Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954), known by her pen name and surname Colette, may be best known for her Parisian novel-turned-Hollywood cult film Gigi. However, it was her unwavering dedication to exalt the then-modern woman into the liberated cosmos that graduates her to icon.
Some might argue that her French affix gave her an advantage, as no woman in the States at that time could possibly relax back into the avante-garde the way she did, under strict Protestant America. However, giving a rightful nod to turn of the century Paris as an artistic and literary mecca, there was still nobody on either side of any ocean quite in her same vein.
Her stories celebrated the woman as multi-faceted entity who not only had weight in a gentleman's world, but was the core strength supporting it.
Collette had the realization that modern women's existence wasn't calibrated by what they could offer a man but that it was their essence, both as an individual and an ensemble, that brought truth to life.
The protagonists that lived in the literary realms she created were all She's with many working parts, strong souls, opinions, and the desire to go their own way.
Aside from her own writing, she also reviewed films, turning plots inside out in ways that the filmwriter himself might not have anticipated. She not only fastened her opinion to what transpired within the script, she celebrated the absence of what didn't happen. If a woman was not wifed up or beneath cold dirt at film's end, she took notice of this and celebrated the open-ended liberation of a woman simply continuing on after the credits rolled.
An advocate for animals and a cat lover, Collette wrote dialouge for them, giving their heartbeats a voice outside of domestication and once again symbolizing the modern woman within these animals, a creature larger than it's container.
One of these stories offers a conundrum- a woman is more in love with her cat than her man, and their approaching nuptials begin wavering. Collette explored a woman's desire independent of a man, marriage, or her place at the stove.
Collette herself was an androgynous figure, advocating both the soft and the strong, reflecting that even in the choice of her feminine pen name, which on paper was her actual last name.
At that time, in France, only boys were able to go by their last name. Collette, however, did not internalize or give merit to anyone's status quo, but was brave enough to live her own projections.