PARIS -- Danielle Mitterrand, the widow of the former French President Francois Mitterrand, died early Tuesday aged 87.
Mitterrand had been hospitalized with serious respiratory problems on Friday, and she was placed in an artificial coma on Sunday, Agence France Presse reported.
A source at Paris’s Georges-Pompidou hospital said she died at 2 a.m. local time.
Members of France’s Socialist Party (PS) were quick to react to the news, with leader François Hollande – who is contesting next year’s presidential elections – saluting “a great lady” who was “among the first to join the resistance against Nazi-occupied France, and who “poured her energy into the cause of freedom.”
Veteran Socialist lawmaker and former minister Jack Lang told France Info radio that Mitterrand was a “courageous and dedicated woman,” while former PS presidential candidate Ségolène Royal described her as a “tireless human rights activist, who remained opposed to all forms of oppression.”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy also paid tribute to Mitterrand. In a statement released by his office, Sarkozy praised her for having accompanied husband Francois on his many post-war campaigns.
Mitterrand, who joined the Resistance as a nurse at the age of 17, became one of the youngest French people to be awarded the prestigious Resistance Medal, AFP reported.
She met her husband during World War II, and they married in October 1944, two days before her 20th birthday, and shortly after France's liberation.
Mitterrand’s death comes 15 years after that of Francois Mitterrand, the only socialist president of the French republic.
He served two terms as president of France, from 1981 to 1995.