Christine

De Pizan

An unlikely candidate to dispute the unfair, misogynistic treatment of women by
men and society, Christine de Pizan successfully challenged the accepted
negative views that were being expressed about women by the all-male literary
world of her era. Part of Christine’s uniqueness stems from the time in which
she lived, the middle to late 1300’s. The lack of a positive female role model
to pattern herself after made Christine a true visionary in the fight for the
equal rights of women. Her original ideas and insight provided a new and more
intelligent way to view females. Pizan’s work, The Book of the City of Ladies,
provided women much needed guidance in how to survive without the support of a
man. Born in Venice around 1364, Christine was the first professional woman
writer in Europe. Her father, Thomas of Pizan, was a famous astrologer and
physician who took Christine as an infant to France. His fame as an astrologer
allowed him to be appointed to the court of the French King Charles V (Kosinski

xi). Depending on her father for the majority of her education, Christine’s
great love as a child was learning; however, Christine’s mother felt that
educating Christine was inappropriate, which led to a premature halt in her
instruction. (Kosinski xi). Christine’s accomplishments and her mothers views
that "ladies should not be educated" (Kosinski xi) show the contrast between
mother and daughter. Although she is said to have described her education as"nothing but picking up the crumbs of learning that fell from her father’s
table" (Kosinski 299), Christine’s writing is filled with allusions to"classical authors, church fathers, poets, and historical writers" –
-revealing intellect greater than table scraps (Kosinski 299). At the age of
fifteen, Christine married Etienne de Castel, a notary and secretary of the
royal court (Kosinski xi). Just as her writing reflected her uniqueness, so did
her marriage which was evidently a "love match," something remarkable in the
medieval days of arranged marriages (Kosinski xi). Christine spoke of a loving
relationship by describing her marriage to Etienne as, "a sweet thing" and
her husband as "kind and considerate" on their wedding night (Kosinski xi ).

Christine’s family relied on the charity of Charles V for their livelihood;
therefore, his death in 1380 proved detrimental to Christine and her family. The
successor to the throne, King Charles VI, was not as generous toward the Pizan
family, and both Christine’s father and husband lost most of their pay.

Between 1384 and 1389, Thomas de Pizan died leaving little inheritance for his
young daughter (Kosinski xi). Christine was left to depend entirely on her
husband for financial security. Christine and her husband would have three
children together before his death due to a 1389 epidemic (Leon 214). At the age
of 25, Christine was a widow with three small children and her mother to support
(Kosinski xii). Christine describes this period of her life as a time when she
was "forced to become a man," as she began to seek out patrons for her
writing (Kosinski xii). Although Christine was obviously a brilliant and
talented writer, necessity was her true inspiration, as she literally had to
write in order to feed her family. Christine’s first literary endeavors were
the highly demanded love poems of the 14th century, as well as devotional texts
that emphasized her strong Christian faith (Kosinski xii). However, it is

Christine’s literary work The Book of the City of Ladies, that is most
intriguing to contemporary readers. Christine was the first woman writer to
possess the ability to identify and address the issues of misogyny in the
literature of her time, as well as society (Kosinski xii). This characteristic
made her a champion of the feminist movement that was yet to come. Although

Christine never addressed the issue of "changing the structures of her
society" (Kosinski xiii), her ability to identify misogyny during a time when
it was a normal aspect of women’s lives, reveals the insight of the young
woman. The beginning scene of The Book of the City of Ladies describes Christine
looking at a book by Matheolus: When I held it open and saw from its title that
it was by Matheolus, I smiled, for though I had never seen it before, I had
often heard that like other books it discussed respect for women. (de Pizan 3)

Christine’s belief in intellectual equality is found in the theme of this
story with a young lady reading for pleasure. 14th century women were rarely
literate. Choosing reading as a pleasurable activity would have been uncommon.

What Christine discovers upon reading this text