C is for Christine de Pizan

Christine was clever and lucky. Then, tragedy struck, but she rebounded with hard work and intellect to become one of the earliest professional women writers. Sound like the American Dream? Christine de Pizan was born in Italy, raised in the French court, and the year was 1390.

Illumination from Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies. The Yorck Project.

From Disaster to Acclaim

Tommaso di Benvenuto da Pizzano, Christine’s father, brought her to Paris as a child when he was appointed the court astrologer and physician. Remember that astrology in this era required highly complicated calculations of the positions of stars, so this was like being a combination quantum physicist and heart surgeon. Tommaso (Thomas) had a large library, and he let Christine loose in it. She attracted the attention of the royal court secretary who married her at age 15.

Hubby let her continue to read the books. She bore him three children. Within a year of turning 25, however, her husband and father both died of the plague. Her husband’s creditors entailed the estate, and she was left without enough funds to support her mother and children. But, as noted yesterday in letter “B” for Black Death, tragedy and plague sometimes create opportunity.

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