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City of Ladies (Penguin Great Ideas, Series Two)

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,588 Ratings  ·  120 Reviews
"Astonishing, early chapter in women's revisionary history [that] offers true eloquence resurrected from the silence of the past."—NY Times Book Review
In dialogs with three celestial ladies, Reason, Rectitude & Justice, Christine de Pizan (1365-ca. 1429) builds an allegorical fortified city for women using examples of the important contributions women h
Paperback, abridged, 122 pages
Published October 1st 2005 by Penguin Books (first published 1405)
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Judith Beheading Holofernes, by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1614-1620.

"Then the lady said, 'Let us act boldly, for God is with us.' She entered and fearlessly took the sword which she saw at the head of the bed, withdrew it from its sheath, then raised it with all her strength, and cut off Holophernes' head without being heard by anyone. -II.31.1

This book takes the form of a long allegorical dream in which Christine, our author/narrator, takes advice and wisdom from three heavenly ladies, Reason, Rec
About six years ago I read Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron. While I found it a worthwhile experience, I remember thinking that the women were not portrayed in a very kind light all the time in his stories. I also remember thinking that was not unusual considering the fact it was written in the 14th century, and those people were really unenlightened when it came to women's rights and stuff.

But then I read this book. Christine de Pizan wrote this book in the 15th century, and calls Boccaccio o
Christa Mcintyre
This is an amazing humanist text written in 1405. Through her discourse to explain the misconception of woman, Pizan elevates her argument beyond the literature of 20th century feminists. Where Friedan, Steinem, Hooks, etc. would outline the maladjustment and oppression of women, Pizan would argue that equality is a potential from birth. She doesn't just academically complain through proof or experience that woman is a second class citizen.The purpose of The Book of the City of Ladies is to buil ...more
In this book, written in 1405, the author is given examples (by Lady Reason, Lady Rectitude and Lady Justice)to help erect a 'city of ladies'. In part it is a metaphor of the city being built up of the reputations of great women, but it is also meant to be peopled with great and virtuous women too.

In building up their support of this ‘city’, we are shown that things like morality, learning, chastity, prophesy, loyalty, mediation, stoicism, intelligence, and strategy.... are very much part of th
É F.K. O'Conghaile
A useful look at the history of women's rights, but through the eyes of a ruling-class woman noble who wants nothing different systemically, just more respect culturally. This is like a proto-first wave feminist, that bourgeoisie of rich women who simply wanted to be respected and feared like their rich, property-owning husbands.

Along with this, she is pretty excessively christian, obsessed with virginity, and zealously opposed to women's independence from men. While one might say this is to be
Tyne O'Connell
Aug 01, 2013 Tyne O'Connell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite simply this book changed my life and is a must for any elegant feminist. Written over 610 years ago Christine De Pizan was the first female professional author. The City of Ladies is her most famous book written as a literary riposte to male writers slandering women. Her unique rhetorical strategy to belittle her style and writing against the grain of her meaning became her trademark literary weapon. She exposed crude and vulgar language as another weapon used to slander women while simult ...more
Mar 27, 2013 Tram rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even though I do not entirely agree with Christine de Pizan on a few things, the main one being strict divisions of labor between women and men which is linked to "God giving people different roles" which is linked to my uncertainty about some beliefs from Christianity, I am impressed considering that this was written in medieval times.

Christine de Pizan is one of those people that I wouldn't mind becoming friends with, even if I didn't agree with everything she said. She could be my slightly st
May 20, 2015 Fiona marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Christine de Pizan is having none of your bullshit:
May 15, 2016 Marina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating to read a defence of women and a history of the achievements and tragedies of both historic and mythological women written by a female author in the Middle Ages.
that cute little red-eyed kitten
I can't for the life of me say that this book is "good" or "bad" or anything in between, it's not one of those books. It's interesting in its own way, but reading it, I find it more interesting because it exists, because it was written and not least WHEN it was written, and less interesting to actually sit and read it. I have to admit I was bored beyond imagination.

However, it's interesting enough to see how the medieval mind percieved history, the use of Ovid and Boccaccio, of Homer and mythic
May 12, 2013 Carly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I read this in the 9th grade (and I know what a walkman is, so you can judge for yourself how long ago that was), so I'm pretty sure that (a) I didn't precisely get the maximum value out of the text, and (b) my memories do not do the book justice. I did a project on the role of women in medieval and renaissance times, and had a very hard time convincing my teacher that primary sources from the female perspective basically didn't exist. This is one of the very, very few examples. In the book, de ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Jul 26, 2012 Nathan "N.R." Gaddis marked it as i-want-money  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nathan "N.R." by: Kris Rabberman
Shelves: pretty-old-stuff
Ariosto's Orlando Furioso: Part 2, Canto 37.

