Friday, November 4, 2016

Women of the French Revolution - Suzanne Churchod Necker

As I continue to connect with my French heritage, I am studying the French Revolution in an effort to verify the participation of ancestors. Of course, as women in history are always of interest to me, I am thrilled to be learning about so many women who made a difference during that time. The following is the first in the series.

 Suzanne Churchod, born in Switzerland in May of 1737, was the daughter of Louis Antoine Curchod and Magdelaine d'Albert de Nasse. She received a classical education (including Latin, mathematics and science). This education enabled her to support herself as a teacher in her native Switzerland.
Portrait by Joseph Duplessis
With the loss of income resulting from the death of her father, Churchod and her mother found them in a desperate situation, which she coped with by giving lessons. After her mother died, Suzanne became a companion to a young French widow, Madame de Vermenoux, who took her to Paris around 1763 or 1764.  

Her employer, Madame de Vermenoux, was being courted by the ambitious Swiss financier Jacques Necker but she didn’t want to marry. Next Necker turned his attention to Suzanne, and in 1764 the two were married. They had one child, a daughter named Anne Louise Germaine, the future writer and philosopher now better known as Madame de Stael.

Suzanne opened a literary salon where all the top literary individuals of the era gathered, including such luminaries as Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, a French naturalist, mathematician, and cosmologist Friedrich Melchior, Baron von Grimm, German-born French-language journalist, art critic, and diplomat; as well as many Swiss expatriates like Marie Anne de Vichy-Chamrond, marquise du Deffand (whom I will write about later in this series on women in the French Revolution).

As the revolution approached, the opinions of her daughter, Germaine de Stael (whom I will talk about in my next blog) turned the salon discussions more political.

Suzanne, on the other hand, turned her influence and energies toward hospital and prison reform and in 1778 established a model hospital. In 1790, after her husband’s fall from power and the revolution getting more violent, the Neckers left Paris for Switzerland. Suzanne died at Beaulieu Castle in 1794. In Lausanne, a city on Lake Geneva, in the French-speaking region of Vaud, Switzerland.

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