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Simone de Beauvoir

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Simone De Beauvoir was a French existentialist philosopher, a public intellectual, political activist and a social and feminist writer. Simone wrote numerous biographies, novels, essays, an autobiography and monographs on politics, social issues and philosophy. Simon De Beauvoir is most famous for her novels, She Came to Stay, The Mandarins and The Second Sex. Although Simone did not consider herself to be a philosopher, her substantial contributions to existentialism and feminist existentialism have established her as a philosopher. A significant figure of the 20th century feminist movement, Simone is believed to have laid down what became the basis of the movement.

Born in Paris on January 9, 1908, Simone De Beauvoir was the eldest daughter. Her sister Hélène was born 2 years later. The family struggled with finances after losing much of their finances following World War I. However, the girls were still sent to prestigious convent schools. As a child, Simone was deeply religious following her devout Christian mother. By the age of 14, Simone had decided on becoming a nun. However, a faith crisis led Simone to become an atheist for the rest of her life. An intelligent child, Simone was always encouraged by her father who boosted her intellectual personality. In 1925, Simone completed her baccalaureate with philosophy and mathematics after which she further studied mathematics at the Institut Catholique and also languages and literature at the Institut Sainte-Marie after which she spent some time at the Sorbonne studying philosophy. Simone later attended classes for the preparation of agrégation in philosophy, a highly competitive postgraduate examination which serves as a national ranking of students. Here Simone met her lifelong partner Sartre. Although Simone was not officially enrolled, the jury awarded Sartre first place instead of Beauvoir after a tough competition. At the age of 21, Simone was the youngest person to have passed the exam.

In 1929, Sartre asked Simone to marry him. However, the couple decided on a two year lease agreement instead of marriage. They kept renewing the agreement on their own making it a lifelong relationship. Simone never set up a proper home with Sartre and neither did she have any children. The romantic setting gave Simone enough freedom to continue studying, write, teach, travel, join political causes and also have other romantic relationships.

Simone began her teaching career in 1931 at a secondary school in Marseilles. During her years as a teacher, Simone was known to have seduced many young female students. Eventually Simone was suspended from her teaching job due to sexual harassment complaints filed by students.

In 1943, Simone published her first book, She Came to Stay, a metaphysical novel about complex relationships between people. She drove inspiration for this novel from her relationship with Sartre and also the relationships both of them had with other people. Continuing to write, Simone wrote many philosophical essays exploring existentialism and supporting feminism. Simone gained immense popularity with her book, The Second Sex. During her later writing career, Simone wrote excessively about the plight of women and became active in France’s women’s liberation movement. On April 14, 1986, Simone De Beauvoir died of pneumonia in Paris. Simone is buried at the Cimetière du Montparnasse next to Sartre.

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