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Legendary women in Schaerbeek

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

Did you know that these legendary women have a connection to Schaerbeek? Some of them were born here, others laid to rest but they all contributed to an important part of Schaerbeek's, Belgium's and even international history.

Gabrielle Petit

"I will show them how a Belgian woman knows how to die."

Films were made and poems were written about her. Gabrielle Petit was a resistance heroine whose ambition during World War I was to change the world. She initially wanted to work as a nurse but was soon recruited by British intelligence GHQ as a spy under the pseudonym Hélène Legrand.

20 February 1893, Tournai

1 April 1916, Schaerbeek

© Archieven Schaarbeek

Edith Cavell

"I can't stop while there are lives to be saved."

During World War I, she became the heroine who rescued soldiers from both camps as a nurse, provided shelter to British, French and Belgian soldiers and helped 200 soldiers escape from Belgium via the Netherlands.

4 December 1865, in Swardeston, Norfolk

12 October 1915, Schaerbeek


Andrée De Jongh

“My name is Andrée...but I would like you to call me by my code name, which is Dédée, which means little mother. From here on I will be your little mother, and you will be my little children.”

This Schaarbeekoise received several medals for her resistance work during World War II. Among other things, she led and organised the Le Réseau Comète to help soldiers and pilots escape from Nazi-occupied Belgium. After the war, she worked in several leperies in Africa.

30 November 1916, in Schaerbeek

13 October 2007, in Brussels

© IWM HU 55451

Elsie Maréchal

© CAMERA PRESS/Clara Molden

“Our nation was being robbed of food and coal. I saw all the Jews with yellow stars – my friends taken from my school class to Auschwitz. We thought ‘Out with the Nazis!’”

During the Second World War, the entire Maréchal family joined the resistance.The then 16-year-old Elsie Maréchal followed in her mother's footsteps at 16 as a resistance fighter active in Le Réseau Comète where she helped soldiers escape. She was laid to rest in Schaerbeek at the age of 96 at the place of honour of veterans.

7 June 1924, Germany

21 June 2022, Walhain Saint Paul


« Lorsque j'entends ce prélude de Bach, par Glen Gould, ma raison s'envole »

This grande dame from Schaarbeek got a piece of the Jacques Rayéstreet under her name, now called Square Maurane. She had lived in Schaerbeek since 1984 and enjoyed international fame, with songs such as Sur Un Prélude De Bach, among others.

12 November 1960, Schaerbeek

7 May 2018, Schaerbeek

© CC0

Virginie Efira

"Today's femininity is one that does not feel guilty about its desires, whatever they may be.

With a Magritte Award under her belt, this Schaarbeek-born actress knows how to charm not only the Belgian scene but also the international film world. Virginie Efira was born in Schaarbeek and is known for the films In Bed With Victoria, Elle, An Impossible Love and Bye Bye Morons, among others.

5 May 1977, Schaerbeek

© Getty Images

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