Hi, Ginger. Thanks for having me today. I wanted to share with your readers a fantastic book I discovered a couple of weeks ago.....wonderful research and great for defending those attacks on your heroine when people say, "women didn't do that back then." To paraphase Mr. Darcy, aka Colin Firth, in Bridget Jones' Diary, "Oh yes they f*****g did."
The book is LADIES FIRST: History’s greatest female trailblazers, winners and mavericks by Lynn Santa Lucia. “LADIES FIRST is a fascinating account of some of history’s most inspiring women….Adventurers and athletes, politicians and scientists, artists and educations, revolutionaries and criminals—LADIES FIRST celebrates some extraordinary women who have singularly and collectively cleared a path for other females to follow,” so says the inside flap of the book. The book offers biographies and insight on more than three dozen women, from Pharaoh Hatshepsut (ruler of ancient Egypt) to Razia Sultan (warrior queen of India) to Hildegard of Bingen (Renaissance woman) to Marie Curie (two-time Nobel Prize laureate) to Sally Ride (America’s first female astronaut) to a whole bunch of other fascinating women.
Christine de Pisan: Medieval Author, page 70:
Christine was born in Venice, Italy in 1364 to Tommaso di Benvenutol da Pizzano, a philosopher and astrologer who became a favorite of Charles V of France. Christine benefited from her father’s position in the Court by having access to the royal library and it’s 900 plus volumes. Encouraged by her father, she learned French, Italian and Latin and explored “books on philosophy, science and geometry.” (73)
Frustrated by the continued assault on women, in 1405, she wrote her most ambitious novel yet, Le Livre de la Cité des Dames (THE BOOK OF THE CITY OF LADIES). Using Reason, Rectitude and Justice as female guides, Christine relates the stories of “Queens, princesses, warriors, poets, inventors, weavers of tapestries, wives, mothers, sibyls and saints” to demonstrate both the power and the piety of women. (78).
Le Livre de la Cité des Dames is quite possibly the first biography on women ever written. It is also the first of fifteen major works Christine wrote.
In 1415, however, she was forced to flee Paris due to the Hundred Year’s War and take up refuge in a convent where her daughter was a nun. Her writing was on hold for eleven years, then “in 1429, a young peasant girl from Domrémy donned armor, rallied French troops and the tide of a war in stalemate in favor of the French.” After Charles VII’s coronation, Christine composed her last work “Hymn to Joan of Arc.” Christine died later that year.
Her death did not erase her from history, however. Her works have lived on as a memorial to “the first consciously feminist voice of modern Europe.” Even her contemporaries realized the importance of her works. In 1442, Martin Le Franc wrote in Le Champion des Dames “For the sake of strangers, let us celebrate the valiant Christine—although death has snatched away her body, her name will live forever.” (79)
For more information on Christine de la Pisan as well as links to her writings, check out these websites:
Distinguished Women of Past and Present
A Celebration of Women Writers
Other Women's Voices
Anna Kathryn Lanier
Where Tumbleweeds Hang Their Hats