Monday, October 29, 2012


This birthplace plaque in Nancy caught my attention, first of all because I hadn't realized that "mauvais" which translates to "bad" was a surname, and secondly because it's rare to see an 18th-century school teacher honored in this way. Virginie Mauvais was the daughter of a "constitutional priest," i.e., a priest who during the French Revolution took oath to the new constitution and became a paid clerical agent of the state. (The constitutional clerical arrangement existed from 1790 until 1801 when Napoléon Bonaparte and Pope Pie VII signed an agreement ending it.) 

Virginie as an adult studied, earned diplomas, became a teacher and opened a school for young girls, then later worked in Nancy's budding public schools. Dedicating her life to combatting ignorance and poverty, she developed a modern reading method through which both children and adults could learn to read in six weeks. After her retirement and upon the advice of a former student, she invested in the Portuguese railways system and made a fortune, a part of which she legged to the city of Nancy to build three-story hospital which included a floor for children's surgery. 

une institutrice, un instituteur:  a primary school teacher (feminine, masculine)
une méthode d'apprentissage de la lecture:  a reading learning method
une bienfaitrice, un bienfaiteur:  a benefactress, a benefactor
un bienfait:  an act of generosity

©2012 P.B. Lecron

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