The eldest of seven children, Joséphine Jaans is born on 6 September 1890 in Rumelange. Taking responsibility and fighting are expressions that the young girl knows from the age of 10 when her father dies unexpectedly.
Active and committed, she invests herself unequivocally in sport and makes it her profession. After two gymnastics courses in Neufchâtel in Switzerland, the young teacher begins teaching in 1916 at the Lycée des Jeunes Filles in Esch. Unfortunately, following a train accident, the sportswoman suffers a broken leg which forces her to resign from her post.
This does not diminish her commitment to women's sports activities. Introducing new methods of physical education is a difficult and delicate matter at the time. But Joséphine Jaans does not give up, despite much resistance from the authorities. Her tenacity and energy are also evident in her personal sporting activities. Between 1915 and 1918, she takes part in numerous competitions and even becomes a diving champion. In 1920, she marries the industrialist Gust Jacquemart, president of the Olympic Committee at the time. The couple has two children, Lexy and Susy.
Her commitment continues to grow and together with Andrée Mayrisch and Paula Weber, she founds the Fédération Luxembourgeoise des Sports Féminins in 1925, the first official body for women's sport. To prove the federation's raison d'être, the founders look for a flagship discipline that would attract many members. They choose basketball. Success is not long in coming and by 1926, Luxembourg has 14 women's clubs. The same year, the first championship is held at the Lycée de Jeunes Filles in Limpertsberg. Although Joséphine Jacquemart-Jaans is successful in the beginning - she is a player, coach and referee - her enterprise is doomed to failure due to a lack of financial resources and the issue of dress in 1929. The traditionalist tendencies of the time weigh heavily and boycott this "woman without modesty".
Joséphine Jacquemart-Jaans remaines steadfastly determined and in 1937 organises the third Federal Women's Gymnastics Festival, where she proudly marches at the head of the parade. The years of the Second World War also underline the courage of Joséphine Jacquemart-Jaans who joins the Resistance movement with her son. They both work for the L.P.L. (Letzebuerger-Patrioten-Liga). At the end of 1941, she is arrested with many other resistance fighters and spents two years in prison.
After the war, Joséphine Jacquemart-Jaans becomes involved in the National Lottery. She is also active in the Girl Guides and stands as a candidate for the liberal DP party in 1951 and 1957. Until the age of 95, she continues to swim twice a week. Joséphine Jacquemart-Jaans dies on 6 April 1988. The sports pioneer not only made it possible for women's sport to become established, she also fought for women to be accepted in the world of sport and in Luxembourg society.
● Portraits de femmes célèbres luxembourgeoises par Katja Rausch, Karà éditions, 2007.
● Germaine Goetzinger, Antoinette Lorang et Renée Wagener: «…Les débuts du sport féminin“ dans „Wenn nun wir Frauen auch das Wort ergreifen“ 1880-1950, Luxembourg, Publication Nationale, Ministère de la Culture; 1997 pages 262-266.
● Ons Stad 77/2004: « Dat Geschleefs muss ee fir allemol en Enn kréien » page 13.