Marguerite Lefèvre

Marguerite Alice Lefèvre (1894–1967) was an academic geographer and the first woman to hold a professorship at the Catholic University of Leuven. A prize at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and a street in Leuven are named in her honour.


Lefèvre was born in Steenokkerzeel on 1 March 1894, the daughter of Théophile Lefèvre and Elisabeth Verhulst.[1] She had two brothers, Jean and Maurice. In 1913 she qualified as a teacher at the Paridaens Institute, and started teaching at the Miniemeninstituut. In 1917 she became secretary to Paul Lambert Michotte. In 1921, a year after Leuven university began to accept female students, she enrolled in the business school, going on to obtain a licentiate degree in Commercial and Consular Sciences. In 1925 she completed her doctorate in Paris with a thesis on "L'Habitat rural en Belgique" supervised by Albert Demangeon.[1]

Lefèvre was appointed an assistant at Leuven university in 1927 and in 1931 spent six months on a fellowship at Columbia University. Throughout the 1930s she organised student excursions to experience geographical features first hand, leading to the nickname "le cheftaine" ("the scoutmistress").[1] At Paul Michotte's death in 1940 she took over from him as Secretary General of the International Geographical Union, serving until 1949.[2] While building an international reputation as a geographer, her career at the university of Leuven progressed very slowly, with appointment as full professor only in 1960, despite having been Director of the Geographical Institute for years.[1] She was the first woman appointed to a professorship at the university. She died in Leuven on 27 December 1967.[1]



  1. ^ a b c d e R. Christens, "De vrouwelijke factor in the geschiedenis", Onze Alma Mater 2001, pp. 395—416.
  2. ^ Georges Chabot, Marguerite Alice Lefèvre, Annales de Géographie, 428 (1969), pp. 472-473.