Simone de Beauvoir Biography

(French Existentialist Philosopher, Writer, Social Theorist, and Feminist Activist)

Birthday: January 9, 1908 (Capricorn)

Born In: Paris, France

Simone de Beauvoir was an eminent French writer, intellectual, feminist, political activist, social theorist and an existentialist philosopher. Her diverse corpus includes novels, short stories, travel diaries, essays, philosophy, ethical writings, biographies, autobiographies, social issues and politics. She had major influence on feminism, feminist theory and feminist existentialism which is prominent from her revolutionary masterpiece ‘The Second Sex’ that deals with oppression of women. Her other notable writings include ‘She Came to Stay’, ‘The Ethics of Ambiguity’, ‘The Mandarins’ and ‘Pyrrhus et Cineas’. Many of her writings speak strongly of her philosophical bent of mind which was influenced by idealisms and philosophy of Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx, Martin Heidegger and Descartes among others. Simone de Beauvoir had an open relationship with famous philosopher Jean Paul Sartre. Although most of her ideas were original and sometimes different from Sartre, many a times Simone de Beauvoir was unfairly tagged as a follower of Sartrean philosophy. Throughout her life she remained under close scrutiny of the public.

Quick Facts

French Celebrities Born In January

Also Known As: Simone Lucie Ernestine Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir

Died At Age: 78


Spouse/Ex-: Jean-Paul Sartre

father: Georges Bertrand de Beauvoir

mother: Françoise Brasseur

siblings: Hélène de Beauvoir

children: Sylvie Le Bon-de Beauvoir

Born Country: France

Quotes By Simone De Beauvoir Writers

Died on: April 14, 1986

place of death: Paris, France

Cause of Death: Pneumonia

Ideology: Communists

City: Paris

More Facts

education: University Of Paris

awards: 1975 - Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society
1978 - Austrian State Prize for European Literature
1983 - Sonning Prize
1954 - Prix Goncourt - Les Mandarins

  • 1

    What was Simone de Beauvoir's most famous work?

    Simone de Beauvoir's most famous work is "The Second Sex," published in 1949. It is a foundational text of modern feminism and a groundbreaking analysis of the oppression of women.

  • 2

    How did Simone de Beauvoir contribute to existentialist philosophy?

    Simone de Beauvoir is known for her contributions to existentialist philosophy through her book "The Ethics of Ambiguity" and her concept of "The Other." She explored themes of freedom, responsibility, and the construction of identity in a world of ambiguity.

  • 3

    What role did Simone de Beauvoir play in the feminist movement?

    Simone de Beauvoir was a key figure in the feminist movement, advocating for women's rights and challenging traditional gender roles. Her work in "The Second Sex" laid the foundation for much of the feminist theory that followed.

  • 4

    How did Simone de Beauvoir's ideas influence modern feminist thought?

    Simone de Beauvoir's ideas on gender, sexuality, and social structures have had a lasting impact on modern feminist thought. Her concept of "women as the Other" and her call for women to define themselves independently of men continue to resonate with feminists today.

  • 5

    What was Simone de Beauvoir's view on education and women's intellectual development?

    Simone de Beauvoir believed in the importance of education for women's intellectual development and empowerment. She argued that women should have equal access to education and opportunities for intellectual growth in order to achieve true liberation.

