Grab a great glass of French chardonnay, and allow us to tell you about another French salonnière who was ahead of her time.

Sophie de Condorcet, born in 1764 in Meulan, France, was a prominent salonnière in Paris during and after the Reign of Terror, that nasty time in France when heads were being chopped off with wanton abandon.

Known as Madame de Condorcet, Sophie was the wife, then widow, of the mathematician and philosopher Nicolas de Condorcet, who died during the Reign of Terror. Like all the salonnières in history, Sophie was very much her own woman. Even after her husband’s death during the French Revolution, she maintained her own strong identity and was considered one of the most well-connected and influential people in Paris.

A painting depicting The Reign of Terror

Sophie was fabulous, not just because she was kind, beautiful, and welcoming to all, but because she was one smart cookie. Highly educated for her day, Sophie was fluent in French, English, and Italian. She was a writer and translator who produced translations of works by the great thinkers, Thomas Paine and Adam Smith. Her translation of, and commentary about, Adam Smith’s “Theory of Moral Sentiments” became the standard French translation for the next two centuries.

Pierre de Beaumarchais

Sophie was a real girl’s girl who used her salon to promote and encourage equal rights for women. In fact, the scuttlebutt was that Sophie had the will and intelligence to be the Susan B. Anthony of her time. She just didn’t have the stamina to lead the movement.Sophie’s salon, which was frequented by Thomas Jefferson, the feminist Olympe de Gouges, and a host of philosophers and aristocrats, was the best ticket in town. One of her favorite guests was the polymath Pierre de Beaumarchais, playwright, watchmaker, inventor, musician, diplomat, fugitive, spy, publisher, horticulturalist, arms dealer, satirist, financier, and revolutionary (both French and American). Can you imagine? No wonder she loved him. What a fabulous party guest he must have been!

One of our favorite salonnières of all time, Sophie was hosting parties and influencing social commentary until the day she died in Paris on September 8, 1822. Bravo, Madame!

To read more about the great salonnieres in history, click here. For a list of America’s 100 best modern-day salonnieres click here, and for tips and ideas from today’s most skilled party hosts, click here.

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