Zélie, an active woman, a business woman, committed to justice for all
After her education at the convent of the Perpetual Adoration in the rue de Lancrel in Alençon, she felt called to the religious life, but was rejected by the mother superior of the sisters of charity of the Hotel-Dieu. She trained professionally to become a successful lace-maker producing the famous lace, "Le Point d’Alençon". Towards the end of 1853 she set up as a ‘maker of Point d’Alençon lace’ at 36 rue Saint Blaise, employing outworkers. Her workshop became renowned for the quality of her work.
She saw her relationships with her workers, lacemakers, suppliers and clients as an opportunity to put charitable love into practice. She took care of her workers, tended them in illness, listened to them and supported them.
At home, the domestic staff were treated as members of the family. When they were ill, it was she who looked after them: “I had a fever and a sore throat for three or four days”, she wrote, “but I had to stay up for part of the night to look after the maid.”
“Domestic staff need to feel loved, to be shown sympathy and not to be treated too harshly. It is true that I treat my servants no differently than I treat my children.” CF 29 to her brother.
“I wish I were a tougher business-woman; it upsets me so much to have to dismiss people who work for me.”
“We could have completed the sale [of her lace business] had we wanted to, but I felt I had to make sure they were aware of one or two problems because they only saw everything as wonderful, and I didn’t like that.” CF 183