General Charles De Gaulle has been well known throughout modern history as the leader of the Free French Forces. Something less well-known was that his youngest daughter Anne (January 1, 1928 - February 6, 1948) had Down syndrome.
The public perception at the time, was Down syndrome occurred because of the parents' alcoholism, venereal disease or from ethnic degeneration as I talked about above. The De Gaulles rejected these fallacies, and refused to put her in an institution, instead choosing to raise Anne like their other two children at home.
It has been said often that Anne was Charles' favourite child and he called her, 'My joy'. Charles was described as a man who ranged from cocky to stoic by nature, but a loving happy father, who would read stories and sing songs to Anne. It is said that he showed Anne an affection that he rarely showed others, even those in his own household. Anne was raised to feel no less or different than anyone else. (I love this!)
Charles always carried a photo of Anne with him, and in 1962 the photo stopped a bullet from ending his life in an assassination attempt.
In 1948, Anne succumbed to pneumonia, a month after her 20th birthday and died in her father's arms. Upon her death, Charles is said to have remarked 'Maintenant, elle est comme les autres.' ('Now, she is like the others.'). When Charles died, he was buried beside his beautiful daughter.
I had goosebumps when I first read this story, because I know how hard it would have been for the family to raise Anne with society's prejudices.
Stories like this one inspire and motivate me to continue advocating for people with Down syndrome and to show society that these people are valued, worthy and deserve to have ordinary regular lives like everyone else does. And it is an ordinay regular life, full of love, that I am striving to give my daughter, 'My joy'. Thank you, Charles and Yvonne De Gualles for all that you did for Anne and for future generations.
Jenny Woolsey is an author and speaker on embracing difference, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.jennywoolsey.com