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Author photo. Courtesy of the <a href="http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/id?811327">NYPL Digital Gallery</a> (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

Courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

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Marie Le Jars de Gournay was born into the minor nobility of France. Her father Guillaume Le Jars bought the estate of Gournay-sur-Aronde in Picardy shortly after her birth and added "de Gournay” to the family name. After his death in 1577, Marie's mother and the children retired to the family château, where Marie was largely self-educated. An avid reader, she studied the classics, French literature, philosophy, Latin, and Greek. When she discovered the essays of Michel de Montaigne, she became his enthusiastic disciple. In 1588, Marie attended the Valois court and there met Montaigne, who considered her his adopted daughter and intellectual protégé. She wrote one of the first psychological novels, The Promenade of Monsieur de Montaigne, Concerning Love in the Work of Plutarch. After the death of Montaigne in 1592, Marie edited a new edition of his works, including a long preface of her own. Later in life, Marie would produce numerous new and expanded editions of Montaigne's works. Marie's educational work De l’education des enfants de France (1600), was presented to King Henri IV. She published her first feminist treatise, Egalite des hommes et des femmes ("The Equality of Men and Women") in 1622; another was Le Grief des dames ("The Ladies' Complaint") in 1626. Marie remained unmarried and supported herself after the death of her mother by translating the Roman classics and taking writing assignments from Queen Margot, Queen Marie de Médicis, and King Louis XIII. She was celebrated as one of the "70 Most Famous Women of All Time" in Jean de la Forge's 1663 book, Circle of Learned Women.
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