Choosing the scholarly way

1. Éliane Vogel-Polsky

Does her name ring a bell? An essential figure of recent decades, she was committed to the cause of gender equality throughout her life.

Born in Ghent in 1926, of Russian origin, her family moved to Brussels in 1938. She got a PhD in Law from the ULB and specialised in social law.

First in Belgium, and later at the European level, Éliane became the embodiment of Article 119 of the Treaty of Rome (1957), which explicitly defends equal pay for male and female workers doing the same work.

Equal pay, the place of women in professional and societal hierarchies and in positions of responsibility... these were all battles that Éliane fought for women in professional circles to open their eyes to such inequalities. Her action led to the uprising of female workers at the Fabrique Nationale de Herstal: in 1966, 3,500 women blockaded the factory for 3 months! They got a pay raise, but they didn't reach equality... 

Professional equality requires changes in the political sphere: Éliane sought to obtain a greater female presence in assemblies and ideally a parity, or "parity democracy".

She passed away in Brussels at the end of 2015. A street was recently named after her in a new urban housing development, where the communes of Laeken and Jette meet.

2. Marie Popelin

This great Brussels lady - one of the founders of the feminist movement in Belgium - played a major role in the evolution of mentalities in the 19th century.

Born in Schaerbeek in 1846, she started studying Law at the ULB at the age of 37. With her diploma in hand, she wished to be sworn in as a lawyer... only to be refused by the Court of Appeal, simply because she was a woman! The court stated that "the particular nature of women, the relative weakness of their constitution, [...] their special mission in humanity, [...] their duty to bring their children up, the management of their household and the domestic home entrusted to their care, all place them in conditions that are not easily reconcilable with the duties of the legal profession and do not afford them the time, strength or aptitudes necessary for the struggles and fatigue of the Bar".

The "Popelin Affair" was the starting point of her involvement in the women's cause. Together with others, she founded the "Belgian League for the Rights of Women" and called for the emancipation of women through publications, conferences and congresses held mainly in Brussels.

3. Lucia de Brouckère

You probably know place de Brouckère, which is named after Charles de Brouckère, the famous 19th century Secretary of State and Mayor of Brussels. But are you familiar with Lucia de Brouckère?

The de Brouckère family was part of the Belgian nobility, into which Lucia was born. Lucia, known as "Lucie", was endowed with a very strong personality and studied chemistry at the ULB. From 1930 to 1932, at the University of Ghent, she became the first woman to teach in a Faculty of Science in Belgium. In 1934, her fame led to her being chosen to chair the Women's World Committee Against War and Fascism.

Exiled to London in the Second World War, she then devoted all her energy to developing the prestige of the ULB chemistry department. Lucia wanted her students not only to be good scientists, but also free spirits.

She was a member of numerous scientific institutions and was also involved in other activities, particularly in secular circles, such as freemasonry and the Lay Centre. 

An influential figure, she died in 1982. The Haute École Lucia de Brouckère was named after her.