simone De Beauvoirquotes

1908 - 1986

Photograph of Simone de BeauvoirFrench author and activist, Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986), is considered the mother of the modern feminist movement. In her famous treatise, The Second Sex, she rejects the artificial femininity created to support a male-driven worldview that theirs is the essential sex, calling for a moral revolution.

Raised by middle-class, Catholic parents, Simone rejected her faith and upbringing (Memoirs of Dutiful Daughter) to pursue the philosophical examination of existence. Her radical, open-relationship with the father of existentialism himself, Jean-Paul Sartre, influenced her writing more than anyone else, even declaring their relationship her greatest achievement.

Her many memoirs endeared her to the public despite her embrace of communism. A Very Easy Death, her most touching memoir, contains reflections on her mother’s last days. The novel She Came to Stay examines jealousy and angst in a fictionalized account of Simone’s strained love-triangle with Sartre and former student, Olga.

From philosophy (The Ethics of Ambiguity) to travel accounts of China (The Long March) and the U.S. (America Day by Day), recurring themes of femininity and existentialism, in all her works, continue to engage and inspire.

Her most famous novel, The Mandarins, won the acclaimed French Literary award, the Prix Goncourt. It chronicles the lives of postwar, French intellectuals who leave their elite and privileged social status for a life of political activism. De Beauvoir always did find the French overly obsessed with money and class.

In the words of the headline that announced de Beauvoir’s death, feminists today still proclaim, “Women! You owe her everything!”