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Les Femmes et la Ville : histoire des femmes à Marseille des origines à nos jours

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Mam'Ega, Ega Françoise Marcelle, dite

Case Pilote 27.11.1920 - Marseille 07.03.1976

Mam'Ega (a short form of « Madame Ega ») was a Martiniquaise well known in the neighbourhood of La Busserine and also a leading figure in French Antilles literature. She was the daughter of Claude Modock, a gamekeeper, and his wife Déhé Partel, a seamstress and had an adopted brother and three sisters. After receiving her typing diploma, she married Franz Ega in Paris on 8 May 1946. He was a soldier born in 1921 to a Martiniquais family of ten children. Françoise gave birth to four of their five children in Marseilles: Jean-Luc (1952), Christiane (1956), Jean-Pierre (1957) and Jean-Michel (1958); Jean-Marc was born in Madagascar (1954). A practising Catholic, Françoise gave catechism and liturgy lessons at the Saint Claire parish church; she also organized the French West Indian-Guyanan soccer team and helped found AMITAG and ACSAG, two associations for sport and for culture for the French West Indies and Guianan community in Marseilles. Working with the youths in her neighbourhood, she organized after-school tutoring for children with difficulties and helped migrant families in their dealings with the administration. She also looked after Caribbean students attending the Universities in Aix-en-Provence and Marseilles. She was active in local politics in the 14th district and in union activities. As a member of the Poetry Club, she wrote two collections of poems which reflect her generous personality and her commitment to serving her community. Le temps des Madras offers warm recollections of her childhood and adolescence in Martinique, while in Lettres à une Noire, a posthumous work, she tells of her own experiences: wanting to learn more about the situation of young Caribbean maids in Marseilles, she took a job as maid between 1962 and 1964 and kept notes on her experience, sometimes quite unflattering for her employers. She was often filled with joie de vivre and optimism: « when I feel in the mood, I wrap my madras around my head, put on my long flowery dress and stroll along the Canebière! » This book received an award from the Office chrétien du livre and was published internationally. Mam'Ega's early death led to an outburst of solidarity: inhabitants of all origins in her housing estate contributed to a fund which paid to send her body back to Martinique. Her children have continued her work and ensure that she is remembered in La Busserine. A commemorative plaque was installed in the Busserine Cultural Centre. Her eldest son is Professor of English at the University of Antilles-Guyana, her second son is an educator in Marseilles, her daughter teaches French in Guadeloupe and her third son practices art-therapy in Marseilles. A Mam'Ega Committee was created to continue her work in La Busserine, while Fort-de-France, Martinique, has named a street Rue Marcelle Ega. and the Françoise Ega Library was created at the Morne-Rouge Cultural Centre.

Catherine Marand-Fouquet

Refs.: Le temps des Madras, L'Harmattan, réed. 1988 ; Lettres à une Noire, L'Harmattan, 1978. A paraître en 1998 : L'Alizé ne soufflait plus.