Camille Eugenie Bonnat Drevet (June 21, 1881 – May 18, 1969) was a Feminist activist. Delegate of the French section of the International Women's League for Peace and Freedom. Secretary of the "Friends of Gandhi" (1957).
She was born Eugenie Bonnat in Grenoble (Isère). The daughter of Eugène Bonnat, a schoolteacher, and Marie-Louise Génon, without a profession, Camille Drevet was a scholarship student at the Grenoble High School at the age of ten, then at the Sévigné college in Paris and at the Sorbonne. She married on 29 August 1904 in Grenoble with a lieutenant of alpine hunters, but after "ten years of happiness", her husband Henri-Paul Drevet, born in 1871, fell to the front near Arras in front of Wancourt on 2 October 1914. The personal drama that was this loss for Camille Drevet was to profoundly orient the course of her life and explains the struggle for pacifism that she led in various forms until her death. During the First World War she did social work in Soldier's Homes, an activity she continued for some time after peace had returned. In September 1920, she moved to Paris.
It was "one of her former study companions", Andrée Charpentier-Jouve, who introduced her to the International League of Women for Peace and Freedom. This organization of pacifist women, created in 1915, had been definitively formed in 1919 and the secretary of the French section was soon Gabrielle Duchêne. According to some sources, Camille Drevet began to campaign in 1924. In any case, it is certain that she immediately showed great activity and that responsibilities were soon entrusted to her. In September 1926 she represented the French section of the LIFPL at the international congress of this organization in Dublin with Gabrielle Duchêne, Marcelle Capy and Germaine Kellerson. It was also from this time that she actively collaborated with the independent feminist newspaper La Voix des femmes, of which she was with Colette Reynaud (not Raynaud) editor-in-chief from 21 January 1926. She was a woman from the Feminist Action League, which was sponsored by The Voice of Women in January 1926, which set itself the goal of winning the vote for women. Until at least 1932, she collaborated with The Voice of Women.
It does not appear that Camille Drevet ever belonged to the Communist Party, but in 1927 she was a member of the 9th section of the Socialist-Communist Union, an organization composed mostly of former PC activists who had left it in 1922-1923. She spoke several times in the Workers' Unit,the newspaper of this organization.
It seems that Camille Drevet was a delegate of the newspaper La Voix des femmes at the founding congress of the League against Imperialism and Colonial Oppression, which took place from 10 to 15 February 1927 at the Palais-Egmont in Brussels. In any case, it is certain that she gave a glowing account of this congress in The Worker's Unity and The Voice of Women and that she was elected to the Steering Committee of the French section of the League against Imperialism on June 16, 1927 with Henri Barbusse, Victor Basch, Delph Becot, André Berthon, Max Bloncourt, Chedly Ben Mustapha, Roger Francq, Gabrielle Duchêne, Albert, Antoine Fournier, André Herclet, Hadj. R. Bey, Victor Margueritte, André Morizet, Marius Moutet, Carlos Quijano, Lamine Senghor, Sia Ting, Tran Van Chi, Jacques Ventadour, Léon Werth.
But it was within the LIFPL that Camille Drevet devoted the most important part of her activity. She had demonstrated her pacifism by participating on 11 February 1926 in an international event organized by the LIFPL in Arras where she met solemnly the German Frida Perlen — according to other sources it would be Gertrude Bauer — also a member of the LIFPL and who had lost her son during the First World War. The two women, also affected on a personal level, participated in a public plantation of peace trees on the graves of military cemeteries in this devastated region where they had lost husband and son. This event was widely commented on by the pacifist and feminist newspapers. The following year, again for LIFPL C. Drevet went to Ireland and then Bulgaria where she was able, with the help of Professor Ganef, president of the League for Human Rights, to participate in the creation of a Committee for Political Prisoners. From 1927 to 1934, she tried to interest public opinion and the SDN in a Charter for the Protection of Political Prisoners, but to no avail.
In February 1927, at an LIFPL Executive Committee in Liège, on the proposal of the Irish section, it was decided to send delegates to Indochina and China to contact women's movements in these countries; Edith Pye (English, a member of the Quaker movement) and Camille Drevet were appointed for this mission. They left Marseille on 28 October 1927 accompanied by the Indochinese political leader Wong van Giao, who belonged to the Indochinese Constitutional Party and had the opportunity to feel the colonialist and racist reactions of most of the passengers: they did not understand that two "Europeans" could thus talk to an Indochinese during the crossing. The two women stayed for three weeks in Indochina and studied the organization of schools, working conditions, relations between Indochinese and French but also the devastation wrought by opium and alcohol. Camille Drevet made a particularly harsh judgment on the colonial system, which she exposed in The Voice of Women, The Worker's Unity and the Press of the LIFPL: she concluded on the following three problems which seemed essential to her: 1) The rights of the Annamites in relation to the Europeans; 2) The opium problem; 3) The question of work and concluded his presentation in the following terms: "The Indochinese problem is a serious colonial problem linked to the global question of the emancipation of colonized peoples."
Continuing their journey, the two women arrived in Hong Kong on December 22, 1927, where they met the American Kathryn Grover Clark who, with her husband, published the newspaper Peking Leader. They arrived in China at a critical time as the Township Commune, which took place from 11 to 14 December, was crushed in blood and the rupture between the "left" and "right" Kuomintang was accompanied by the extermination of members of the young Chinese Communist Party. But the two delegates wanted to visit Canton... One of the delegation's goals was to contact Mrs. Sun Yat Sen, which was not possible. On the other hand, E. Pye and C. Drevet were able to meet Mrs. Chiang Kai Chek and forge relations with Chinese nationalist circles. They then continued their journey through Japan, which they left on 31 March 1928 for the Pacific; they arrived in the United States in the spring of 1928, toured there on lectures, and embarked on 11 May 1928 for Europe. Their journey had lasted eight months.
