We were fortunate enough to spend our first full day in Paris honoring the work and legacy of Bucknell Institute alumnae Katherine Baker, class of 1892. Ms. Baker had served in Paris as a nurse during the First World War, where she traveled with French troops and worked in dangerous conditions that would lead to her death later in life. She was awarded a the rank of corporal (a rare appointment for those not in the military) and multiple awards for her tireless, passionate service to the French troops.
Additionally, as we learned today, Ms. Baker also assisted Henri Rollet, a French attorney and advocate for the legal rights and protections for children, in establishing an institution of asylum for girls.
Today, the Henri Rollet Association stands just outside of the city, in a peaceful neighborhood of narrow, winding roads. It functions as a haven for young women who need protection, support, and education. The institution is situated on beautiful grounds and consists of numerous stone buildings. One of these, a dormitory for the younger residents, is named after Ms. Baker and dedicated to those American women who served overseas in Would War I.
(pictured: a portrait of Ms. Baker, a gift from us, in its new home below that of Henri Rollet)
During our visit, I was struck by the philosophy of the institution. The director, Ms. Josianne Ripert, explained that their focus is creating a supportive environment for the residents, while still challenging them to cultivate self-sufficiency and gain a strong education. The young women are given chores and responsibility, along with guidance when needed. Ms. Ripert emphasized that the institution provides educators, not simply teachers, as they do so much more for the residents. As we learned more about the Henri Rollet Association and its mission, I couldn’t help but think that Katherine Baker would be proud to see her name on a building here. As she was a sufferagette and a pioneering female attorney, she would likely marvel at the institution’s dedication to providing its young residents with both independence and an education. Personally, I was floored by the positive impact that the Henri Rollet Association must have had on hundreds of lives since its founding. I can only imagine how honored Ms. Baker would be to see her legacy live on at such an impactful place for French girls.