Ida Faubert led a fascinating life. She married twice, that in itself unusual for a Haitian woman of her era. She was born in Port-au-Prince on February 14, 1882 as Gertrude Florentine Félicitée Ida Salomon, the daughter of Lysius Salomon, Haiti’s president from 1879 to 1888 (being a Haitian, his name was actually Louis Etienne Félicité Lysius Salomon). Faubert’s mother was Salomon’s stepdaughter, a matter that was well-known in Haiti at the time, according to historian Charles Dupuy, but wasn’t publicly acknowledged.
According to the book Notes From the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti by Michael Deibert, Salomon was born in Les Cayes, and was a member of Haiti’s powerful and emerging elite from that city. Max Laudun in his book To Set the Record Straight: From Slavery, Independence, Revolution depicts him as a man of strategy. According to Laudun, Salomon once offered Mole St. Nicolas to U.S president Chester A. Arthur for use as a base in the 1880s.
When her father fled Haiti in 1888, little Ida was still a child. Lysius Salomon took the family to France where he died without setting foot in Haiti ever again. His grave lies in the de Passy cemetery in Paris.
Haiti’s president Lysius Salomon in a portrait.
As for Ida, she returned to Haiti as an adult, but she didn’t permanently establish herself there, returning to France in 1914. Her first marriage to Philippe Joseph Léonce Laraque ended in divorce. They had a daughter Jacqueline, who died as an infant, and to whom Ida Faubert dedicated an eventual poem. Her second marriage to Andre Faubert produced a son, Raoul.
Ida Faubert published several poems. In the late 1930s, she published Cœur des Îles [Heart of the Islands]. She is highly regarded as a major author in Haiti’s literary cannon. For instance, Renée Brenda Larrier writing in Francophone Women Writers of Africa and the Caribbean cites Ida Faubert as one of the most visible of Haitian female poets, having had her work published in Haiti Litéraire et Scientifique, a major literary journal of nineteenth century Haiti.
Ida Faubert died in 1969 in Paris. Thirteen years before, she had been honored by the French government with the prestigious Chevalier de l’Ordre Honneur et Mérite or Knight of Honor and Merit Order.
Today, many of the Salomon-Faubert descendants live in France, including Jean Faubert, Ida’s grandson from her son Raoul Faubert. Read on to find out what he had to say regarding his legendary and historical family.
Q & A
Were you born during your grandmother’s lifetime?
Yes. I was born in 1937, and having lost my mother from the time I was nine years old in 1946, Ida gave me all her affection, thus giving me the motherly love that was so tremendously missing, from a young and tender age. Raoul Faubert, her son and my father, because of his job, didn’t have time to settle down in a family setting. I was in a boarding school up to the time I was eight years old in Versailles in Paris at Collège Stanislas. Ida would visit me every week and would take me in on Sundays. I was spoiled to the point where I called her Mommy Tout. I knew some of her friends from the literary world. I drew little covers for her writings. Some French and Italian newspapers would print some of her poems and tales about Haiti. I was really proud of that. I lived under the same roof as she did from the time I was seventeen and up to twenty-seven. There were endless letter exchanges between us during the time I was in the military and after I got married.
Raoul took care of Ida until her death in 1969 at Joinville le Pont—Banlieue Parisienne des bords de Marne 94—where she was surrounded with a great deal of love.
The historian Charles Dupuy—as well as others—indicate that your grandmother was actually the daughter and granddaughter of your great-grandfather Lysius Salomon. Do you know at which point of her life did she find that out—if at all. And what her reaction was?
Yes, Ida was very well the daughter of President Salomon, in spite of being quite advanced in age—at 67. Lysius had married a woman a Potiez, who had a daughter, pretty much an adult and a doctor, and it’s that young woman who was Ida’s mother. I never brought up the subject with my grandmother. I didn’t learn of the whole thing until after her death.
According to Ile a Ile, Ida Faubert went to Haiti at one point, but returned to live in France, where she died. Why did she not remain in Haiti?
In fact, she returned to France before the war of 1914-1918 for her son, and for the wonderful friendships that she had established in France. She was friends with [the French writer] Colette. Raoul was a French Citizen, married, and had to go to war in 1939-1940. There were trips to Haiti that went through Paquebot at the time, and it wasn’t always easy to plan a trip to Port-au-Prince. Raoul made the trip for her. Dr. Jean Price Mars took charge of her properties and assets in Haiti—Turgeau Club. Supplemental income. That property was sold a long time ago.
Did she visit Haiti often?
No. None to my knowledge. But she had a lot of Haitian acquaintances in France who she kept in touch with.
You said she had many contacts with the Haitians in France. Such as whom?
Many names I [don’t recall], but I think the Léger, Blanc, Magnus, Price Mars, Dominica, Potiez, Manuel, Laraque, and Audain….I’m getting old.
Did she ever talk about Lysius Solomon his father?
Lysius died in Paris when Ida was still very young—six years of age—so she had few memories of the father, the man of state.
Who would you say was the love of her life?
Her “pitit mwens”. Raoul—her son—and me.
Any special stories behind any of her poems?
Did she ever consider writing the story of her life?
No. Not to my knowledge.
Are there any special family stories that you have heard about her?
Yes, some anecdotes…none too particularly interesting…except for the one about her going to the beauty salon one day. She went to get her hair dyed and [had a reaction to it and] her head got swollen unfortunately like a balloon, and she had to shun public appearances for weeks.
Would you say she was a feminist?
Yes…especially for her era. She expressed herself strongly at times. Today, she would probably be a member of all these associations.
Do the remaining, the surviving members of the Salomon and Faubert families visit Haiti often?
No, unfortunately. As for myself, I have not set foot on the soil of my ancestors. I have gone to Guadeloupe and Martinique….to give me an idea.
Do you have any plans to go to Haiti? Wouldn’t it be cool to go there for a little family reunion? And even take a look at the Turgeau Club, your great-grandfather’s villa?
Unfortunately, I don’t envision a trip like that. I haven’t had rapport with family in Haiti in years. It was my father Raoul who had relationships with his half brothers born in the 1910s…1915…are they still alive? I, myself, am 76 years old…..Time passes by very quickly.
Were you aware of the historical links of your family in Haiti throughout your childhood?
Yes, of course ….I celebrated Haitian Independence Day in Paris at the Champs Elysées with my father and President [Paul Eugene] Magloire.
The death of her daughter Jacqueline had to be a huge blow. Did she ever discuss her with you? Do you think this led to the breakup of her first marriage?
Jacqueline died following a childhood illness. I do not know the name of the virus…and since there has been progress on this disease. The first marriage evidently suffered….I do not know the details. And who could possibly know them?
She divorced Mr. Faubert?
I don’t think so. She and Andre Faubert, her husband, were on good terms, without much contact. My grandfather asked for me, but I had never met with him, because of his life as Ambassador of Haiti in Miami. My father had contact with him, more or less regularly. My grandfather who moved on and had another family. I met some of his kids in France—Claude Faubert in 1968—during the time of the birth of my daughter Patricia Faubert.
And what of your ancestor Lysius Salomon?
Of course, I didn’t know him, but I am proud of him. I’ve read nothing but pleasant things about him and he was perhaps better than some leaders past and present. I have stamps with his face on them.
[Photo Credit: All photos are from the private collection of Jean Faubert, except for Lysius Salomon photo via Bob Corbetre. ]