Marie Souvestre

Marie Souvestre (28 April 1830 – 30 March 1905) was a female educator who sought to develop independent minds in young women.[1]

She was born in BrestFrance, the daughter of French novelist Émile Souvestre. She founded the girls’ boarding schools Les Ruches („the beehives”) in FontainebleauFrance, where writer Natalie Clifford Barney and her sister Laura Clifford Barney were later educated, and Allenswood, in Wimbledon, outside London, where her most famous pupil was Eleanor Roosevelt.[2] Souvestre took a special interest in Roosevelt, who learned to speak French fluently and gained self-confidence.[3] Roosevelt wished to continue at Allenswood, but in 1902 was summoned home by her grandmother to make her social debut.[3] Roosevelt and Souvestre maintained a correspondence until March 1905, when Souvestre died, and after this Eleanor placed Souvestre’s portrait on her desk and brought her letters with her.[3]

Dorothy Bussy, the sister of writer Lytton Strachey, anonymously published a novel, Olivia(1949), about her experience as a pupil at Les Ruches, describing the protagonist’s crush on the headmistress Mlle. Julie (i.e., Souvestre). Bussy later taught Shakespeare at Allenswood.[4]

Souvestre has been described as a lesbian.[5] She founded Les Ruches with her partner Caroline Dussaut. Dussaut is Cara in Bussy’s novel, Olivia.[6] When they separated in 1883, Souvestre moved to England with Paolina Samaïa, former teacher at Les Ruches who will become a teacher at Allenswood Academy as well as Souvestre’s long-term partner.