The street was opened in 1894 when part of the land owned by the Montparnasse Cemetery was sold by Paris for housing development. It was named in honour of the republican campaigner against slavery who died in 1893. Schoelcher drafted the abolitionist decree of April 27 1848 and then lived in exile throughout the Second Empire.
In 1913 Picasso moved in to No. 5bis, next to the No. 5, now a building classified as an official historical monument. Picasso lived there until 1916. No. 5 is now the Giacometti Institute in Paris, including a recreation of the Swiss sculptor’s studio.
In 1955, shortly after winning the Concourt prize for literature with her 1954 book, The Mandarins, Simone de Beauvoir moved in to a ground floor flat at No. 11bis with Claude Lanzmann, the left Jewish editor of Les Temps Modernes and film-maker 18 years younger than her. She fell in love with him when he was in his late 20s, and lived there with him until her death in 1986.