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Short biography
Françoise Giroud, born Lea France Gourdji to Turkish Jewish immigrant parents in Switzerland, left school at age 14. She worked as a script girl for French director Marc Allégret on his 1932 film Fanny, and in 1936 worked as an aide to Jean Renoir on La Grande Illusion. She later wrote screenplays. Giroud worked as a journalist for many leading French publications and eventually wrote more than 30 books, from novels to biographies. She was a dedicated advocate of left-wing causes and women’s rights, and a successful career woman at a time when that was still a rarity in France. During World War II, with her older sister, she was active in the French Resistance. In 1943, she was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Fresnes Prison, but freed in 1944 due to lack of evidence. After the war, Françoise Giroud was married briefly to Anatole Eliacheff, a film producer, with whom she had two children. In 1945, she was hired to help start up Elle magazine, and was the editor until 1953, when she co-founded the influential political weekly L’Express with journalist and politician Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber. Although he was also married, they conducted a long-term affair. Giroud edited L'Express until 1971, then was its director until 1974, when Prime Minister Jacques Chirac asked her to serve in the French national government. She was Secrétaire d'État à la Condition féminine (Secretary of State for Women's Affairs), a position created for her, until 1976, when she was appointed Minister of Culture. She remained in that post for 32 months, through two administrations. She managed the charity Action Contre la Faim or ACF (Action Against Hunger) from 1984 to 1988. Giroud's seductive voice, slim, chic appearance, intelligence, and eloquence made her a popular guest on French television, where she appeared well into her 80s. She published her memoirs, entitled Arthur, ou le Bonheur de Vivre, in 1997.
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