Danielle Mitterrand, who died Tuesday at 87, was a free woman, a volunteer at age 17 with the French Resistance and a lifelong fighter for human rights. She was consistently to the left of her politician husband, Francois Mitterrand, who became France’s first Socialist president in 1981. She had met him during her work as a nurse during World War II, and helped him avoid arrest by the Gestapo.

She was a founder of France Libertes, and in later years took care to distance herself from the party of her husband. At his death, she and her sons stood side by side at the funeral with Anne Pingeot, Francois Mitterrand’s mistress, and their daughter Mazarine. As Danielle Mitterrand wrote in 1996, Mazarine’s birth was “neither a surprise nor a drama.”

Her last great cause was establishing the right to water across the globe as a fundamental human right. She said, “Unfortunately, the politicians are not ready to make [water] a free resource of all humanity. To do this, we would have to break with capitalism.”


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