The daughter of Nobel award-winning scientist Madame Curie, Eve Curie (born 1904) would gain fame on her own terms: as a concert pianist and journalist during World War II.
The youngest child born to Pierre and Marie (Sklodowska) Curie, discoverers of radium and Nobel Prize recipients, Eve Curie's interests and talents were more musical, literary, and political than scientific. Encouraged by her mother, Curie developed her early skill in music, and her first career was as a concert pianist. Later she would turn her talents to writing, lecturing, and international advocacy on behalf of Free France during World War II. During the 1950s and 1960s, Curie worked for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and for the United Nations' Childrens' Fund in Greece.
Raised Alone by Marie Curie
Curie was born in Paris, France on December 6, 1904. She had one older sister, Irène, who shared her parents' scientific bent. The younger Curie barely knew her father; she was less than two years old when he was tragically killed. Pierre Curie died instantly in an accident on April 6, 1906 when he was pulled under the wheels of a carriage while attempting to cross a Paris street; his cranium was crushed by the force. Eve's mother lost her partner in marriage as well as science, and could never bear to talk of Pierre to her daughters after his death. Marie Curie's father-in-law, Dr. Eugène Curie provided support to her and her young daughters until his death in 1910.
Forced to raise her children alone, and determined to continue the work she had begun with husband, Pierre, Marie Curie also wished to spare her children some of the difficulties and fears she had been subject to as a child growing up in Poland. With the aid of governesses, she created lessons encouraged to stimulate both of her daughters' minds and bodies. She watched with great interest as each of the girls developed interests and skills in diverse areas. Music became the subject in which young Eve first excelled from a young age.
Physically, the girls were also encouraged in many areas. Despite all types of weather, they would take long walks. Marie Curie had gymnastic equipment installed in their garden at Sceaux and both girls earned first prizes from a local gymnasium for their skills. They learned cooking, gardening, and sewing. Along with their mother, they went on outings on bicycle, and during the summers, Marie Curie taught them how to swim. The one area in which their mother did not specifically attempt to give them direction, was in spiritual matters. She was unwilling to impose dogmas upon her daughters that she no longer believed.
During 1911, when Eve was less than seven years old, she and older sister, Irène both accompanied their mother to Poland, to visit Marie Curie's sister, Bronya, at the sanatorium. In Poland the sisters learned to ride horses and trekked into the mountains for several days, staying at mountaineering cabins during the nights.
Accompanies Mother to United States
In the spring of 1921 Eve, then 16 years old, and Irène travelled to New York with their mother on the ship, the Olympic, for Eve's first trip to the United States. Marie Curie was received with much fanfare by the people of the United States, and the two young women acted as bodyguards and also filled in for their famous mother at various social engagements for which she was highly in demand. In addition to meeting President Warren G. Harding while in Washington, D.C., the Curies also visited Niagara Falls, and took the Sante Fe line through Texas to enjoy the vistas of the Grand Canyon. The younger Curies couldn't resist the call of the Colorado River, and trekked into the canyon on mules. They returned to Paris on June 28, 1921.
Eve graduated with honors with two degrees from the Sévigné College: bachelor degrees in both science and philosophy. She also studied piano for many years, and in 1925 performed her first concert in Paris. In addition to giving many concerts in Paris, she also performed in Belgium and in the provinces of France.
Older sister Irène married Frédéric Joliot in 1926. Curie continued sharing the large, rather cold, and unadorned apartment with her mother in Paris after her older sister's marriage. Now adults, both daughters remained devoted to their mother: Irène and husband Joliot shared Marie Curie's scientific world, while Eve was a support to her mother at home, sharing evening meals and talking of the world. Curie sometimes accompanied her mother on Marie Curie's many trips to Italy, Belguim, Switzerland, and throughout France. Mother and daughter also travelled across Spain with then-President Masaryk in 1932.
