because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Christine de Pizan

Not every in-your-face woman is immediately apparent. Though Christine de Pizan's father was a highly educated man in the 1300's in Venice and she was given unusual freedom to study languages and literature at will as a child, she married at fifteen as was the custom and brought three children into the world over the next decade. Then her husband died and de Pizan had to figure out how to support not only herself and her two living children, but her mother and niece, as well.

The standard practice would have been to marry again -- and quickly -- as high up the court's food chain as possible. But de Pizan had a different idea. She started writing and her poems about romantic exploits were clever enough that they soon became popular with the wealthy class who could afford to pay for her services. This would have been remarkable enough in and of itself, her being a woman and all. As a matter of fact, it was her being a woman that helped to sell her work, but de Pizan didn't stop there.

In the early 1400's, having established herself as a poet of some renown and therefore feeling her oats as an intellectual and writer, de Pizan jumped deeper into the written world to challenge writers whose work claimed that women are inferior to men for good and many reasons. Taking on Jean de Meun, one of the major literary players of the day, in a long and vigorous debate, de Pizan wound up making a good enough case against the slander of women in general in popular literature of the day that she was vaulted not only into history but into the annals of the in-your-face woman. She followed up her success by writing a book on the contributions of women to European society and then another on how women could combat the denigration of women generally. How in-your-face is that?

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