The life of Simone de Beauvoir closely parallels that of her colleague, friend, and lover Jean-Paul Sartre. Her life is well documented, due to her many autobiographical works. These works also follow the lives of Sartre, Albert Camus, and other prominent philosophers of the twentieth century. Early Years
Simone Ernestine Lucie Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir was born on 9 January 1908, in Paris, to Françoise and Georges de Brauvoir. While Ernestine and Lucie were the names of her grandmothers, Marie was her “Christian” name to honor the Virgin Mary. The Catholic faith would be important to Simone until her adolescence. According to her autobiographies and interviews, Simone was reading by the age of three and attempting to write almost as soon as she could read. She obtained this love for words from her father, who had a passion for books and the theatre. Zaza
Simone met Elizabeth “Zaza” Le Coin as a schoolgirl. Simone admired Zaza’s outgoing personality; she could be bold and spontaneous, while Simone was generally shy. Like Simone, Zaza was from a bourgeois Catholic family. Social standing was important to both families, but Zaza’s experiences with social norms would shape de Beuvoir’s views of social order. It is possible Zaza’s life helped create de Beauvoir’s feminism and sense of social justice. As a student, Zaza met and fell in love with Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Unfortunately for the two lovers, Mr. Le Coin had already arranged a marriage for his daughter. Zaza’s parents demanded that she never see Merleau-Ponty or Simone again, as they deemed both to be corrupting influences. Elizabeth Le Coin died of encephalitis in 1929. Simone wrote of Zaza’s short life several times. For de Beauvoir, the death of her friend revealed how unreasonable French social order was and how unfair life could be. Career Woman
Within “proper” French society, a young woman of Simone’s class was expected to marry and raise children. Simone had other...