Marguerite de Witt-Schlumberger

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Marguerite de Witt-Schlumberger
Marguerite de Witt-Schlumberger.jpg
Marguerite de Witt-Schlumberger
photo-portrait from 'Le Pays de France', 5 July 1919
Marguerite de Witt-Guizot

(1853-01-20)20 January 1853
Paris, France
Died23 October 1924(1924-10-23) (aged 71)
OccupationPhilanthropist and campaigner for
Spouse(s)Paul Schlumberger (1848–1926)
ChildrenJean Schlumberger (1877–1968)
Conrad Schlumberger (1878–1936)
Daniel Schlumberger (1879–1915)
Pauline Schlumberger (1883–)
Marcel Schlumberger (1884–1953)
Maurice Schlumberger (1886–1977)
Parent(s)Conrad de Witt
Henriette Guizot de Witt

Marguerite de Witt-Schlumberger (20 January 1853 – 23 October 1924) was a French campaigner for pronatalism, alcoholic abstinence, and feminism. She was the president of the French Union for Women's Suffrage (Union française pour le suffrage des femmes / UFSF) movement.[1] She married into the Schlumberger family and became a powerfully influential matriarch and the mother of several sons who achieved notability in their own right.[2] For her active involvement and service to the government, she was awarded the Croix of the French Legion of Honour in 1920.[1]


Provenance and early years[edit]

Marguerite de Witt was the daughter of Conrad de Witt [fr], a mayor of Saint-Ouen-le-Pin who later became a conservative deputy representing the Calvados Department in the French National Assembly. The name "de Witt" disclosed the family's Dutch origins, as a result of which they also were members of France's minority Protestant community. Marguerite's mother, Henriette Guizot de Witt,[3] was a prolific novelist who, as the daughter of François Guizot, also came from a leading family of French Protestants.[4]

Marguerite and her sister, Jeanne, were educated by their mother.[5][6] While girls, they lived in a family environment in which they were surrounded by cousins. Along with members of the extended de Witt-Guizot families, there was an abundance of Broglie relatives as well as some of the younger kinsfolk of George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen, who was a family friend of the Guizots.

Philanthropy and feminism[edit]

Marguerite and Jeanne participated actively in their mother's philanthropic ventures. In 1865 a "workplace" for young girls was opened at Le Val Richer, a former abbey that had been a Guizot family property since 1836.[7] Five years later, a children's asylum was added.

For twenty years Marguerite served as a Protestant prison visitor, becoming associated with the campaigning of the abolitionist Protestant philanthropist Sarah Monod in respect of the "fallen women" detained in the Hospital-prison of Saint-Lazare.[5] During that time, she married Paul Schlumberger (1876).

She took over her mother's work that involved the rehabilitation of prostitutes. She campaigned with energy for the abolition of "regulated prostitution", also presiding over the International Commission for a Single Standard of Morality and against the White Slave Trade.[8]

She was also vigorous in her campaigning against alcohol abuse and was a member of the National League against Alcoholism.[8] In her hometown (after 1876) of Guebwiller, she opened two "tea-total" cabarets where revelers could drink broth in place of beer.[2] She was on record as suggesting that one should neither drink alcohol nor offer [alcoholic] drinks to visitors.[8]

Like many who were involved in the 19th-century social purity movement, de Witt-Schlumberger moved into feminism at the turn of the century. The moral crusades of earlier decades had opened discussion on previously taboo topics, such as legal double standards for men and women.[9] From 1913, she served as the president of the French Union for Women's Suffrage (Union française pour le suffrage des femmes / UFSF) and urged women during World War I to move into the workplace while their men were fighting in the war.[10] Recognizing that international support might further their cause, feminists added suffrage to the agenda of the 1913 International Congress on Women’s Charities and Institutions meeting in Paris.

