235: The Self-Empowered Woman: Anne-France Dautheville

Dear Followers,

Just like you, I’m always on the lookout for stories about inspiring women. Last month, while I was working my way through a pile of reading material, I learned about a French woman who made headlines back in 1972, and now—at the age of 72—this “pioneer” has made headlines once again.

The creative director of The Fashion House “Chloe,” Clare Waight Keller, was inspired for her fall 2016 collection by Anne-France Dautheville. Most of us have never heard of this ground-breaking Frenchwoman who—when she was 28 years old back in 1972—rode a Moto Guzzi 750 motorcycle around the world. Plus, she made the trip solo.

Today, Ms Dautheville lives in a tidy village (La Ferte-sous-Jouarre) that is one hour east of Paris. Her hair is now gray, and her clothes—as well as her lifestyle—are both simple. In her words, “I live in the countryside. Luxury is not my way of life. Even if I were rich, I don’t think I would live in luxury.”

When she was young,  Anne-France grew up in Paris, but longed to escape from her hometown. At one point, she worked as a copywriter, but after sitting on a motorcycle she felt “that [my] life had been transformed.” From 1972 until 1981, she motored across the globe—from Paris to Tehran and then to Afghanistan. Ultimately—on a Kawasaki 125—she crossed 3 continents and covered 12,500 miles. In 1973 she became the first woman to ever ride around the world solo on a motorcycle.

She is surprised that an upscale fashion house is using her life story for inspiration because fashion was never part of her mindset. “I never wanted to work on beauty and fashion, because a world for women and only women does not interest me.” What the “Chloe” designers have done, as part of their homage to Dautheville is include leather bib overalls, washed-in leather jackets, and baggy elbows as trademarks of their fall fashion line.

So why did her motorcycle trips cease? Because after the May 1981, French elections, citizens could only take 2,000 francs out of the country, which made long-distance exploratory trips impossible.

The 72 year old former motorcyclist insists that it was safer to travel as a woman alone decades ago than it would be today. “It was another story, another trip, inside of me….It was to see the world. It was to see when it is different, and fascinating. The story of my life is sharing. When I write [today she writes about gardening and nature] I give the best and deepest of me to people I wouldn’t have dinner with. This is the artistic dimension. When I travelled, it was, ‘What can we share?’ Maybe it’s a bit utopic. I don’t care. It’s what I felt, and what I did.”

Her fearless story shows all of us that there are many different sorts of freedom and bravery.

About Marilyn Murray Willison

The author of six non-fiction books, Willison worked as Health and Fitness Editor at the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, and wrote book reviews, health, beauty, fashion, and travel articles on a regular basis for the Los Angeles Times. Her byline has appeared in a wide variety of American newspapers and magazines.