At the Palais de Rumine in Lausanne, an exhibition will give you the opportunity to get to know Vaudoise Henriette Favez’s extraordinary career better.
In 1823, in Santiago de Cuba, an extraordinary trial caused a scandal. Enrique Favez, a renowned physician and surgeon from Baracoa, a city located in the eastern part of the island.
The good doctor, who has treated both the good society and slaves for three years, is accused of perjury, forgery, corruption, incitement to violence, illegal drug use, fraud, rape and serious attacks on the institution of marriage. Sorry a little.
But it is Enriqueta Favez, whom the court sentences to 10 years in prison, in an institution where the women who violate the social standards of the time are teased that they are divorced, prostitutes or other incorrigible creatures.
Because Enrique (or Henry) Favez was morphologically a woman, which is confirmed by the urinary tract examination performed during the trial. The medical examination also makes it possible to note “the phenomenon with the most open opposition between the moral part and its physical part; […] a man’s spirit contained in a woman’s body “.
Well known in Cuba, this affair has started to be talked about in our regions for a few years. Because the minutes of the trial, unearthed in the 1990s by the Cuban historian Julio César González-Pagès, reveal that Enrique Favez declared that he was born on the 1st.eh April 1791 in Lausanne under the first name Henriette.
From 31 to 1 Marcheh May 2022, at the entrance to the Palais de Rumine in Lausanne, an exhibition produced by the Cantonal Vaudois Museum of Archeology and History (MCAH), the Swiss Embassy in Cuba and Cuban historians, will highlight this Vaudois figure and his extraordinary career, in occasion of the Festival Histoire et Cité, which precisely thematizes the “Invisible”.
“The paradox is that without this trial, Enrique Favez would have remained invisible,” notes Sabine Utz, chief curator of the MCAH and co-curator of the exhibition with historians Gaëlle Nydegger and Neida Peñalver. He just wanted to be another white settler.
“Her rediscovery in Cuba is through the history of medicine, which becomes central to the island’s national identity around 1900, and makes her a figure of the first female doctor to step out of the roles imposed by society, the establishment as a feminist model.
The exhibition does not solve all the mysteries that characterize Henriette Favez’s extraordinary trajectory. Starting with the vagueness surrounding his birth. At the time of her trial, she stated that her parents were Jean Favez and Jeanne Cavin, in Lausanne. Admittedly, these people existed at the time, but if they are related to three sons, there is no trace of a Henriette in their lineage.
On the other hand, research has shown that a Henriette Favez was born in Bavois on the 1steh February 1786, daughter of a cousin of Jean Favez, Isaac and of Charlotte Meyret. The date of birth given above corresponds to that of a neighbor of Favez in Lausanne.
“This vagueness undoubtedly refers to the moment when Enrique Favez asserts a male gender identity and has to build an administrative life,” notes Sabine Utz. as a young man in society.The Vaudois archives thus suggest that he revised his genealogy by combining authentic information.
Orphaned at a very young age, Henriette at the age of 15 or 16 would have been married by her uncle, Colonel of a hunting regiment in Napoleon’s service, to another officer, Jean Baptiste Renau. She obtains in exchange for following from 1805 her husband and her uncle during Napoleonic campaigns in Germany and Austria. We know almost nothing about this period of her life, except that she lost an eight-day-old baby and her husband.
It was then that Henriette, left to herself, took the first name Henri in order to study medicine in Paris, perhaps by enrolling with her husband’s rank before she was enrolled as a military surgeon. After Berezina, Dr. Favez sent to Spain, where he is captured by the English. Released in 1814, he settled in Guadeloupe, which he left in 1819 for Cuba, where many French settlers had fled Haiti.
“Without changing my costume, thus dressed as a man to whom I was accustomed, and thus finding myself at liberty, because so clothed I could pursue my profession and my fortune, without thinking of harming anyone, and much rather in the idea of helping the needy through my job, as I have always done, ”she testified at her trial.
Lying about your identity, cross-dressing, is one thing, but shortly after his arrival, Henri Favez exacerbates his case as he falls in love with a patient, Juana de León, a distressed woman of mixed race. Eight days before he married her, “he discovers himself in front of her”, so “she will not be fooled”.
“She told me she did not care,” he adds. He converted so that their marriage is blessed by the Church. Hence the scandal when the pot of roses is revealed, at the discretion of a governess.
After just over a year in prison, Henriette Favez was deported to New Orleans in the United States. There she joined the Congregation for the Daughters of Charity, which she was to lead and within which she died in 1856. Under the name Magdalena, that is, Marie Madeleine, another sinner.
Lausanne, the entrance to the Palais de Rumine, place de la Riponne 6, from 31 to 1 Marcheh May, exhibition “Between genres and worlds. Dr. Favez (1791-1856) ”. Free entry.
Gilles Simond has collaborated with “24 heures” since 1989. Reviewing the Sports Section, the “24 Weekend” supplement and the Culture Section, he is today responsible for the Reflection Section, writes articles related to the local history and occasionally replaces the editor.
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