Sarah Curtis: Men Like Us
Emilie de Vialar and Anne-Marie Javouhey
In the aftermath of the French revolution, Catholic women missionaries expanded their work worldwide in order to evangelize among non-European and non-Christian peoples. In so doing, they helped France re-establish its empire and pioneered a new missionary era.
This talk will feature two such women, Emilie de Vialar and Anne-Marie Javouhey. Vialar followed French troops to Algeria after conquest in 1830 and opened missions throughout the Mediterranean basin. Prevented from direct conversion, she developed strategies and subterfuges for working among Muslim populations.
Javouhey made her life’s work the evangelization of Africans in the French slave colonies, including a utopian settlement in the wilds of French Guiana. She became a rare Catholic proponent of the abolition of slavery and a woman designated a “great man” by the French king.
Possessed of considerable energy and charisma, both women transgressed boundaries both literal and metaphorical to forge new paths for women in the church and in the world.
Sarah Curtis is professor of History at San Francisco State University. She is the author of Educating the Faithful: Catholic Schooling in 19th-Century France (Northern Illinois University Press, 2000) and Civilizing Habits: Women Missionaries and the Revival of French Empire (Oxford University Press, 2010). She received a 2018 National Endowment for the Humanities summer stipend to work on her next book, about children and material culture in 19th-century France.