spin on the French word patrimoine, roughly translated as “patrimony.” The project highlights several free-access landmarks in Paris. Landmarks include architectural pieces, sculptures, and places of art and culture. Besides being free and open to the public, all landmarks carry the influence of a female individual—being built, designed, inspired, or even financed by a woman. By putting the project together, creators wanted to highlight the project description. Landmarks can be found at the Matrimoine Parisien blog.  

An actual interactive map is at Open Street Map. This interactive map includes famous landmarks, such as the statue of Jean-Simeon Chardin, the Stravinski fountain, and the Ennery museum. There are five different categories of landmarks: architectural structures, pictorial works, sculptures, workshops, and places of art and culture. They are indicated with a different icon on the map and users can filter the view to show only one or two categories. Hovering over the icon gives a name of the landmark, a female contributor, and the year it was created. Clicking on the icon gives detailed information about the site. This information includes the address and location of the monument or site, a picture (and many times several pictures or a slideshow), and a short description of the female contributor, along with the source of information. Since the project is still underway, some sites are lacking part of the information.

This project is a great addition to the French class curriculum, from Level 1 to Advanced Placement®, since it is contemporary, relevant, and highly informative, and presents many teaching and learning opportunities. First, site descriptions (with pictures) can be used for interpretive reading tasks (according to ACTFL, students understand and interpret “written and spoken language on a variety of topics”). Interculturality is a big part of ACTFL standards; as such, using authentic resources (such as Matrimoine Parisien) gives students an opportunity to interact with authentic texts. For example, the Interpretive Mode focuses on the appropriate cultural interpretation of meanings that occur in written and spoken form where there is no recourse to the active negotiation of meaning with the writer/speaker, including the cultural interpretation of texts, movies, radio and television broadcasts, and speeches, according to ACTFL. In addition, teachers can use social media posts tagged with #Matrimoine or made by @MatrimoineP to add to the interpretative reading tasks. For example, those tweets can help students deepen their comprehension of the topic and expose them to current events in the world.

In addition, Matrimoine Parisien can serve as a prompt for speaking (interpersonal or presentational) or writing prompts. At lower levels, students can answer questions about types of sites, professions and occupations of contributors, and expressing their likes and dislikes of the sites. In the upper levels, students can discuss the attractiveness and importance of the cultural sites, human rights, feminism, definitions of beauty, and access to art around the world. Using this resource in an Advanced Placement class is exceptionally beneficial, since it can be used for the following context of the AP exam: diversity issues, human rights (from a Global Challenges theme), intellectual property, the new media (from Science and Technology theme), contributions to world artistic heritage, ideas of beauty, and visual arts (from Beauty and Aesthetics theme). More information can be found at CollegeBoard.org and AP French Language and Culture details.

The nature of the project is highly interdisciplinary and it can be used to address the remaining Cs of the ACTFL standards: cultures, connections, communities, and comparisons. In addition to French, students will be using the language to learn Geography, Art, History, and Social Studies. Connection with Art is the heaviest, but other disciplines can be addressed as well. Students will also be able to navigate through the center of Paris (virtually) and recognize the famous landmarks and people from the target culture.

Finally, the Matrimoine Parisien project presents a great opportunity for students to use their language outside of the classroom. Since many parts of the project are still being worked on, they can collaborate on researching more information on missing landmarks and contributors (such as Fresque collaborative, Kashink et les Kashink Kids, 2015, and Siège de l’Union des femmes peintres et sculpteurs, founded by Hélène Bertaux). As an extension and real-life application of Matrimoine Parisien, students can develop a similar project for their community (probably at a smaller scale) that would reflect cultural contributions of a particular group of people.  

Julia Ullmann

Julia Ullmann is a world language teacher in Osceola County, Florida. She has presented at the district, state, and national level. Her passion is student-centered technology in education, using student-centered activities, digital resources, and authentic materials to promote student learning. She is interested in collaboration, real-life tasks, and a global mindset.

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