Marie-Thérèse Eyquem French women’s sport

The determined and clear soul of Marie-Thérèse Eyquem was readily apparent in her broad-shouldered body, solid yet graced with fine features. As is the case with many others, one had to search beyond the overall impression with her. When she stood up, her poised figure showed muscular legs slightly apart, her head, full of confidence
and held up high. She was a creative woman in the full sense of the term. Always standing by her convictions to the end, she was at the same time tolerance personnified, and proof of this was in the vast gamut of faithful friends she had. She was always willing to take up a cause provided there was building to be done or a concerted effort was required. There were four parallel paths in Marie-Therèse Eyquem’s life. She was indeed a great lady who, in her own way, made a mark in her time, never to be forgotten. Firstly at the Ministry of Youth, and Sports where she made her whole career. She was an Inspector

General there from 1961 onwards, Loyally, openly, and never wavering in her principles, she militated in the opposition as from 1958. These activities prevented her from really taking French women’s sport into her hands. Her dream was to transform it into an autonomous institution with a new organisation and roots extending deep throughout France. Loyalty : this might have been her motto. An illustration of such constancy was her long collaboration with François Mitterand to whom she always remained close. At her death she was National Secretary of the Socialist Party. She took perhaps the greatest pride in assuming the office of Assistant Mayor in her home town of La Teste-de-Buch in the department of Gironde.
Marie-Thérèse liked to recall that her surname was the same as that of Montaigne whose descendent she was. In her scholarship, equanimity, sense of moderation and articulateness, her outlook on life reflected that of the great author’s. The third facet of this determined woman who never married : feminism. She devoted herself tirelessly to this cause throughout her life and for ten years, ending in 1972, presided over the Women’s Democratic Movement. Lastly there was Marie-Thérèse Eyquem the writer. She published many works easily identifiable by their conciseness, rapidity and simplicity of style, and expressions always hitting their mark. Her play “Jeunes filles au soleil” about the Grande Mademoiselle wilt be read and re-read. As for her monumental “Pierre de Coubertin ou l’Epopée Olympique” of which there are already many translations, it represents a universally appreciated working tool for those committed to the sports movement.

I see her now once again, with her colourful manner of speaking, the rugged body of a former gymnast, the statue-like face, prominent cheekbones, and perfect straight nose, stressing the points she would make with her pretty little hand which clutched a pipe. Her voice was unforgettable, splendid and ominous, capable both of crashing like thunder or softly rocking like a cello. Reminiscent of Joan of Arc, Marie-Thérèse’s brown hair was tinged with a grey quite becoming her face. She pierced you with her china-blue eyes. Mr. Geoffroy de Navacelle. Pierre de Coubertin’s great-nephew and one of her very good friends, saw her not long before her death. “She had grown terribly thin, but her voice, her extraordinary took and her poise were still within her.” I was worried about her. Her last letter reached me just as she was about to leave us. She tried to be reassuring : “Yes, she was recovering well from her operation. She was expecting me during my next visit to Paris.”

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