Simone de Beauvoir was born January 9, 1908 in Paris France and died April 14, 1986. She was a philosopher, writer and feminist. Her best known work is le Deuxieme Sex (The Second Sex) published in 1949 which has been described in the Encyclopedia Britannica as a “scholarly and passionate plea for the abolition of what she called the myth of the “eternal feminine”” The Second Sex quickly became a feminist classic inspiring women of the 50’s and 60’s to look at their role in culture. Beauvoir was not discussing women finding their place in society as it is but really discussing women transforming society. Beauvoir writes about demanding improvement in women’s conditions and the end of the unjust and unequal system that oppresses women. Many women after reading her writings started to question family, motherhood and marriage. Beauvoir also discusses women’s sex lives and lack of freedoms in The Second Sex. Beauvoir never married and was very critical of the rigid attitudes towards women regarding marriage. Simone de Beauvoir did not set out to be a feminist figure and did not even identify herself as a feminist until the 70’s. By the 1970’s she was participating in demonstrations, writing and lecturing about women’s rights. She also campaigned for abortion legalization in the 1970’s. She also publically stated she had had and illegal abortion and helped other women come forward to legalize abortion. She was part of organizations that fought discrimination against women and violence in the workplace. She also worked to help rape and domestic violence survivors. Beauvoir work was placed upon the Vatican’s list of prohibited books due to its controversial nature. Beauvoir wrote about how marriage is harmful to both partners but most especially to the female.
Beauvoir was a role model for women that also wanted to reject the notion of marriage and motherhood. She had a long and open relationship with the philosopher Jean Paul Sartre. She was also a role model in her commitment to intellectual pursuits and helping the feminist agenda.
I had heard of Simone de Beauvoir due to a philosophy class. I had no idea she was a feminist and was interested to read more about her and her life. I wish I had more time as The Second Sex seems like a book that would be fascinating to read.
The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Simone de Beauvoir by Shannon Mussett. Includes a bibliography of her work in English translation.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Simone de Beauvoir by Debra Bergoffen. Extensive bibliography.
Website de Claudine Monteil, writer and women’s rights specialist who built a long friendship with Simone de Beauvoir.
Guardian Books "Author Page", with profile and links to further articles.
An article by Finnish local libary of Kuusankoski.
Stand By Your Man: The strange liaison of Sartre and Beauvoir, by Louis Menand. The New Yorker.
The Second Sex: Significant Other.
The Journal of French Philosophy - the online home of the Bulletin de la Société Américaine de Philosophie de Langue Française
Beauvoir before Beauvoir - An article by Philippe Sollers (fr.)
English Translation online- The Ethics of Ambiguity.
Murray, Jenni (22 January 2008). Simone de Beauvoir. Woman's Hour. BBC Radio 4.