Rest assured, dear friend, that many noteworthy and great sciences and arts have been discovered through the understanding and subtlety of women… The Book of the City of Ladies by Christina de Pizan
Born in the late 1364 Christina de Pizan is the first woman known female author who made a living by writing. Truly a feminist, she penned love ballads, books supporting and extolling the powers and virtues of women, and a work about Joan of Arc. She was a widow who supported her three children and her mother all by writing about women.
Christine de Pizan was born in Venice in 1364 and moved to Paris in 1368 where she lived with her father, the astrologer to Charles V. She grew up in the French court and in 1379 married Charles V notary and secretary, Etienne du Castel. The death of Charles V in 1380 her father lost his appointment and soon died. Christine and her husband took on the responsibility of her mother as was customary at that time. In 1389 Etienne passed away leaving her with three children, her mother and no protector.
She turned to her writing as a means of support. Her first writings were ballads written in memory of her husband. Love poems were in fashion at the time so she continued to write them.
In 1396, the earl of Salisbury took Christine’s fifteen year old son, Jean, into his house. While her son was with the earl, Christine started to study the Latin poets and composed roughly fifteen important works, mainly prose between 1399 and 1405.
When the earl passed away in 1400, Jean moved to Philip of Burgundy. Christine wrote about Charles V and his court. Her work included historical and philosophical threads. Jean introduced her to his benefactor and she continued her writing.
In 1405 she wrote her own biography and attracted the attention of Henry IV who asked her to make his court her home. Galeazzo Visconti of Milan also sent her an invitation for residence. She France was her home. She preferred to stay those who favored her, Charles VI, the dukes of Berry and Burgundy, the duchess of Bourbon and others.
A champion of women, her 1405 work, Dit de la rose, describes members of the order of the rose who vow to defend the honor of women. Epitre au dieu d’amour, written in 1399, was a defense of women against satirist Jean de Meun. It was the precursor to a long dispute between Jean de Monteuil and Gonthier Col. Christine two books in 1407, La Cite des dames and Le Livre des trois vertus. During the French civil wars she wrote a Lamentation and Livre de la paix but after the fall of Agincourt she retired to a convent. In 1429 she came out of retirement and wrote a song in honor of Joan of Arc. She died quietly as the age of 66.
Her Cite des dames has many interesting portraits of contemporary life. Her Livre des trois vertus provides details of domestic life in 15th century France that doesn’t appear in any other historical works.