Countdown to the 2013 “de Pizan” Honors: Who was Chistine de Pizan?

NWHM’s 3rd annual de Pizan Honors is just two days away! On Wednesday, Oct. 9th we will be honoring Dr. Etta Pisano, Phylicia Rashad, The Honorable Sally Jewell and Denyce Graves for their remarkable contributions to the world. We’ll also be posthumously honoring Dr. Helen Taussig, Lena Horne, Rachel Carson and Marian Anderson. While many people have heard of some or all of these honorees, many people have never heard of Christine de Pizan, the brilliant woman for which the de Pizan Honors is named after.

So, just who was Christine de Pizan and why did we feel she was so important that we named an award after her?

Christine de Pizan had a very unusual upbringing for a girl living in 14th century Italy. She was born to a prominent family in Italy circa 1364 and moved to Paris as a child where she received a good education thanks to her father. She married at the age of fifteen but was a widow at twenty-five. Christine wrote poetry after the death of her husband in 1389 as a way to support her three children.

Her transition from courtly poetry to more serious subjects was evident in The Letter of Othea the Goddess that highlights the legacies of wise women from history and myth and begins to develop the theme of the intrinsic worth of women. She devoted most of her life to rigorous study, and is considered the first professional woman writer in Europe, as well as the first woman publisher and the first woman of letters in France.

Her most famous work was also her most eloquent defense of women, A Book of the City of Ladies, in 1405. Christine challenged the prevailing misogynist arguments of the day among men that women were inferior. She also argued for equal education of women and that they are capable of learning law and science and should become warriors, artists, inventors and teachers.

The date and place of Christine’s death is not known but it is believed to be in 1430 or 1431. She is included in two important books about French women authors published in 1786 and 1838, and she continues to fascinate readers and scholars in the twenty-first century.

Christine is revered as the first woman to write about Western women’s history. The National Women’s History Museum is dedicated to continuing Christine de Pizan’s work of documenting women’s history and we are proud to present the Honors in her name.

If you haven’t purchased your tickets for the 2013 de Pizan Honors yet, there’s still time!

Click here to purchase your tickets.

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