Childhood & Early Life
Simone de Beauvoir was born in Paris to Georges Bertrand de Beauvoir and Françoise Beauvoir on January 9, 1908. Her father was a legal secretary and her mother was the daughter of a wealthy banker. Her sister Helena was two years younger.
Her family lost most of their fortune after the First World War. Even though she was highly religious and God loving since childhood and intended to be a nun, she faced crisis of faith at the age of 14 and from then on remained an atheist throughout her life.
In 1925 she cleared baccalauréat exams in philosophy and mathematics.
In 1926 she obtained Certificates of Higher Studies in Latin and French literature.
She went to live with her grandmother to study Philosophy in Sorbonne. In 1927 she received Certificates in General Philosophy, History of Philosophy, Logic and Greek.
In 1928 she received Certificates in Psychology, Sociology and Ethics. She was the ninth woman to obtain degree from Sorbonne at that time.
She stood second in the philosophy aggregation test writing a thesis on Leibniz thus becoming the youngest ever to pass the exam and later became the youngest teacher of Philosophy in France. It is here that she met fellow student Jean Paul Sartre who stood first in the exam.
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Simone de Beauvoir started her career as a teacher in 1931 in a lycée at Marseilles.
In 1932 she moved to Rouen to teach advanced literature and philosophy in the ‘Lycée Jeanne d'Arc’. As she advocated pacifism and was outspoken about the condition of women, she was officially admonished. Later in 1941 the Nazi Government discharged her from her post of teacher.
She wrote the novel ‘She Came to Stay’ during 1935-1937 and got it published in 1943. It was a success and she was acknowledged as a writer. Her other notable writings that followed during this period include ‘The Blood of Others’, ‘Who Shall Die?’ and ‘Men are Mortal’.
In 1943 she was again dismissed from teaching following complaints of moral corruption by parents of one of her female students. That brought an end to her teaching career.
Her remarkable essays on existentialist ethics include ‘Pyrrhus et Cinéas’ published in 1944 and ‘The Ethics of Ambiguity’ in1947.
In 1945 her political commitments and leftist orientation led her to associate with Jean Paul Sartre, Raymond Aron, Maurice Merleau-Ponty among other intellectuals who founded a leftist journal, ‘Les Temps Modernes’. She continued to be an editor of the journal till her death. ‘Moral Idealism and Political Realism’, ‘Eye for an Eye’ and ‘Existentialism and Popular Wisdom’ are some of the remarkable articles worth mentioning.
In 1949 she published her revolutionary masterpiece ‘The Second Sex’ that deals with oppression of women - an apt work on feminist existentialism.
Her travel diaries include ‘America Day by Day’ published in 1948 following her lecture in the US in 1947 and ‘The Long March’ in 1957 after she visited China with Sartre in 1955. During 1950s and 1960s she wrote numerous essays, fictions and short stories.
Her book ‘Mandarins’ was published in 1954. It is about personal lives of friends and philosophers belonging to and Sartre and her circle. She had dedicated the book to American writer Nelson Algren. The book also contained experiences of her relationship with Algren including sexual encounters. This book won her France's highest literary prize, the Prix Goncourt.
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Her book ‘Coming of Age’ was published in 1970. It was an outcome of her intense study of repression and exploitation of elderly people by society.
The 1970s saw her in an active role in Women’s Liberation Movement in France and in 1971 she signed the ‘Manifesto of the 343’. It contained names of renowned ladies who professed to have gone through abortion, which was illegal in France then but later legalised in 1974.
Her four-volume autobiography includes ‘Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter’; ‘The Prime of Life; ‘Force of Circumstance’, ‘After the War and Hard Times’ and ‘All Said and Done’.
Major Works
‘The Second Sex’ remains her best philosophical work and is till date considered an important subject in dealing with oppression and liberation of women.
The Mandarins is also considered as one of her most successful books and fetched her highest literary award of France, the ‘Prix Goncourt’.
Personal Life & Legacy
She once contemplated marriage with her cousin Jacques Champigneulle but that never happened.
She never married but remained in life-long relationship with famous philosopher Jean Paul Sartre since October 1929.
Beauvoir adopted Sylvie Le Bon as her daughter who was her literary heir.
She died at 78 years in Paris due to pneumonia. She was buried in Paris at Cimetière du Montparnasse, next to Jean Paul Sartre.
Facts About Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir was an avid traveler and loved exploring new cultures and societies, often incorporating her experiences into her writing.

She had a passionate love affair with American writer Nelson Algren, which inspired her novel "The Mandarins."

Beauvoir was a dedicated advocate for women's rights and played a significant role in the feminist movement, challenging traditional gender roles and societal expectations.

She was a talented painter and enjoyed expressing herself through art in addition to her writing.

Beauvoir had a close friendship with fellow existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, with whom she engaged in deep intellectual discussions and collaborations throughout their lives.

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