© Rebecca Bowring

Feminizing street names: Welcome to rue Pearl Grobet-Secrétan!

In December 2023, Geneva’s Council of State gave the go-ahead for nine streets to be renamed in honour of influential women in the city’s history. This is the third wave of feminisation efforts in Geneva.

La Collective welcomes this decision with enthusiasm, especially as it affects the rue de l’Ecole-de-Chimie, where the organisation is based. From May 2024, the street will be officially known as Rue Pearl Grobet-Secrétan. 

This change resonates deeply with La Collective, which is poised to be a leading voice on gender and equality issues. With a street name that honours Pearl Grobet-Secrétan, a key figure in Geneva’s feminist history, La Collective is perfectly aligned with its core values and objectives.

Who was Pearl Grobet-Secrétan? 

Pearl Grobet-Secrétan (1904-1988) was a teacher, suffragette and socialist activist. After studying in London and New York, she settled in Geneva in 1947. She campaigned for women’s suffrage and family planning. She was also active in international organisations in Geneva, representing the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the International Federation for Human Rights at the UN.

Why should street names be feminised? 

Public spaces are deeply gendered, with women and gender minorities reporting feeling less safe in cities than their male counterparts. The feminization of street names encourages women to feel a sense of belonging in public places and recognizes their contributions to Geneva’s history and influence. While many European cities have moved towards feminising street names, Geneva still has a long way to go with only 7% of streets bearing female names in comparison with cities such as Stockholm (19.5%) and Madrid (18.7%)1. This endeavour is not just a symbolic gesture; it represents a cultural, social and political shift in the direction of gender equality, with implications for the position of Switzerland on this issue.

The 100Elles* project 

Proposed by the feminist association l’Escouade, the 100Elles* project showcases one hundred women and gender minorities who have left an indelible mark on Geneva’s history, with the aim of renaming streets in their honour. Originally offering alternative pink plaques alongside the official names, the project has since expanded with the support of the City and Canton of Geneva. In 2019, ten streets will be officially renamed after women, followed by nine more in 2022. The recent announcement by the State Council on 6 December brings the total to 28.