Colette is a French author, famous for her novels, but who was also a mime, an actress and a journalist. She was openly bisexual.
Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette was born on 28 January 1873 in Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye (Yonne), a large village in Burgundy, France. Her father, Captain Jules-Joseph Colette, was a Zouave of the Saint-Cyr military school. Having lost a leg at the battle of Melegnano, he became a tax collector. Gabrielle's mother, Sidonie Landoy (Sido) was a feminist and an atheist.
Colette had three older siblings, a brother and sister from her mother's first marriage, and a brother, Léopold. She had a happy childhood; she was beloved by her her mother who taught her the art of observation in the garden of the house in Saint-Sauveur. Her father taught her French literature and style.
Unfortunately, Sido had extravagant tastes, which led the family to financial ruin. In November of 1891, they moved to Châtillon-sur-Loing.
Colette was still a teenager when she met Henry Gauthier-Villars, nicknamed "Willy". They married on 15 May 1893 in Châtillon-sur-Loing (now Châtillon-Coligny), Loiret. Gabrielle 's witnesses were her brother, Achille Robineau-Duclos, and her maternal uncle, Jules Landoy, 32, of Brussels.
The couple settled in Paris, 55 quai des Grands-Augustins, above a publishing business partly owned by Willy.
Willy soon discovered his wife's literary talents and started to use her as his ghost writer. In 1895, she started writing the "Claudine" series, based on her school memories and published under Willy's signature. In part because of Willy's numerous dalliances, the couple drifted apart. Colette and Willy separated in 1906. The divorce was pronounced on 21 June 1910 by the civil tribunal of the Seine.
After her divorce, Colette, in addition to her work as an author, pursued a career in music-hall. She was a talented, albeit scandalous, mime. She also had a few affairs with women.
On 19 December 1912, Colette married Henry de Jouvenel in Paris, 16th arrondissement. The following year, at age 40, she had her only child, Colette de Jouvenel, nicknamed Bel-Gazou. Bel-Gazou was born and raised in the castle of Castel Novel, in Varetz, Corrèze, France.
Colette and Henry de Jouvenel divorced in 1923.
Colette met Maurice Goudeket early in 1925. They married ten years later, on 3 April 1935.
Colette suffered of arthritis. She spent most of the occupation in her apartment rue de Beaujolais. She kept on writing near her windows.
In 1945, Colette was unanimously elected member of the Académie Goncourt. She became president of the Académie in 1949.
In 1952, she appeared as herself in a documentary by Yannick Bellon.
In 1953, Colette was made Grand Officer of the Légion d'Honneur.
Colette died on 3 August 1954. Her husband Maurice (nicknamed "her best friend") was at her side during her last years, helping her to cope with painful polyarthritis.
The Catholic church refused her a religious funeral, but Colette had a national funeral; the first French woman ever to receive this honor. She was buried in Père-Lachaise cemetery.
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