Archeologist Jane Dieulafoy Wore Pants Despite the 1800s Parisian Law

French archeologist, Jane Dieulafoy, who lived and worked in the 1800s broke Parisian law by wearing trousers. Her celebrity status swayed France to look the other way and Dielafoy would go on to receive two high distinctions from the French government in her lifetime!

Jane Dieulafoy
Defying a 100-Year-Old Law

In November of the year 1800, a law was put into place stating that women in France were not allowed to wear trousers. Many historians believe that this was the government’s reaction to women at the time requesting the right to hold male jobs, wear male clothing, and have “liberty, equality, and fraternity”. Exceptions were made for those involved in bicycle or horse-riding activities in the late 19th century. It wasn’t until 2013 that France revoked this law.

Marcel Dieulafoy and Jane Dieulafoy and Jane's French Legion of Honor Medal.

The Many Achievements of Jane Dieulafoy

Dieulafoy’s choice to wear men’s suits and trousers was overlooked because of numerous achievements that rose her to the status of celebrity. She was raised in a Catholic household, upheld many strongly conservative stances, and even fought for her country alongside her husband in the Franco-Prussian War as a sharpshooter.

Jane Dieulafoy defending her team's supplies - Image from the exhibit "Wilder Shores: Lady Travelers of the 18th and 19th Centuries" in the UCLA Libraries Special Collections

Her marriage to Marcel-Auguste Dieulafoy, a well-known civil engineer, lasted 49 years and, together, they traveled through western Iran where they made amazing archaeological discoveries in the ancient capital Susa. Thanks to their work, a new wing opened in the Louvre Museum in 1888 devoted to Iran and displaying the unique artifacts the couple brought back. The detailed diaries Jane kept during their travels through Persia were printed in the French travel magazine, Le Tour du Monde.

Her Late Years

Jane DieulafoyIn their later years, Jane and Marcel were treated like celebrities. Jane was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French Government in 1886. She officially petitioned the French government and was given permission to continue wearing men’s pants. She wrote several historical novels, continued her archeological efforts and travels through Spain and North Africa, and campaigned for women to be granted auxiliary positions in the military during WW2. Jane Dieulafoy died at the age of 64 in 1916, but not before making many marks on history.