Lieutenant Madame Brulon: A Modern Heroine

The brilliant lady who writes to the Tribune from Paris over the signature of “Au Revoir,” expresses very naturally the force of habit in a kiss, by describing an embrace she received from a woman in masculine attire, the famous Madame Brulon, of the Hotel des Invalides. She says, “I feel a blush creeping to my cheeks as she kisses me and holds me in her cordial embrace, so much are we in the habit of believing that man walks in coat and pantaloons. If there is ‘safety in numbers,’ however, (as we are assured of there being, in kiss-dom) the lady is safe enough;” for in the same letter she says, “The Hotel des Invalides embraces what would compose quite an American village.” But this Madame Brulon is indeed a celebrity. Of such a heroine on pension it is well to repeat the history:

Madame Brulon, though eighty-three years of age, retains all the vivacity of youthful expression, and assured us that she felt no faculty missing but that to guide well her feet, the right leg having become more refractory than the wounded one.

She wears the uniform of the Invalides, and since her first adoption of military dress, has never left it but once, and that for a moment’s amusement to her grandchildren, when she assumed female attire. But the children, instead of being amused, burst into tears, and begged their grandpa-ma to go back again to her soldier’s clothes.

During the reign of the first Napoleon she was recommended by the Governor of the Invalides as ‘one having rendered herself worthy, by qualities considered above her sex, to participate in the recompense created for the brave.’ But the honor of decorating this remarkable woman was reserved for Napoleon, President of the Republic. Madame Brulon lives now not only the unique military female Invalid, but the unique female member of the Society of the French Legion of Honor. Her nomination was announced in the Monitcur of the 19th August, 1851, at the head of a long list of others, without any allusion to her sex, thus:

Cavalier — Brulon — (Angelique Marie Joseph) — Second Lieutenant — seven year’s service — seven campaigns — three wounds — several times distinguished, particularly in Corsica in defending a fort against the English. Fifth Prairial — year second, (1794.)’

At the age of seventeen she was a wife, at eighteen a mother, at twenty a widow. Her husband fell at Ajaccio, in Corsica. ‘Three days after I learned his fate,’ says Madame Brulon, ‘I took the uniform of his regiment, and demanded permission to avenge his death. Two brothers had fallen in active service; our father had died on the field of battle — my heart, head and hand burned to send destruction to the English and the rebel Corsicans, and my testimonials tell how well I fulfilled my vows.’

Her hair, once raven, is now white as snow, except some late new comers which have assumed their youthful hue. Her voice has the tone and vigor of a commander’s. Her eye is like the eagle’s. Her hand is feminine, which she gestures with masculine energy. Her attitudes, salutations, styles of expression, all combine to make you believe she is really what she seems. Her testimonials prove her to have been always a woman of the severest principles, the purest manners, the most unsullied reputation. Her reply to trifling familiarity was, ‘I am a woman, but I command men.’

She was adored as the divinity of her regiment, and cherished as the palladium of its safety. Her virtues and her valor stand undimmed beside those of the Maid of Orleans.

Source: The Lily, October 16, 1854.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s Women’s Suffrage Collection. We can provide access to fully searchable newspapers by and for women including The Lily (1849-1856), National Citizen and Ballot Box (1878-1881), The Revolution (1868-1872), The New Citizen (1909-1912), The Western Woman Voter (1911-1913), The Woman’s Tribune (1883-1909) and the antisuffrage newspaper, The Remonstrance (1890-1913).
Marie-Angélique-Joséphine Duchemin, widowed Brûlon (January 20, 1772 – July 13, 1859), was a French soldier. — Born in Dinan into a soldier family, Duchemin married a soldier named Brûlon and served from 1792–1799 in the defence of Corsica. She initially fought disguised as a man along with her husband, but was eventually discovered to be a woman. Despite this, she had shown such valour in battle that she was allowed to remain in service. She survived her husband and was proficient with sword and dagger in hand-to-hand combat. Learn More.

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