What would you do if you lived in medieval times, had a wonderful husband and three kids, and your husband suddenly died? That’s what happened to French author Christine de Pizan. She had three kids, her mother and herself to support.
Born in Venice, Italy in 1364, they considered her a pioneer feminist driver and one of the most famous women writers of medieval times. Her father was an astrologer in the court of Frances King Charles V.
Chirsitine de Pizan: Her Early Life
Christine joined her father in France at a young age and he made sure she got an education. As she studied various topics, she grew to know about subjects in Greek and Latin. Also having access to a vast library; she could dive into the great works of literature, science, and philosophical works.
Close to the age of 15, she married Etienne du Castel, who was a member of the French court, who supported her writing pursuits. They had three children together before he passed in 1389. They speculate he died of the bubonic plague.
After his death, she turned to writing to support her family. She tried to collect money from her husband’s estate but they challenged her with lawsuits regarding the salary her husband was due. Her first poems were about love lost in memory of her husband. These ballads caught the attention of the wealthy patrons of the court. She had three children, her mom, and her niece to support. She became a prolific writer. Her involvement in publishing her books along with her skillful patronage earned her the title of “The first professional woman writer of letters in Europe.” Christine’s father died in 1386, ending the connection to the French monarchy. He also left some debt behind. Although she had offers to join the royal courts in England and Milan, she stayed in France.
She had support from various members of royalty, allowing her to write many works. She was most famous for her poetry, written from her grief over her husband’s death. She also wrote a biography of King Charles V, which was published in 1404.
Christine de Pizan is best remembered for her works on women. She studied the status of women in society and wrote about depictions of women in literature. In La cite des dames, considered one of the first feminist texts, she profiled leading women in history and talked about the idea of gender equality. She continued to write about the rights of women in her book Le livre du tresor de la cite des dames.
Pizan’s life changed with the Hundred Years War, a clash between France and England over political and military issues. After France lost the battle, Christine entered a convent in Poissy France where she did little writing. Her last contribution to literature was a book to praise Joan of Arc. She lived the rest of her life in the convent and died there. Chrisitne de Pizan is an inspiration to those of her time and female authors today.
Writing about Christine de Pizan brings to mind another female author who has had her share of heartache, pain, and success in her life. This author is J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series and various other books.
J.K. Rowling: Young Aspirations
J. K. Rowling craved to be a writer from a very early age. At six she wrote her first book called “Rabbit” and showed her mom. Her mom praised her efforts and J.K.’s response was, “Well, get it published then.” She also credits her friend Sean for encouraging her and telling her she would be a very good writer one day.
After finishing school, she studied at the French University of Exeter. Once she graduated from University, she took various jobs in London. One of her favorite jobs was working for Amnesty International. This organization campaigns against human rights abuses throughout the world. She still supports them to this day.
The Start of an Amazing Career
J.K. got the idea for the Harry Potter series in 1990 while on a long train journey. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a pen with her to write all these ideas down, but she was very excited about the characters forming in her head. Once she got home, she wrote it all down and started writing the first book in the series. However, it took several years for it to all come together.
In 1991, Rowling left England and took a job as an English teacher in Portugal. This is where she met her first husband, and they had their daughter Jessica. After a few couple years together, the couple split because of a nasty argument and J.K. was thrown out of the house.
In 1993, she returned to the UK and tried to finish her first book. Raising her daughter as a single parent and living on state benefits wasn’t easy. She would often go to cafes to write while Jessica took a nap.
She finally finished her first book and sent it off to various agents. The agent she worked with, named Christopher, tried for a year to get it published. 12 major publishing houses rejected it. Eventually a small press named Bloomsbury took it on. The editor also agreed to pay J.K. an advance. He based his decision on his daughter’s enthusiastic response to the first chapter.
Her Amazing Success
Within a few weeks of publication, sales of the book took off. She also received a grant from the Scottish arts council, allowing her to write full time. After the initial sales success in the UK, Scholastic offered Rowling L100,000 for the rights to publish in the U.S. In 1998, Warner Bros secured the film rights with a seven-figure sum. J.K. worked closely with the film company to make sure the movies stayed as close to the books as possible. She finished the last book in the Harry Potter series in 2007.
She continues to write other books, but the Harry Potter series is done. Some of her other books include Casual Vacancy which is an adult novel and The Cuckoo’s Calling. She also writes under the pen name Robert Galbraith. Once her die-hard fans realized this, her sales sky-rocketed.
These are two very inspiring women writers who prove that female writers can have great success. Both Christine de Pizan and J.K. Rowling have unique stories that people can relate to. Some of my favorite female writers include Debbie Macomber, Karen Kingsbury, Terri Blackstock, and Nora Roberts. Who are some of your favorite female writers? How do they inspire you on your writing journey? As a reader, what do you like most about their books? I would love to know in the comments.