- NAME: Simone de Beauvoir
- OCCUPATION: Philosopher, Women's Rights Activist, Academic Author, Journalist
- BIRTH DATE: January 09, 1908
- DEATH DATE: April 14, 1986
- Did You Know?: Simone de Beauvoir shares a grave with her life-long partner, famed philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.
- EDUCATION: Sorbonne
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Paris, France
- PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France
- Full Name: Simone Lucie-Ernestine-Marie-Bertrand de Beauvoir
- AKA: Simone de Beauvoir
Best Known For
French writer Simone de Beauvoir laid the foundation for the modern feminist movement. Also an existentialist philosopher, she had a romance with Jean-Paul Sartre.
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Simone de Beauvoir was born on January 9, 1908, in Paris, France. When she was 21, de Beauvoir met Jean-Paul Sartre, forming a partnership and romance that would shape her life and philosophical beliefs. De Beauvoir published many works of fiction and non-fiction aligned with existentialist ideas. Her best-known work is 1949's The Second Sex, a feminist text. She died in Paris on April 14, 1986.
"One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman."
Simone de Beauvoir was born Simone Lucie-Ernestine-Marie-Bertrand de Beauvoir on January 9, 1908, in Paris, France. The eldest daughter in a bourgeois family, de Beauvoir was raised strictly Catholic. As an adolescent, however, she became an atheist and resolved to dedicate her life to the study of existence. When she was 21, de Beauvoir left home to attend the Sorbonne, where she studied philosophy and graduated in 1929. That same year, she met famed French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, forming a relationship that would shape the rest of her life.
De Beauvoir and Sartre had a life-long partnership. The two were best friends and lovers who often influenced each other's work and philosophy. They never married due to de Beauvoir's insistence that their relationship should not be defined by institutional norms. The couple dated other people and even formed a three-way relationship in the early 1940s with a student named Olga Kosakievicz. In 1943, de Beauvoir published her first fictional book, L'Invitée (She Came to Stay), based on the experience. L'Invitée considers existential ideals, specifically the complexity of relationships and the issue of a person's conscience as related to "the other."
Simone de Beauvoir gained notoriety for her work Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex), published in 1949. The 972-page book, which analyzes reasons why women's role in society was characterized as inferior to men, was received with great controversy. Some critics characterized the book as pornography, and the Vatican placed it on the Index of Forbidden Books.
Le Deuxième Sexe was published in America in 1953, but the English edition was only a shadow of the original, as a zoologist with limited French skills translated it. In 2009, an unedited English volume was published, bolstering de Beauvoir's reputation as a feminist.
De Beauvoir published an assortment of both fiction and non-fiction works. Of the former, Les Mandarins (The Mandarins, 1954) is the best known; the Prix Goncourt-winning work urges the educated population to participate in political activism. De Beauvoir's own interest in politics sparked after World War II. She criticized capitalism and defended communism.
In her later career, de Beauvoir wrote about aging. Une Mort Très Douce (A Very Easy Death, 1964) details her mother's death. Her 1981 work, La Cérémonie des Adieux (Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre), recalls the last years of her partner's life. De Beauvoir died six years after Sartre, on April 14, 1986, in Paris. The two share a grave.
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