The Mysterious Life of Isabelle Eberhardt

Isabelle Eberhardt

Isabelle Eberhardt“I am not afraid of death, but would not want to die in some obscure or pointless way.” – Isabelle Eberhardt (1877-1904), some have labeled her a “cross-dresser”, but according to her diaries, she dressed as a man in order to be “free.” She died suddenly and “pointlessly” in a flash flood after renting a house made of  clay.

She was born the illegitimate daughter of an anarchist, ex-priest who tutored her siblings.  Her mother, Nathalie Moerder was born in Russia and married to an elderly widower who was well connected in Imperial circles.   She was born four years after her mother’s husband’s death and although the paternity was never documented, it is believed that she was the daughter of the tutor.

After the death of her mother, father and death by suicide of her half brother, Isabelle began to travel.  Having converted to Islam, she could not travel alone so she dressed as a man and called herself Si Mahmoud Essadi. By the time she was 27, she was well-known as a writer, recounting her travels around Africa.  She married and after a long separation from her husband she rented a house to celebrate and reconnect.  She died October 21st, 1904 when a flash flood demolished the house.  Her husband survived.