Medieval Women II: Christine de Pizan
Program InformationSeries: A Moment in Time
Year Produced: 2009
Out of the 14th century has emerged one of the notable voices articulating an early vision of full participation in the social and political life for women--the proto-feminist, Christine de Pizan.
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Lead: Out of the 14th century has emerged one of the notable voices articulating an early vision of full participation in the social and political life for women--the proto-feminist, Christine de Pizan.
Intro: A Moment In Time with Dan Roberts.
Content: Medieval author Christine de Pizan is considered by many to be the first feminist voice. She lived at a time when women had limited legal rights and were considered the property of a father or husband. Born in Venice, Italy in 1364, Christine was the daughter of Tomasso de Pizzano, a well-respected physician and astrologer. When she was five years old her father accepted a position as court astrologer and secretary to King Charles V of France. Growing up at the French Court, with her father's approval and encouragement, the bright and studious Christine received an excellent education in literature, history, religion and classical languages.
In 1380 when the girl was about fifteen years old, she was married to Etienne de Castel, the royal secretary to the king. Etienne, ten years Christine's senior, encouraged her intellectual pursuits, a position considered unusually liberal for that era. Shortly after the marriage, Charles V died, leaving his twelve-year-old son Charles VI as heir. Both Christine's father and husband, as trusted officers of Charles V, saw their duties retracted and they served in greatly diminished roles in the factional washout following the accession of the young king. Their fortunes and prestige, however, were greatly reduced.
By her own accounts, Christine's marriage was an exceptionally happy one but, unfortunately, it did not last very long. By 1389, when she was twenty-five years old, Christine was a widow, her husband having died suddenly in an epidemic. Christine was left with three young children, as well as a widowed mother and niece to support, and a disputed inheritance. That did not stop Christine de Pizan.
Next Time: Defying Convention.
Research assistance by Ann Johnson. The producer of A Moment In Time is Steve Clark. At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.