The following year, de Witt-Schlumberger was in Rome meeting with women from the International Women's Suffrage Alliance (IWSA).[11] By 1917, de Witt-Schlumberger had become a vice president of the IWSA.[12]

In 1917, the women had presented a petition to the Chamber of Deputies asking for voting equality in return for the work they had done during the war.[13] Although it passed in the chamber in 1922, three years after it was introduced, the senate shelved the legislation and de Witt-Schlumberger vowed to fight on.[14] At the end of the war, when armistice talks were held and the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 was debating terms of peace, de Witt-Schlumberger proposed that women's issues become part of the treaty process.[15] After being refused the right to participate, she organized the women from the French Union for Women's Suffrage and the National Council of French Women, to invite international colleagues to meet in Paris in a parallel conference, known as the Inter-Allied Women's Conference, scheduled to open on 10 February 1919.[16][17] Gathering delegates from countries aligned with the IWSA, she led them to propose to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and the Prime Minister of France, Georges Clemenceau, that women be appointed to participate on the committees and allowed to present a plea for women's equality. Initially, the women were denied, but were given leave to make a presentation to the commission tasked with drafting the documents forming the League of Nations. On 10 April 1919 the women made their presentation, asking for women to be allowed to serve on commissions and as part of the executive council of the league. They asked for trafficking of women and children to be banned, for education to be protected, and for suffrage to be recognized in principle. Several of their ideas were incorporated into the final treaty.[15]

In 1920, de Witt-Schlumberger was appointed as the sole woman to be a member of the Conseil supérieur de la Natalité (CSN) (Birth Council) and argued that women should be able to protect themselves from diseased or unfit fathers.[10] That same year, she was awarded the Croix of the French Legion of Honour for her active involvement and service to the government.[1] In 1923, when Carrie Chapman Catt stepped down as president of the IWSA, de Witt-Schlumberger was seen by many as her successor.[18][19] Though elected, she declined the post, citing health reasons.[20]


Marguerite de Witt married Paul Schlumberger (1848–1926) on 30 June 1876. He was from a family of Protestant industrialists who traced their wealth back to Paul's grandfather, Nicolas Schlumberger [fr] (1782–1867), who had made a fortune as a textiles (cotton) baron. Records indicate that Marguerite gave birth to five sons and one daughter, born in Guebwiller (Alsace). The eldest son, Jean (1877–1968), achieved fame as a journalist and writer.[2] Conrad and Marcel Schlumberger qualified as a physicist and engineer, respectively, becoming noteworthy for their inventions in the fields of geophysics and petroleum technology.[2] In 1926 these two founded what in 2012 became the world's largest oilfield services company.[21] Another son, Daniel Schlumberger, was killed in the First World War.

