Caroline Rémy dite Séverine (1855 - 1929)

The journalist Séverine


Journalists & intellectuals

Caroline Rémy, who Helen Rodney has called "the high priestess of Dreyfusism," was born in Paris in 1855. Under her nom de plume Séverine, she established her "taste for bold statements and the honor of unpopularity."

She was the daughter of a head clerk at the Prefecture of Police. Twice married, she was the first female journalist to earn a living with her pen, and published in newspapers ranging from Gaulois to La Libre Parole. Trained as a journalist by Jules Vallès, she edited Le Cri du Peuple and was well-known enough to be sent by Le Figaro to Rome, where she met with Pope Leo XII. Her interview, in which he condemned anti-Semitism, was published on 4 August 1892.

In 1893, Séverine published Pages Rouges, a collections of her "papers," but she was not one of the first Dreyfusards. Although, in 1895, she spoke out when Dreyfus was struck by another officer at La Rochelle, she refused to meet with Lucie, judging her to be too well-off. She became a Dreyfusard after meeting Bernard Lazare and after Zola's action; she carried on the fight in several European newspapers, considering Dreyfus to be "a pretext for the great clash of ideas."

At the Zola trial, her "Notes of a Frondeuse" and her "Impressions of a Hearing" impressed the Parisian readers of the feminist newspaper La Fronde and the Brussels readers of Le Petit Bleu. In Rennes, Victor Basch saw in her the "heroism of a smile," and experienced her as "the great solace in the little Dreyfusard army." She baptized her house "Les Trois Marches," after the restaurant where the Dreyfusards would meet. In 1912, she stated, "Despite all of the insults and ingratitude, there is no other period of my life that I loved more than that one."

The one whom Clemenceau called "a tough woman" fought for Dreyfus's rehabilitation to the point that in 1899 a Belgian newspaper dubbed her an "archi-Dreyfusophile." Before the Court of Cassation in 1904, she related how she had been shown the fake bordereau supposedly annotated by Wilhelm II.

Before unsuccessfully submitting her name for a Nobel Prize in 1919, Anatole France gave her a place in his 1908 novel Penguin Island, where she appears as Maniflore, a woman with civic majesty, …) "an august symbol of justice and truth."

Often described and sketched by her colleagues during the Rennes trial, Séverine left the Communist party after 1920 out of loyalty to the League of Human Rights. Before her death in 1929, she requested only a single epitaph: "I am Séverine, nothing by Séverine, an isolated and independent woman."