Who is Christine de Pizan?

“Christine de Pizan was no ordinary woman,” says Charity Cannon Willard in one of the many works she wrote on this late medieval French author (The Writings of Christine de Pizan, New York: Persea Books, 1993; ix). And she goes on to say: “At the time when she wrote she was altogether phenomenal, but in view of the scope and variety of her works she would have been impressive in any era.” (ibid; ix). Born in Venice in 1364, Christine de Pizan spent most of her life in France at the Court of Charles V and his successor, Charles VI.

As one of the first and most prolific women of letters of her adoptive country, she is often viewed as one of the pivotal writers of late medieval Europe. Her works reflect on important and varied socio-political, theological, cultural, feminist, and educational issues of her time. She wrote poetry, was commissioned to write the king’s biography and penned a detailed treatise on the use of weapons and warfare. She engaged in a long and daring epistolary debate about the well-known Roman de la rose, and challenged misogynist views of her male counterparts. Her last work, written during the summer of 1429 at the height of the Hundred Year War between England and France, was a valiant attempt to call both armies to their senses and to draw attention to the young Joan of Arc as potential savior of her country, fractious and divided. Christine de Pizan died two years later between 1430 and 1432 leaving behind copious writings in poetry and prose that have almost exclusively been reedited and in many cases translated into modern French, English and many other languages.