Friday, February 10, 2012

Marthe Richard

Marthe Richard (1889 - 1982), prostitute, spy during both World Wars, author of erotic fiction and politician. 

"De la petite à la grande vertu": from a woman of easy virtue to a woman of great virtue. 

In Nancy, in 1903, at the age of fourteen, Marthe Richard became an apprentice to a tailor. By the age of sixteen, she was registered as a prostitute. A soldier accused her of giving him syphilis, and she fled to Paris. There, she married wealthy industrialist, Henry Richer, in 1907.

In 1912, Henry bought her a plane. In 1913, flying the plane herself, she claimed to have broken the female record for the Le Crotoy-Zurich trip. The reality was that she only flew the plane to Burgundy, and had it shipped to the country outside Zurich, where she then flew it into the city of Zurich, but the record stayed intact.  

Marthe's husband, Henry Richer, died during World War I, in 1916. 

(Still from the 1937 film, "Marthe Richard au service de la France")

Shorlty after her husband's death, she became a spy under Captain Georges Ladoux, thanks to her lover, a young Russian Anarchist. Part of her duties as a spy were to become mistress to Von Krohn, head of the German Navy in Madrid. Upon her return to France, Marthe discovered that Captain Ladoux was a double agent and he was placed under arrest. 

In 1926, she married Thomas Crompton, financial director for the Rockefeller Foundation, and patron of restoration for Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon. He died unexpectedly in 1928.

She published the best seller, "My Life As A Spy In The French Service", which, in 1937 was turned into a film,  Marthe Richard espionne au service de la France, starring Erich von Stroheim and Edwidge Feillere, directed by Raymond Bernard. 

Her lover at the time, French Prime Minister Édouard Herriot, gave her the Légion d'honneur for Foreign Affairs. 

(Still from the 1937 film, "Marthe Richard au service de la France")

During World War II, Marthe again became a spy, revered in France and detested in Germany. She became close to several members of the Gestapo, including François Spirito.

By 1945, Marthe was a famous French heroine of two wars, and was elected to the Municipal Court of the IVeme arrondissement in Popular Republican Movement party.

A brothel

In that same year, she presented her plan for the closing of all brothels in her district. Her will was done in the short space of three months, and Marthe proceeded with a campaign to close brothels in all of France. 

In 1946, a bill was passed entitled La loi Marthe Richard (The Law of Marthe Richard) with the help of The Christian Democrat MRP and the Communist Party. On April 13, 1946, 1,400 brothels were closed. (Many of these brothels were converted into hotels, where prostitutes continued to do business.) 

To clarify: prostitution was still legal, but several acts surrounding it were illegal.

In 1948, she was accused of involvement with organized crime, smuggling jewels and of covering up crimes. In 1954, these accusations were pronounced false, her reputation was saved.

From these processes came the nickname La Veuve Qui Clôt (The Widow who closes the deal), a pun on the premium champagne Veuve Cliquot

In her later years, Marthe wrote erotic fiction, and gave seminars about her time as a spy. 

Marthe Richard died in 1982 at the ripe old age of 92.

Bon weekend et groses bisous des femmes... intéressantes. 

Love, Charley


  1. What a great story about a fascinating (and strong) woman, Charley. In today's world, she would have been a marketing guru, reinventing herself and her "legend" as often and as creatively as needed... I had never heard about Marthe, surprisingly. Loved it. Bon weekend! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  2. You are so right, Veronique. How interesting it would be to see a woman like Marthe in today's world!
    Not many people have heard of Marthe. I just love digging up little known, fascinating tid bits!! :-)
    A great weekend to you as well, xo Charley

  3. Je ne sais pourquoi, mais cette Femme m'est profondément antipathique ...
    Manipulatrice et malhonnête ( le record de vol ... est bien un beau vol !!!),et, surtout, responsable d'une initiative catastrophique pour la condition des prostituées; A voir sur le sujet de la prostitution et des maisons 'pas si) closes que ça : "L'Apollonide, souvenirs de la maison close".
    Un film magnifique, pourtant réalisé par un homme :-) On y touche du cœur la sensibilité des ces Femmes profondément belles, et touchantes.