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French former first lady Danielle Mitterrand dies at 87

PARIS — Danielle Mitterrand, a decorated member of the French Resistance and combative advocate for the poor who broke the mold as first lady alongside France's first Socialist president, died Tuesday at age 87.

An avowed leftist, she turned the 14-year tenure of her husband, French President Francois Mitterrand, into her own bully pulpit — one that long outlasted him.

He died of cancer less than a year after leaving office in 1995. In a poignant moment in modern French politics, the widowed Danielle Mitterrand stood before the late president's coffin alongside his mistress and daughter, whose out-of-wedlock birth and existence were long kept secret from the French public.

She advocated many left-leaning causes, supporting Marxist rebels in El Salvador and ethnic minorities like Kurds and Tibetans. She crisscrossed the world in defense of human rights.

Her foundation said she was guided by a phrase of philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre: "It's not right to want to heal the suffering of people without committing to fight the very causes of this suffering."

French former first lady Danielle Mitterrand dies at 87 11/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 9:59pm]
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