Paris is a perennially intriguing city, home of tumultuous history, tall tales and fascinating figures. One British tour guide, though fascinated by the city, grew tired of talking solely about the men who shaped it. In the absence of a tour dedicated to the women of Paris, she created one herself.
Heidi Evans’ ‘Women of Paris’ tours are the first dedicated to solely to women’s history and influence in France’s capital city. She moved there from London and realised that most of the city’s tours focused only on famous men like Napoleon, Victor Hugo or Louis XIV. Last year, she decided to create one exploring the city’s greatest women and hasn’t looked back since.
In a country that has never had a female monarch or president and got the female vote later than many of its European counterparts, she wanted to shine a light on women who were not solely wives or mistresses to famous kings. Her ‘Essential’ tour focuses on women like Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein and Catherine de Medici who helped shape Paris into the city we know today.
Last month, she launched a complimentary tour ‘Sugar & Spice’ where visitors can learn about famous Parisian writers like Simone de Beauvoir and George Sand while sampling delicious sweets and desserts.
Heidi told Lonely Planet the reaction she’s had from people on the tours has been one mainly of surprise. “People who come on my tours are always amazed by the stories of these women who very often had to combat a lot of prejudice to succeed”, she said. “They are also taken aback by, despite how far we’ve advanced in the quest for gender equality in the West over the last century, there is still so much work to be done!”
Her first stop on the Essential tour underlines just that. They visit the Panthéon where France’s great heroes are buried. Here, Heidi says “we are confronted with the inscription expressing, “Gratitude To the Great Men of France”. I recognise that the language is outdated and that “hommes” can be read as “mankind”…but it is nevertheless shocking to know that of the 75 bodies buried inside the Panthéon just three belong to women.”
Heidi’s Women of Paris tours run Monday to Saturday and can be reserved online. Prices start at €39 per person and group rates are available.