Historical Figures

Marie Pape-Carpantier, pioneer pedagogue

Marie Joséphine Olinde Carpantier, better known as Marie Pape-Carpantier (1815 – 1878), was a French pedagogue and feminist. An activist for girls' education and women's rights, she is the pioneer of pre-elementary education in France.

Primary schools and asylum rooms

Marie Pape-Carpantier was born on September 11, 1815 in La Flèche, a quiet town in Sarthe, to André Carpantier and Joséphine Rose. His father had died two months earlier, in an uprising linked to the Hundred Days Period; his mother, a seamstress, lives in poverty and struggles to meet the needs of her three children. Marie was entrusted to her grandmother and did not return to La Flèche until the age of four.

She goes to school but does not like it, especially because of the severity of the teachers and the punishments inflicted on her. At the age of eleven, Marie left school to work with her mother. She became an ironer then a glove maker.

In 1833, the law obliges each municipality to create a primary school and “rooms of asylum”, intended for children from two to six years old from the working classes, are born. The following year, the creation of an establishment in La Flèche was entrusted to Joséphine and Marie participated in the supervision of the children, to whom are offered times of prayer, instruction and manual work.

Creation of nursery schools

On December 20, 1834, Marie Pape-Carpantier was appointed director of the asylum room and became responsible for a hundred children; she then devotes herself to their education and the families appreciate her very much. A Handbook of Asylum Rooms recommends a method of education, but Marie does not approve of it, very attached to experimentation and the “lesson of things”. In 1842, she was appointed director of the main asylum hall in Le Mans, where she remained for five years.

In 1845, Marie Pape-Carpantier proposed renaming asylum rooms as “nursery schools”. The following year, she published her book Advice on the management of asylum rooms . She writes other educational works as well as children's books and poetry. In 1848, she became director of the study house and trained teachers. She then became an inspector of asylum rooms. An activist for girls' education, she writes articles on the issue of women's rights, explaining that it is "a question of justice and well-being, of interest to society and humanity".

In 1862, the work of Marie Pape-Carpantier was recognized within the walls of the Sorbonne where she presented her teaching methods and gave a series of lectures.

Marie Pape-Carpantier died on July 31, 1878 in Villiers-le-Bel. Many schools now bear his name.