Simone de Beauvoir

Feminist Revolutionary

French Existentialist and Writer Simone De Beauvoir
French Existentialist and Writer Simone De Beauvoir. Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

Simone de Beauvoir Facts:

Known for: existentialist and feminist writings
Occupation: writer
Dates: January 9, 1908 - April 14, 1986
Also Known as: Simone Lucie Ernestine Marie Bertrande de Beauvoir; le Castor

About Simone de Beauvoir:

Simone de Beauvoir came early to criticize a "bourgeois morality" and unequal work burdens on women, and to see religion as a manipulation.

Dowries for his daughters were beyond her father's financial ability, so Simone de Beauvoir and her younger sister prepared for careers and self-support.

From an early age, Simone de Beauvoir loved writing.

Jean-Paul Sartre

In a philosophy study group at the Sorbonne, Simone de Beauvoir met Jean-Paul Sartre. They were "soulmates" who were together except for a brief period during World War II, but always lived separately, spending most evenings together, often critiquing each others' work.

Neither wanted children, and they agreed to accept that each could also have "contingent" relationships. For a time in the 1930s, Olga Kosakiewicz became part of a trio with de Beauvoir and Sartre; she eventually left them for a student of Sartre's.

Teaching and Writing

Simone de Beauvoir taught at the university level from 1931 to 1943, and also wrote novels, short stories, and essays. Existential ideas came out in her fiction, as in All Men Are Mortal, about death and meaning. In her essays, she explained existentialism to the public, as in "Existentialism and the Wisdom of the Ages."

During the German occupation, Sartre was imprisoned for more than a year as a prisoner of war in Germany.

After the war, Simone de Beauvoir traveled, and wrote a book about her impressions of America and another about her impressions of China. Nelson Algren was her lover during her visit to America.

Her book The Mandarins was about a postwar circle of leftist intellectuals, though she claimed it had no close parallels to specific people she knew.

The Second Sex

In 1949, Simone de Beauvoir published The Second Sex, which quickly became a feminist classic, inspiring women of the 1950s and 1960s to examine their role in culture.

Simone de Beauvoir published the first volume of her autobiography in 1958, covering her early life. The second volume covers the years from 1929 to 1939, and the occupation from 1939 to 1944. The third volume of the autobiography covers 1944 to 1963.

From 1952 to 1958, Claude Lanzmann was de Beauvoir's lover. She adopted a daughter, and became discouraged by the war in Algeria.

When Sartre died, de Beauvoir edited and published two volumes of his letters.

1960s - 1980s

She wrote novellas in 1967, about women's lives, and in 1970, in a book sometimes considered as a pair with The Second Sex, she wrote The Coming of Age, about the situation of the elderly. She published All Said and Done, the fourth part of her autobiography, in 1972.

Simone de Beauvoir died in Paris in April, 1986. Posthumous publication of her letters (with Sartre, with Algren) and notebooks has led to continuing interest in her life and work.

The biography of de Beauvoir and Sartre by Hazel Rowley, published in 2005, came out in two different editions: the European edition omitted some material to which de Beauvoir's literary executor, Arlette Elkaim-Sartre, objected.

Family:

  • Mother: Francoise Brasseur de Beauvoir (Roman Catholic)
  • Father: Georges Bertrande de Beauvoir, lawyer (agnostic)
  • Sister (younger): Helene (Poupette)

Education:

  • Sorbonne, University of Paris
  • licencie es lettres, agrege des lettres, 1929
  • youngest student ever to receive "agregation" philosophy degree: age 21

Partner:

  • Jean-Paul Sartre, from 1929
  • also "contingent" relationships by agreement

Religion: atheist