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The Life of Christine De Pisan

Few can rival Christine de Pisan’s success in writing. A woman in the early 1300’s and late 1400’s, she challenged the social standards of women in France. Her unprecedented work showed critics that women are just as intelligent as men, and are entitled to their own political opinions.

De Pisan was born in 1363, the daughter of Tommaso di Benvenuto da Pizzano, an Italian scholar. He was an appointed scholar and physician of the court of Charles V of France. In 1369, a very young De Pisan and her mother moved to live with him, where he taught her many subjects such as literature and the sciences, despite her mother’s opposition. She also had access to the family’s expansive library.

In 1389, De Pisan wed Etienne du Castel, a lesser member of the French court that her father had known since she was a born. Though she was only fifteen years old, and he was twenty-four, they shared a marriage of mutual respect for one another. Castel supported De Pisan and encouraged her academic growth. The couple had three children; a daughter in 1381 who would later become a nun, a son who died in infancy, and a second son in 1385 who was raised by the Earl of Salisbury.

In 1380, tragedy struck Christine de Pisan and her family. Charles V died and her father was dismissed from the French court. Not long afterwards, he grew ill and passed away. In 1389, her husband died of the bubonic plague. The death of her father and husband left De Pisan with several debts and two children to support. Rather than remarry, Christine de Pisan chose instead to use writing to support herself.

During this time, intellectuals of the period popularized an argument on the role of women in society. Christine de Pisan wrote several responses on this argument, among which were the slightly humorous The Epistle to the God of Love, The Tale of the Rose, and possibly her most influential work, The City of Ladies. The City of Ladies was a collection of the stories of notable women in history, as well as a discussion on he role of women in society and their lack of education.

Her later writings focused almost entirely on politics of the time. She frequently wrote of restoring peace to the French kingdom. De Pisan’s last work was a narrative account on Joan of Arc, celebrating her achievements at Orleans, as well as praising her dedication to Christianity.

In 1431, Christine de Pisan passed away at the age of ninety-six. She is considered one of the greatest writers of the time period and the first feminist author, a well-deserved title.