Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir (January 9, 1908 – April 14, 1986), born  Simone-Lucie-Ernestine-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir was a French author, existential philosopher, political activist, feminist and social theorist. Born in Paris, de Beauvoir was very religious in her youth and intended on becoming a nun until a “crisis of faith” at age 14 pushed her to become an atheist. This remained central to her philosophy for the rest of her life.

She received a dual Bachelor’s degree in mathematics and philosophy in 1925 from the Institut Catholique. She continued her studies at the Sorbonne, studying philosophy, as well as passing exams for Certificates in History of Philosophy, Greek, Logic Ethics, Sociology, and Psychology. She was the only the ninth woman to receive a degree from Sorbonne — she wrote her thesis on Leibniz at a time when women had just recently been able to study at colleges. Quite the scholar, at 21 years of age de Beauvoir became the youngest teacher of philosophy in France.

Simone de BeauvoirDesperate to be accepted as part of Jean-Paul Sartre’s intellectual circle, it didn’t take her long to succeed. In addition to Sartre, other existentialists such as Albert Camus and Maurice Merleau-Ponty were part of this world. She and Sartre became lovers in an open relationship. They never married, and though they shared an incredible intellectual and romantic bond. “We have pioneered our own relationship — its freedom, intimacy, and frankness,” as she described it. She had many relationships with both men and women.

From 1941 to 1943 she worked on her first novel, The Blood of Others, considered one of the most important existential novels of the French Resistance. In 1943 she was dismissed from her teaching post, as some parents felt she was ‘corrupting’ her students. She decided then to pursue her passion, which was to write full time, and never returned to teaching.

Simone de Beauvoir’s most popular and enduring work is The Second Sex, published in 1949. It is still read and studied to this day as an essential manifesto on women’s oppression and liberation. Filled with ideas deemed radical at the time, the book made her an intellectual force and inspired a generation of women to question the status quo, and better yet, to change it.

Simone de Beauvoir’s body of work encompasses fiction, nonfiction, essay, and memoir. Her novel The Mandarins received the prestigious Prix Goncourt award in 1954. Simone de Beauvoir died in Paris of a pulmonary edema in 1986.

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