Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan: The Real First Feminist

Feminism is seen as a modern trait, that started in the 19th century and evolved in the 20th century. While it became a movement then, there are actually a couple of feminists that lived long before that and that history forgot. We call them feminists but they were actually women who simply wandered why women are considered to be less than men?


Let’s start by defining feminism, first of all. Nowadays, everything gets so exaggerated that simple words lose their true meaning and become something to be afraid of or shamed of. I feel this happens with feminism.

If I call myself a feminist today, people might look at me strangely. Oh, you are that type! I have heard a couple of times. That type? What does that mean? The type who wants equal rights? Well, yes, if so, I AM that type!

Feminism is the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes. 

Definition from

Back in Time

Now, that we have explained what feminism is really about, let’s go back in time. We are in the 14th century, in a world of princesses and princes, chivalry and the general idea that women are wicked and pretty much just objects of adoration.

In this world, Christine de Pizan, not only that makes a name for herself as a writer but questions the morals of that time. In a world where women didn’t even know how to read, Christine de Pizan serves at the court of Charles V as an author and intellectual.

…the first woman to take up a pen to defend her sex.

Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

The First Real Feminist

Born in Venice in 1364, she moved to France at just 5 years. Her father was an astronomer so he taught her how to read and write at a very young age. Later, her husband who was a royal secretary also encouraged her to study, but it was his death that would give Christine a chance to fame. Left alone with three little children and her mother, she had to provide for all so she started writing.

There weren’t many jobs for women in this field, so she could only illustrate books and copy. There were no women who would put their own thoughts on paper, until Christine de Pizan.

The Path to Fame

She started to write long ballads about her lost husband. This thing intrigued so many people, especially the court. Soon, they asked her to write ballads for them as well.

Getty Images, Photography from

Between 1393 and 1412, she wrote more than 300 ballads and became famous but also respected by the men authors of that time. She was also involved in literary debates and started to speak openly about the prejudices and negative stereotypes regarding women. She couldn’t accept that women were called vain and manipulative seducers in literature and the writings of that time.

But she realized that speaking about these issues is not enough. She knew she had to write against them.

The Book of The City of Ladies

This is how her most famous book was created. Christine wrote The Book of The City of Ladies to fight the negative stereotypes about women. She depicted an allegorical city built by the greatest ladies in history.

Illustration from The Book of The City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan

From Sappho to Mary Magdalena, Dido to Helen of Troy, Christine mentions more than 150 great women in history who help her build the City of Ladies. Apart from these magnificent women, she needed three more female characters who play the virtues – Lady Reason, Lady Rectitude and Lady Justice. These help Christine overcome the stereotypes about women, those old beliefs and her own reason that may sometimes be tricked in believing all the lies.

Christine touches upon many subjects and ideas that are still a problem nowadays and it is sometimes so incredible when we look back and see how much we have evolved and yet ideas from hundreds of years ago still prevail today. She talks about peace and war and most importantly, about the education of women, that was still tabu in those days.

Not all men (and especially the wisest) share the opinion that it is bad for women to be educated. But it is very true that many foolish men have claimed this because it displeased them that women knew more than they did.

Christine de Pizan

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