Mademoiselle Montansier

Mademoiselle Montansier lived from 1730 until 1820 and grew to great fame as France's first female theatre director.


She grew up in Bordeaux, France. At age 14, she fled from the convent in which she was educated and joined a travelling acting troupe. This might have spelled social destitution to a solo young woman at the time - but not so for Mademoiselle Montansier!

Some time later, she travelled to the Caribbean where she, ever resourceful, opened a dress shop in Saint-Domingue. At some point she returned to France where she moved in with a relative and ran a gambling house. This marked her ascent as it was frequented by Paris' high society and some of these men clearly saw the sparkling intelligence of their hostess and she gained important contacts, as well as making good money as a female entrepreneur in the 1700s.

Utilising these contacts, she managed to secure the leadership of a theatre in Versailles. She turned out to be so good at managing it that by 1775 Marie Antoinette granted Mademoiselle Montansier the exclusive right to balls and shows at the Palace of Versailles.

In 1779, her success afforded her the means of opening her own theatre rather than managing somebody else's. For this she bought a building in Versailles and reached her zenith as a self-made woman.


This woman must have been so charismatic and yet mercurial that she always came out on top, whatever the situation. Her sheer grit and determination must have been a force to be reckoned with. With such royal patronage one might have expected that the French Revolution spelled the certain end of her theatre if not of her life. Yet her theatre remained active throughout and when post-Revolutionary France was seized by Napoleon she managed to get him to grant her the rights to open another theatre in the city of Paris.

She died aged 90 in 1820 and should be much much more well known than she is.

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