Nelly Roussel1 ( 1878-1922) was born into the Parisian middle class and married into the bohemian artistic world. She and her husband, a struggling sculptor named Henri Godet, participated together in freethinking, socialist, and feminist organizations at the turn of the century. Roussel preferred the moderate feminist movement and chiefly worked with groups such as the National Council of French Women (CNFF) and the Fraternal Union of Women (UFF). These associations articulated programs that were clearly feminist, yet restrained. Roussel soon developed ideas more advanced than her colleagues' (especially on questions of sexuality, birth control, and abortion), but she never broke from her moderate friends, choosing instead to try to enlarge their feminism.
Roussel and Godet had three children, and she spoke often and proudly of her role as a mother. She usually placed these discussions in the context of a broad "integral feminism" that had room for both motherhood and militancy. In both contexts, Roussel stressed women's right to make decisions concerning their bodies. Her sense of autonomy for women linked the campaign for legal rights with personal arguments about each woman's right to control her own life and to make her own decisions.
Nelly Roussel was trained as a diction teacher and had some experience as an actress. These qualifications, plus an amiable and extroverted personality that won friends quickly, made Roussel the most admired feminist orator of the belle époque. She began a series of public lectures in 1901 and took these talks on an annual lecture tour of provincial France (with a long list of sponsors) between 1903 and 1913. Roussel gave 236 speeches during those