Rosalie Duthé Was The World's First 'Dumb Blonde,' But There's A Whole Lot More To Her Story

Rosalie Duthé was a sensation in her time. Rubbing shoulders with royals and the nobles of 18th-century Europe, the Frenchwoman was known far and wide for her exquisite beauty. It’s also been said that she was the first woman to ever be labeled as a “dumb blonde” — but don’t let that fool you. There was far, far more to this woman than met the eye.

Different types of blonde

Women with blonde locks occupy a curious space within our culture — there are myriad insidious stereotypes linked with the hair color. There’s the “expensive blonde,” which is associated with people like Gwyneth Paltrow. There’s the “rock ’n’ roll blonde,” attached to figures like Debbie Harry. And, of course, there’s the “blonde bombshell.”

“I can be smart when it’s important”

Marilyn Monroe was the ultimate blonde bombshell, but to some she also epitomized another type: the dumb blonde. She became synonymous with that nasty label after she appeared in the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in which her character was a little dim and concerned only with marrying men for their wealth. It was in this film that Monroe uttered the famous line, “I can be smart when it’s important, but most men don’t like it.”

Les Curiosités de la Foire

Long before Monroe, though, there was Rosalie Duthé. And really, she was the one who laid the groundwork for the emergence of the dumb-blonde stereotype within the popular imagination. She developed quite the reputation for her exploits, some of which were documented in a play inspired by her called Les Curiosités de la Foire.

Looked down upon

Like Monroe, Duthé was looked down upon by lots of people. At the same time, she also managed to attract some of the most powerful people in her society. For reasons largely beyond her control, her legacy has been tied to this notion of the dumb blonde — but there was a lot to this woman.