Christine de Pizan Quotes

Words of wisdom from the first woman known to make a living from her writing.

Christine de Pizan lecturing men.
Illustration of Christine de Pizan lecturing men from a 15th-century manuscript. Public Domain

Born in the late 14th century, Christine de Pizan is the first woman known to make a living by writing. She wrote love ballads, books supporting and extolling the powers and virtues of women (including a response to Jean de Meun's Roman de la rose), and a work about Joan of Arc. Here are some words of wisdom from Christine's writings.

Quotes from The Book of the City of Ladies

This is perhaps Christine's best known work, and is believed to have been inspired by Famous Women by Boccaccio.

  • As for those who state that it is thanks to a woman, the lady Eve, that man was expelled from paradise, my answer to them would be that man has gained far more through Mary than he ever lost through Eve.
  • How many women are there ... who because of their husbands' harshness spend their weary lives in the bond of marriage in greater suffering than if they were slaves among the Saracens?
  • How was she created? I'm not sure if you realize this, but it was in God's image. How can anybody dare to speak ill of something which bears such a noble imprint?
  • If it were customary to send maidens to school and teach them the same subjects as are taught to boys, they would learn just as fully and would understand the subtleties of all arts and sciences.
  • Not all men (and especially the wisest) share the opinion that it is bad for women to be educated. But it is very true that many foolish men have claimed this because it displeased them that women knew more than they did.
  • Rest assured, dear friend, that many noteworthy and great sciences and arts have been discovered through the understanding and subtlety of women....
  • There Adam slept, and God formed the body of woman from one of his ribs, signifying that she should stand at his side as a companion and never lie at his feet like a slave, and also that he should love her as his own flesh.

    From The Letter of the God of Love

    • Does a rake deserve to possess anything of worth, since he chases everything in skirts and then imagines he can successfully hide his shame by slandering [women in general]?

    From Lyric Poetry

    • The foolish rush to end their lives.
      Only the steadfast soul survives.

    From Le Débat Sur Le Roman De La Rose

    In her debate with the author of Roman de la rose, Jean de Meun, Christine took a stand against what she considered an immoral and mysoginistic work.

    • ...if you seek in every way to minimize my firm beliefs by your anti-feminist attacks, please recall that a small dagger or knife point can pierce a great, bulging sack and that a small fly can attack a great lion and speedily put him to flight.”

    Quotes from Ditié de Jehanne d'Arc

    This is the only known French-language contemporary work about Joan of Arc.

    • ... a person whose head is bowed and whose eyes are heavy cannot look at the light.
    • ...when someone finds himself quite unjustly attacked and hated on all sides, there is no need for such a person to feel dismayed by misfortune. See how Fortune, who has harmed many a one, is so inconstant, for God, Who opposes all wrong deeds, raises up those in whom hope dwells.
    • When we take your person into account, you who are a young maiden, to whom God gives the strength and power to be the champion who casts the rebels down and feeds France with the sweet, nourishing milk of peace, here indeed is something quite extraordinary!

    Quotes from The Treasure of the City of Ladies

    • Ah, child and youth, if you knew the bliss which resides in the taste of knowledge, and the evil and ugliness that lies in ignorance, how well you are advised to not complain of the pain and labor of learning.
    • Women particularly should concern themselves with peace because men by nature are more foolhardy and headstrong, and their overwhelming desire to avenge themselves prevents them from foreseeing the resulting dangers and terrors of war. But woman by nature is more gentle and circumspect. Therefore, if she has sufficient will and wisdom she can provide the best possible means to pacify man.

      Attributed Quotation

      This quote has been attributed to Christine, but I have not found the source. If you know the source of the quotation, please contact me with the details.

      • Just as women's bodies are softer than men's, so their understanding is sharper.
        -- Attributed

      Esther Lombardi, Guide to Classic Literature, has more quotations from The Book of the City of Ladies.

      Directory of Quotes from the Middle Ages
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      Snell, Melissa. "Christine de Pizan Quotes." ThoughtCo, Feb. 4, 2016, Snell, Melissa. (2016, February 4). Christine de Pizan Quotes. Retrieved from Snell, Melissa. "Christine de Pizan Quotes." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 19, 2017).