"As to perfect some precious gift or bent
Which Nature without toil cannot bestow,
Women have laboured, day and night intent,
and well-earned recognition sometimes know,
Would that they chose to be as diligent
And a like dedicated care would show
In studies more esteemed and highly prized,
Whence mortal virtues are immortalized.

And would they might their powers then devote
To women's own commemorative praise,
Rather than look to men to sound this note,
Sep 07, 2008 Joyce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, history
This sweet and gentle book, drawn from Boccaccio's On Famous Women, which is extensively cited, was written to persuade women to value themselves and celebrate their accomplishments throughout history. Partly myth, partly fact, a reminder that women have contributed as much, if not more, than men to many civilizations.

I'd only read excerpts of this book before now and Christine's sincerity moved me deeply. She was not a feminist in the modern sense of the word by any means but could not let the
Jun 19, 2009 Flora rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hard-to-say, 2009
I'm no 15th-century philologist, but I'm not feeling this as a fundamental "feminist" work -- and an early masterwork of "women's literature" -- when it's essentially paraphrase of Boccaccio, in St-Augustine-Lite allegorical form. For instance, in her sketch of Medea -- which lauds the sorceress as a mythological heroine -- Christine de Pizan conveniently neglects to mention her infanticide, which is, arguably, the most compelling thing about her. Do you want "Fatal Attraction" without the boile ...more
Feb 14, 2015 Zelda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
As one of the rare female voices of the Middle Ages, de Pizan would have been interesting even if she weren't very interesting. Her defense of womanly virtue, intelligence, compassion and strength serves as a counterpoint to most everything written to that point in the history of written language. So, even if a lot of the stories aren't entirely plausible they serve a noble purpose by attempting to fill a gap that, arguably, still exists.
This was a pleasurable read as far as medieval texts go, and I could not help but be reminded of a debate about the core curriculum at Columbia when I was an undergraduate there in the late 1990s. There was increasing pressure to revise the Core Curriculum so it would include women and minority authors, but many argued that it was impossible to find female authors of quality before Jane Austen. I now wonder why Christine De Pizan never entered this debate, especially since the curriculum require ...more
Catalina Garcia
Dec 07, 2015 Catalina Garcia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This text was very interesting to me; I think that many times, like the author many of us women believe the negative comments that some people say about us. We become so self-conscious about ourselves just as Pizan became.

The appearance of the three ladies and many other sections in this book reminded me of passages in the bible and were very similar in the associating heaven, earth and hell in the writings. I believe that in that era women were looked down on, as briefly mentioned in the begin
Jeanette Padilla
As I read the first part of The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan, it portrayed and reflected on how women in the early 1500s were treated unequally in comparison to men, and encouraged females to take a stand.
Christine and the protagonist character of the book and the writer demonstrates how women did not have many rights as men did and women neither took a stand for one another. Women did not have a voice to speak and take a stand. Christine who was well educated out of many wom
I finally got through it! Yay!!
That was hard. The book wasn't uninteresting, but it was a bit tedious and monotonous after awhile. I can't really post spoilers when it comes to this book, because there really isn't a plot; it is a retelling of the lives of famous women in history.
The premise is that Christine (the author) is visited by three ladies: Reason, Rectitude, and Justice. She has just read a book by Matheolus, and in the book he trashes women. Christine is so upset by it that s
May 24, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"God has given every woman a good brain which she could put to good use, if she so chose, in all the domains in which the most learned and renowned men excel. If women wished to study, they are no more excluded from doing so than men are, and could easily put in the necessary effort to acquire a good name for themselves just as the most distinguished of men delight in doing."

