Garden of Steel Magnolias, WIPpet Wednesday

WIPpet Wednesday Christine the child

Flipping to another WIP, a novella based on the life of Christine de Pizan (1364-1431), the first woman in France to make a living as an author. I give you 18 sentences, adding 9+10, and well, minus 1, because that’s where the piece stops.

If you want to join in, post a snippet from a current WIP that has some connection to the date, and link to the blog hop here. It is hosted by K L Schwengel–thank you!

“Christine, please pay attention to your spinning. It is a disaster, yet you refuse to learn. You must use both your hands in concert.” Christine thought, Synchronicity, like Papa explained about the celestial spheres.

Her mother continued her rant, “Look at the lumps in your wool! Your father thinks he can make you into a scholar, stuffing your head full of Latin and science. It’s not right for a woman to know how to write. How we will ever find a husband for you, I do not know!”

I’ll find my own husband, Christine thought. Stifling a yawn at the perennial argument, she searched through her Latin in a familiar game. Oscitate, yes, that’s yawning, she smiled to herself. Out loud, she said dutifully, “Yes, maman, I will try harder.” She picked up more roving to bear out her promise.

She loved her maman, but she wanted more than her mother’s life.  Christine yearned to be a scientist like her father, famous at the French court for his knowledge of astrology and the humours of the body.   She wanted to discover whether the pestilence that had ravaged the world was due to the conjunction of three planets, as some thought, or from a miasma, a mala aria in her native Italian. She would be as famous as her father, some day, and not for her spinning. She would be a new sort of woman.




23 thoughts on “WIPpet Wednesday Christine the child”

  1. I love the play between what she’s thinking and what she’s relaying to her mother. And I really like that last line. You’ve got the start of a very engaging character and have already set a bit of conflict with her mother and society as a whole.

  2. Oh, wow! Now, there’s someone I must learn more about! My daughter and I spent all last year learning about famous women around the world who made history. We missed this one, and that needs to be remedied!

    1. Christine is not well known, Amy, so it’s no surprise you missed her. I’ve written some non-fiction blog posts about her on my Lapidary Prose blog (the link is under the Blogroll in the right margin), but for the full story, the best book is by Charity Cannon WiIlard, called Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Work. It’s very readable, even though Charity was definitely a scholar.

  3. Oh, that insincere “I’ll try harder”. How old is she at this point? Because that looks reeeeaaallly familiar. Kuddos for forging her own path and all, but I can’t help feeling at least a little sympathy for her poor, old-fashioned mom. 😛

    1. Ah, she’s the quintessential proto-teenager here, ReGi, because she married at 15, like many of her social station at the time. I based this conversation on my daughters at that 12-13 age, so I’m glad it is realistic.

      And yes, I do feel for her mom, who is just trying to groom Christine to be a good wife in the conventional nobility. It doesn’t work!

  4. Oh, goodie, goodie! Christine de Pizan! I’ve been hoping you would start posting from this at some point. 🙂

    One question: from my own research, in certain classes it wasn’t that unusual for women to know how to read and write, at least not in medieval times. They were often the scribes of the family while the men went out and fought. But I don’t remember Christine’s exact dates anymore, and maybe that had changed by then?

    1. I’m glad you’ve looked forward to Christine, Ruth. I haven’t written much–well, anything really, so I don’t know how well I can keep up, but I’ll try.

      Christine is late 14th century (1364-1431), but that is a great question about literacy–there is much discussion about whether literacy as defined by the medieval writers meant ability to read and write Latin, or the more common use of French/English/German for household accounts and the like. Also, reading and writing were more separated in learning than they are today (as I’m sure you know from your research), so noble women often knew how to read, but only how to write their name.

      In any case, I need to be clearer, and need to fix that line. Thank you!

      By the way, Bavardess has a great post on the myth of women’s illiteracy (

  5. Hooray for new sorts of women. I like her. And so does the fie-year-old inside me who responded to her own mother’s question, “What if you marry a man who won’t let you work?” (it was 1974), with, “I wouldn’t marry a man who wouldn’t let me work.”

    And now I get to learn some new things! =D

    1. Ha, I love your response, Shan! I’m glad you want to learn more about Christine. In fact, one thing I have to watch is not writing about her in the total academic nerd fashion I have done for years. It’s an interesting stretch for me. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Sirena. I’m completely biased, having done a lot of scholarly work on Christine, but she is a fascinating person–I think “feisty” is spot on. I’ve given some references to Amy in my reply to her above, which you may want to pursue as well. And, I can talk about Christine all day long, so I’m always glad to be a resource.

  6. I’ve long been fascinated by medieval women (Pope Joan, Hildegard von Bingen being two), and I enjoyed reading this snippet about Christine’s interactions with her mother. The dreamy, self-absorbed scholar is well portrayed. But I do wonder about that relationship between mother and daughter, for while Christine says as narrator that she “loves her maman,” I’m wondering what motivates her mother’s rant and why Christine ‘loves’ her IF the mother is so antagonistic. Some research says that when a daughter and father have a very good relationship, the daughter will be more successful academically. Maybe that’s what’s at work here, and maybe the mother’s character comes out more fully elsewhere? Either way, it’s good to read your snippet.

    1. *blushes* Beth, my sincere apologies for such a delay in responding!

      Christine is a fascinating woman, in part due to the way she rejects her mother’s expectations in favor of her father’s. I tend to portray her love of her mother as more of the respect for the office than a deep affection when she is older.

      I have been plotting, and dreaming, and hope to get back to WIPpet Wednesdays in the next month. Fingers crossed!

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