Eve was quite different from her famous mother in many ways, and Marie Curie gave up trying to impose her ways upon her daughter, especially in matters of fashion. The younger Curie, attractive, elegant, and dark haired, was interested in matters that baffled her mother. Marie Curie always seemed amazed and curious about daughter Eve's dressing up, wearing high heels and makeup, which held no interest for the elder Curie, who dressed simply in her signature black dresses. Both Curies shared a love of literature, and although here also their tastes diverged, they shared a love of Kipling and Colette. Curie attended her mother during her many bouts of ill health, and was at her mother's bedside on July 4, 1934 when Marie Curie died.
Writes Biography of Marie Curie
Following her mother's death, Curie turned her talents to writing, and decided to write a biography about her famous mother. To this end, she lived in a small apartment in Auteuil, collecting and sorting various documents and letters left by Marie Curie. Eve Curie also journeyed to Poland during the fall of 1935, where some family remained, searching for additional information about her mother's youth. The information, letters, and photographs she obtained were used in the writing of Marie Curie's biography, Madame Curie, published simultaneously around the world in 1937 in France, England, Italy, Spain, the United States, and in other European countries.
Curie received much acclaim and high praise for the personal and definitive account of Marie Curie's life and work. Translated into English by Vincent Sheean, it became a best seller in the United States. The New Yorker called the biography a rare book, "which reconciles us to belonging to the human race." Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "I have read it with great thrill. The simplicity and beauty of the style and the understanding and love for her mother are in themselves wonderful." The Philadelphia Record agreed, calling it "One of the outstanding publications of the season." Curie also won the National Book Award for non-fiction in 1937 for Madame Curie. In 1943 the biography was adapted by M.G.M., and released as a film.
In addition to writing her mother's life story, Curie also wrote as a music critic under a pseudonym for several years for the weekly Candide, and authored articles for other Parisian publications on theatre, music, and movies. She translated and adapted the American play, Spread Eagle, written by George S. Brooks and Walter B. Lister, for stage production in France in 1932. The play enjoyed a long run under the name, 145 Wall Street. In 1940, after the fall of France, she travelled to England working for the cause of Free France. She would later become an officer of the women's division of the army and serve in Europe with the Fighting French.
Appointed to Diplomatic Position
Following the outbreak of World War II, Curie was appointed by former novelist and playwright Jean Giraudoux, who had become the French Information Minister, to the position as head of the feminine division of the Commissariat of Information. Between 1939 and 1949 Curie lectured across the United States on seven separate tours. During 1940 then-First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt hosted Curie at the White House in Washington, D.C. Following this visit, Curie would launch one of her tours across the United States, on the topic of French Women and the War, beginning in Kalamazoo, Michigan, stopping in many places across the country. She was articulate and elegant, and as official spokesperson for the women of France during World War II told White House correspondents during her visit that, "Peace will not come soon, and it will not come at all while the Hitler regime remains in Germany because the French are determined that when this war ends there will be no more fighting in Europe for a long time." Also in May 1940, her essay on French Women and the War, was published in Atlantic Monthly.
In 1943 the personal account of Curie's travels to the fronts during World War II, Journey among Warriors, was published by Doubleday. Sponsored by Allied Newspapers, Ltd. and the Herald Tribune Syndicate, and beginning in November 1941, Curie had toured Africa, the Near East, Russia, India, China, and Iran covering the major battlefields of the war. Journey among Warriors was generally positively received, with the primary negative comment being about excess length. Clifton Fadiman of the New Yorker called it "One of the best jobs of world reporting evoked by the current conflict."
Curie was also the co-publisher of the daily newspaper, Paris-Press, in Paris, France from 1945-49. In 1952 she was appointed as the Special Advisor to the Secretary General of NATO; she held this position on its international staff until 1954. On November 19, 1954 Curie married Henry Richardson Labouisse who was the U.S. ambassador to Greece. Curie served as the executive director of the United Nations' Childrens' Fund, Greece from 1962-65. She and Labouisse travelled extensively to more than 100 of the developing nations who were beneficiaries of UNICEF relief.
Among Curie's other interests during her long and varied life have been skiing, skating, and swimming. She speaks Polish, as well as some Greek and Spanish. Both of her books have been translated into various languages. Curie makes her home in New York City.
Further Reading on Eve Curie
Curie, Eve, Madame Curie, Doubleday, 1937.
New Yorker, May 8, 1943.
Time, February 12, 1940, p. 25.