Trajectories of two women's libraries: a comparative study of Bibliotheque Leonie La Fontaine and Bibliotheque Marguerite Durand

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The Bibliothèque Marguerite Durand and Bibliothèque Léonie La Fontaine are dedicated to women and feminism. Created in neighbouring countries, in very different contexts, at different periods of the 20th century, both nevertheless have the same desire to spread knowledge and information about women which could have disappeared without their action of conservation and eagerness to share it.
Marguerite Durand (1864-1936), actress, journalist and librarian, donated her library to the city of Paris in 1931 to avoid the loss – after her death – of the work of a large part of her life spent gathering material about feminism and women in general, originally in order to provide the journalists working with her at La Fronde with information. The Bibliothèque Marguerite Durand became the first official French library dedicated to the history of women and to feminism and now has more than 40,000 books.
In 1982, a group of feminists created the Université des Femmes in Brussels. Eager to develop and share their feminist knowledge, they opened the Bibliothèque Léonie La Fontaine at the same time thanks to a stock of books the group owned. They named the library after Léonie La Fontaine (1857-1949) a Belgian pacifist, feminist and librarian who, amongst other numerous activities, created the Office Central de Documentation Féministe in 1919. The Bibliothèque Léonie La Fontaine is the only Francophone library in Belgium (Rosa is its Flemish equivalent) dedicated to women and feminism with more than 14,000 documents (books, dissertations, journals…), most of which cannot be found in public or university libraries.
This paper will aim to compare the trajectories of these Belgian and French women’s libraries. How and why did they come into existence? What has their journey been like until today? What problems did/do they both encounter and how did/do they deal with them? Are they officially recognised and funded? How has their role evolved over the years? How do they see their path in the future? Some may even question their relevance and continued existence in today’s era of post-feminism, an attitude which could have an impact on their future viability. Despite differences in their origins and histories, and considerable differences between France and Belgium on an administrative and political level, both libraries offer invaluable and often rare resources seldom taken into consideration by conventional libraries. It is thus important to assess the part they have played – and continue to play – in the history of French and Belgian feminism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationParcours de femmes
Subtitle of host publicationTwenty Years of Women in French
EditorsMaggie Allison , Angela Kershaw
Place of PublicationBern
PublisherPeter Lang AG
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9783034302081
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2011

Publication series

NameModern French Identities
PublisherPeter Lang
ISSN (Print)1422-9005


  • women’s libraries
  • comparative study
  • women in french
  • twenty years
  • parcours de femmes
  • modern french identities
  • bibliotheque leonie la fontaine
  • bibliotheque marguerite durand


Dive into the research topics of 'Trajectories of two women's libraries: a comparative study of Bibliotheque Leonie La Fontaine and Bibliotheque Marguerite Durand'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this