The former First Lady of France Danielle Mitterrand has died at the age of 87, according to media reports.
Mitterrand, who was married to former President Francois Mitterrand for more than 50 years, had been admitted to Georges-Pompidou hospital in Paris on Friday suffering from respiratory problems. She was placed in an artificially-induced coma on Sunday and died early Tuesday morning.
Her husband was chief of the Socialist party and served as France’s president for two terms between 1981 and 1995.
However, Mitterrand was herself heavily involved in politics and outspoken in her activities -- her resume included serving in the French Resistance during World War II as well as campaigning for various causes, including supporting the rights of Kurds and Tibetans.
She was born Danielle Gouze in Verdun, France to a family of dedicated Socialists. At the age of 17, she joined the Resistance as a nurse, when German Nazi soldiers occupied much of France. She married fellow Resistance member Francois Mitterrand in October 1944.
After the war she received the prestigious Resistance Medal -- one of the youngest people in France to be so honored.
Danielle and Francois had three sons, Pascal (who died in infancy), Jean-Christophe and Gilbert.
After her husband was elected president in 1981, she dove into her human rights activities. She reportedly rejected the pomp, circumstance and glamour of her role as France’s first lady and described herself as a simple woman.
In 1986 she founded the France-Libertes, a human rights organization.
However, some of her causes raised controversy – including her friendship with Fidel Castro of Cuba.
She was nearly killed in 1992 when she and Bernard Kouchner, her husband's health minister and the founder of Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), visited Iraqi Kurdistan and were targeted by assassins.
Just before Francois Mitterrand died of cancer in 1996, the public learned that he had an illegitimate daughter named Mazarine. However, Danielle appeared not to have been shocked or upset by this revelation.
She never abandoned her values and pursued to the end of her might the battles she considered fair,” said President Nicolas Sarkozy in a statement.
Danielle Mitterrand's nephew, Frederic -- the present culture minister -- said she contributed to humanizing the very idea of the presidency, while maintaining her freedom of thought and speech.