From the little information I have gathered about Christine de Pizan, I think I can say that I really admire her. In the c
Oct 21, 2014 Sonya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading the views of a 15th century woman. She seems quite modern in some ways but is evidently a woman of her times in other ways. She writes the The Book of the City of Ladies in response to the many works that show women in a negative way. She retells many examples of how women of any class are worthy - as individuals and as creations of God - but uses mostly Classical pagans or ancient Christian martyrs (but uses no dates!). My desire to learn more details about contemporary women ...more
Athena Ninlil
Dec 19, 2014 Athena Ninlil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medieval-europe
I read this work for one of my women studies classes and I am very glad I did. That being said, the women's movement has evolved through time. At its core it has always contained the same message: Respect and inclusiveness. In Christine's time, her work was seen as progressive. To many of us, it still is. However we mustn't forget that Christine, for all her beliefs that women were equal as men, was still a product of her times. She still believed that women should be submissive to their husband ...more
Feb 23, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History Students, History Instructors, Feminists
Recommended to Michael by: Brandon Hunziker
Not that long ago, one of my female goodreads friends commented (paraphrasing) that "she would not have wanted to live in the 1300's." Christine de Pizan, who did live in the 1300's would have disagreed with her. In a way, Christine was the first Women's Historian, since her text was an effort to "read women back" into the historical record, finding them throughout the classical and medieval periods, and finding them to be as worthy and noble as the men of their time. She sets about her task hav ...more
Maja Lange
A book written by a medieval feminist! - or, well, the closest thing you'd come to one back then. It is admittedly often quite tiring due to endless repetitions (many of her numerous stories are nearly impossible to tell apart), but overall an interesting read - especially if you read the foreword to get an idea of the woman who wrote it and her life and times. She must have been an immensely fascinating person - supposedly the first woman who ever made a living as an author - and I find it very ...more
Jim Booth
See my review at - link at my Goodreads page. Thanks for stopping by!
Dec 12, 2015 Kendra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I believe that this may have been the 50 shades of grey of its day. The sexual context and implications of the work seem very scandales for the era in which it was written. Though I do truly believe that the author wrote this to empower women. It is thought that she wrote this in response to another authors writings from the same period, where that author based on women in a misogynistic way, implying women basically only get on men's nerves. De Pizan uses historical women of nobility to create ...more
Dedrick Moore
The Book of the city of Ladies were three Ladies, Reason, Rectitude, and Justice, that Christine de Pizan builds together. These ladies put together a city for women using the examples of their important contributions women have made in the world and they argue to prove their equal to men. Christine de Pizan was the first professional author. This book The Book of City of Ladies was her most famous book written in literature for the male gender slandering women. These women shut out all myths an ...more
Arturo Reyna
Dec 08, 2015 Arturo Reyna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The City of Ladies is the second book in this semester that I have read that was written by a female author. I found this story to be very motivating even though it seemed to be geared towards a more female audience. The story overall was set up in a third person's perspective and is light reading for anyone who is wanting to pick something up that has a positive tone.
This story does have a lot of religious influence with some of the characters of the play making references to God. The three n
Gregorio Pineda
Nov 29, 2015 Gregorio Pineda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once again morality, reasoning to be good and truthful rears it's unwanted and unsolicited self. Who invited them to the party? All jokes aside narrative themes that focus around morality and the use of Gods request of us to be selfless, chastising and self restricting always makes me feel like I've missed the mark.
Since I only read pages 3-20 I'll focus on those items covered there. I was intrigued to lear about the author and how she had a family, husband and three children. Writing became her
Dulce Zamarron
When reading the section of the book where the three crowned ladies appeared, Lady Justice, Rectitude and Reason appeared to Christine di Pizan I found myself relating some of the things that she was questioning God for. I found myself thinking that these things are still going on today, where women still face stereotype ideas. She found herself questioning why God created such beings to begin with if they were being so damned and cursed by man. Women are constantly being judged and labeled with ...more
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Christine de Pizan (also seen as de Pisan) (1363–c.1434) was a writer and analyst of the medieval era who strongly challenged misogyny and stereotypes that were prevalent in the male-dominated realm of the arts. De Pizan completed forty-one pieces during her thirty-year career (1399–1429). She earned her accolade as Europe’s first professional woman writer (Redfern 74). Her success stems from a wi ...more
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“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.” 47 likes
“Causing any damage or harm to one party in order to help another party is not justice, and likewise, attacking all feminine conduct [in order to warn men away from individual women who are deceitful] is contrary to the truth, just as I will show you with a hypothetical case. Let us suppose they did this intending to draw fools away from foolishness. It would be as if I attacked fire -- a very good and necessary element nevertheless -- because some people burnt themselves, or water because someone drowned. The same can be said of all good things which can be used well or used badly. But one must not attack them if fools abuse them.” 36 likes
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