Although Marguerite was from western France, her husband's family was from Alsace, which had become part of Germany following frontier changes mandated in 1871. After 1871 it was not practical to move the family's large factories across the new frontier into France, and to do so would have involved leaving large numbers of factory employees behind, rendering them jobless in Alsace.[2] Her children, therefore, were born in the recently unified German state, however, as each of her sons neared the age of 15, the age at which they could have faced conscription into the German army, Marguerite moved them out of Alsace and into France.[2] By doing so, she achieved further plaudits from those sources favouring the French national version of history, because in her home town near Mulhouse she became an "upper-class [French] patriot", leading "passive resistance" against what Francophone commentators tended to identify as German occupation.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Margaret Cook Andersen (2015). Voting for the family: The Fight for Familial Suffrage in France and North Africa. Regeneration Through Empire: French Pronatalists and Colonial Settlement in the Third Republic. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-4497-9. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "The Schlumberger family...Marguerite Schlumberger, a woman committed to the French cause". Musée virtuel du Protestantisme / Virtual Museum of Protestantism. Fondation pasteur Eugène Bersier, Paris. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  3. ^ Laurent Theis. "Henriette et Pauline Guizot". François Guizot: Une vie dans le siècle (1787–1874). Association François Guizot. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  4. ^ Carlos Federico (Cantarito) Bunge Molina y Vedia (compiler). "Marguerite de Witt". Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  5. ^ a b Catherine Coste. "Essai biographique sur Henriette de Witt-Guizot" (PDF). Association François Guizot. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  6. ^ According to Coste, their mother demonstrated to her daughters how a woman could combine interest in spiritual matters with the ability to earn money to support a family, while at the same time filling the role assigned to a woman by the social norms of the time. ("leur montra qu'une femme pouvait s'intéresser à la vie de l'esprit et gagner de l'argent pour faire vivre les siens, tout en remplissant le rôle que la société de l'époque lui assignait")
    Catherine Coste in François Guizot, "Lettres à sa fille Henriette (1836–1874)", 2002
  7. ^ "Une famille...un musée". Château de Crèvecœur. Fondation Musée Schlumberger. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  8. ^ a b c James F. McMillan (2000). In search of citizenship. France and Women, 1789–1914: Gender, Society and Politics. Routledge, London & New York. p. 203. ISBN 0-415-22602-3.
  9. ^ Hall, Lesley (April 2004). "Hauling Down the Double Standard: Feminism, Social Purity and Sexual Science in Late Nineteen-Century Britain" (PDF). Gender & History. Oxford, England: Blackwell Publishing, Ltd. 16 (1): 41–43. doi:10.1111/j.0953-5233.2004.325_1.x. ISSN 0953-5233. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  10. ^ a b Bock, Gisela; Thane, Patricia (2012). Maternity and Gender Policies: Women and the Rise of the European Welfare States, 18802-1950s. London, England: Routledge. pp. 131, 145. ISBN 978-1-135-08167-6.
  11. ^ Clark, Linda L. (2008). Women and Achievement in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 262–263, 278. ISBN 978-0-521-65098-4.
  12. ^ Stapler, Martha G. (1917). The Woman Suffrage Year Book, 1917. New York, New York: National Woman Suffrage Publishing Company. p. 74.
  13. ^ Betelli, C. F. (29 July 1917). "French Women Ask Deputies to Grant them Right to Vote". The Pittsburgh Press. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. p. 7. Retrieved 4 March 2016 – via open access publication – free to read
  14. ^ "Women of France Will Keep up Fight". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, New York. Associated Press. 22 November 1922. p. 20. Retrieved 4 March 2016 – via open access publication – free to read
  15. ^ a b Drexel, Constance (24 October 1920). "Women and the League of Nations". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, Kentucky. p. 6. Retrieved 4 March 2016 – via open access publication – free to read
  16. ^ Guerra, Elda (13 July 2012). L’Associazionismo internazionale delle donne tra diritti, democrazia, politiche di pace 1888 – 1939 [International Women's Rights Associations, Democracy, Peace Policies 1888 – 1939] (PDF) (PhD) (in Italian). Viterbo, Italy: Università degli Studi della Tuscia. p. 76. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 April 2017. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  17. ^ Siegel, Mona L. (6 January 2019). "In the Drawing Rooms of Paris: The Inter-Allied Women's Conference of 1919". Chicago, Illinois: 2.
  18. ^ Huston, Luther A. (21 April 1923). "Fight is Forecast over Successor to Suffrage Chief". The El Paso Herald. El Paso, Texas. p. 13. Retrieved 4 March 2016 – via open access publication – free to read
  19. ^ "Which?". Journal Gazette. Mattoon, Illinois. 10 May 1923. p. 12. Retrieved 4 March 2016 – via open access publication – free to read
  20. ^ Guttinger, Christiane (8 October 2013). "Quelques protestantes pionnières du féminisme" (in French). Paris, France: Huguenots en France. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  21. ^ David Wethe (20 January 2012). "Schlumberger Fourth-Quarter Profit Rises as Drilling Booms". Bloomberg. Retrieved 3 March 2016.

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