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9 January 1908
14 April 1986
Writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist, and social theorist
9 January 1908 – 14 April 1986
Simone de Beauvoir was a French writer, philosopher, and feminist, a member of the intellectual fellowship of philosopher-writers who have given a literary transcription to the themes of existentialism.
Beauvoir was born on 9 January 1908 into a bourgeois Parisian family. Schooled in private institutions, Beauvoir attended the Sorbonne, where in 1929 she passed her agrégation in philosophy and met Jean-Paul Sartre, beginning a lifelong association with him. She taught at a number of schools (1931–43) before turning to writing for her livelihood. In 1945 she and Sartre founded and began editing Le Temps modernes, a monthly review.
Simone de Beauvoir wrote works of philosophy, novels, memoirs, essays, short stories, and journal articles. Her best-known work is The Second Sex (1949), a classic of contemporary feminist literature. Others of her works include the treatise The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947), the novel The Mandarins (1954), and Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1958).
Simone de Beauvoir is known primarily for her treatise The Second Sex (1949), a scholarly and passionate plea for the abolition of what she called the myth of the “eternal feminine”; the book became a classic of feminist literature. Beauvoir's emphasis on the fact that women need access to the same kinds of activities and projects as men places her to some extent in the tradition of liberal, or second-wave feminism. She demands that women be treated as equal to men and laws, customs and education must be altered to encourage this.
Simone de Beauvoir was probably best known as a novelist, and a feminist thinker and writer, but she was also an existentialist philosopher in her own right. Beauvoir maintains the existentialist belief in absolute freedom of choice and the consequent responsibility that such freedom entails, by emphasizing that one's projects must spring from individual spontaneity and not from an external institution, authority, or person.
Beauvoir died of pneumonia on 14 April 1986 in Paris, aged 78. She is buried next to Sartre at the Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris. She was honored as a figure at the forefront of the struggle for women's rights around the time of her passing.
“I am too intelligent, too demanding, and too resourceful for anyone to be able to take charge of me entirely. No one knows me or loves me completely. I have only myself”
“One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others.”
“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”