In the years that followed, C. Drevet made numerous trips to Central European countries, including Bulgaria. The interest of the English section of the LIFPL on the issue of minorities enabled a conference on this issue to be held in London in March 1929. As part of this conference this year C. Drevet went to Romania, Poland, Ukraine and the Baltics; it reported on these countries and the dangers of anti-Semitism they knew. From 1928 to 1939 she also went to Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, eight times to the Balkans, eleven times to Hungary. In 1930, after representing LIFPL at the Pan-American Congress in Mexico City— where she met the painter Diego Rivera — she visited the Republic of Dagestan in the Soviet Union.
It is not certain that at that time she was still campaigning in the League against Imperialism with whom she probably distanced herself in 1929 — as did Gabrielle Duchêne. However, she was still interested in the colonial problem and made a short trip to Tunisia in 1930, a journey she reported on in The Worker's Unity (No. 107, May 15, 1930). Other articles were signed in this newspaper until 1931, suggesting that it belonged to or was close to the Socialist-Communist Party (the new name of the Socialist-Communist Union from 1928) or that it was close to it until that date.
From December 1930, C. Drevet became international secretary of the LIFPL where she replaced Mary Sheepshanks in Geneva. Her activity with the LIFPL was even more important and she participated in all her events. However, her arrival in Switzerland was problematic and she was threatened with expulsion in July 1933: considered a "revolutionary propagandist" and "anti-militarist" she had to leave the country on 14 July 1933. The fact that she went to the Soviet Union, that she had relations with the Communists (through the League against Imperialism in particular), that she knew Henri Barbusse and finally that she wrote in the swiss independent socialist newspaper Le Travail explained this decision of the federal government. It was immediately defended by the LIFPL. The case caused an international scandal and was reported in numerous newspapers including The Nation, the American weekly. In the face of the general reaction, the deportation order was suspended and C. Drevet was able to remain in Geneva. However, she had to leave office in May 1934 not for political reasons or disagreements with the LIFPL but more simply for financial reasons, as the LIFPL could no longer pay her. She was replaced by a volunteer, Emily Balch. C. Drevet was elected to the LIFPL Executive Committee at its international congress in Zurich in 1934.
In 1935, at the initiative of the LIFPL and other pacifist organizations, a Committee of the Mandate of The Peoples to their Governments was created, which aimed to campaign for arms reduction, for the limitation of war industries, for the search for peaceful solutions to disputes between states, etc. C. Drevet was European Secretary of the Mandate Committee, which campaigned in Czechoslovakia, France, Holland, Hungary, Sweden and the USA. In December 1935, C. Drevet supported a controversy with the Italian anti-fascist G. Ferrero, who did not believe in the usefulness of this form of pacifism and who believed that, only the destruction of fascism, could allow a real pacifism. The Mandate campaign, which was only the first step for C. Drevet, ended in April 1937 after collecting fourteen million signatures.
However, C. Drevet was also actively involved in the International League of Peace Fighters, established in 1931, since 1934. Soon the debates on the nature of pacifism and anti-fascism arose and were the occasion of a serious crisis within the LIFPL. It should be noted on this occasion that C. Drevet and Gabrielle Duchêne had a diametrically opposed attitude on this issue: C. Drevet joined in a de facto alliance between pacifist activists (such as Thérèse Emery, Jeanne Challaye or Jeanne Alexandre) and activists close to the positions of the secretary of the LIFPL group in Lyon, Berthe Joly, who was a Trotskyist. All refused, in the name of the pacifism they had always defended, to join the anti-fascist ideology advocated on the contrary by Gabrielle Duchêne. This fundamental divergence caused a very serious crisis within the LIFPL and finally the departure of two-fifths of its activists — and among them C. Drevet — during the years 1936-1937.
Increasingly, C. Drevet devoted her strength to the International League of Peace Fighters, where she took on new responsibilities: a member of the organization's Steering Committee since its Bernay Congress (April 1936) she was its secretary general from April 1937 to April 1939 and spoke many times in its newspaper Le Barrage as well as in the weekly, The Human Fatherland, which defended close positions. In these two journals were exposed the theses of integral pacifism that Félicien Challaye had set out as early as 1932.
While in such capacity, C. Drevet nevertheless continued her struggle for political prisoners — particularly in Central European countries, and notably in Bulgaria, where she still visited in 1938: she loved the country and devoted several writings to it. It also continued its struggle against colonialism and, in 1939, was a member of a short-lived Colonial Peoples' Defence Office itself in conjunction with the International Anti-Fascist Solidarity Organization (IAS). André Berthon, Félicien Challaye, Édouard Depreux, André Ferrat, J. P. Finidori, Marcel Fourrier, Daniel Guérin, Robert Louzon, Gérard Rosenthal and Léon Werth also belonged to this Office, whose activity was certainly reduced.
Drevet's pacifist positions had led her for several years to take an interest in Gandhi's theses. Since 1932 a "Group of Gandhi's Friends" had been founded and published a Newsletter. Louise Guyesse (1872-1954) was its president from 1935 until her death. C. Drevet, who became increasingly interested in India after the Second World War and made numerous trips there, succeeded Louise Guyesse from 1954 until her death in 1969. She had written many books and articles about India and Gandhi in the latter period of her life. Finally, she was Honorary Secretary of the International Civil Service.
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