June 8th in (Feminist) History

jll-9cffcct01kq2orueqn1u7ri500x644On this day in 1876 was the death of Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, better known by her pseudonym of George Sand; a French writer, feminist, and socialist. Born in 1804, she is said to have had a very liberal upbringing at her grandmother’s estate of Nohant, in the French province of Berry. In 1822, she married Casimir Dudevant, who was the illegitimate son of a Baron, and had two children, Maurice and Solange. (Both were later best known with the last name “Sand”.) In 1831, however, Amantine left her husband and took her two children with her, embarking on what some called a period of “romantic rebellion” (aka she decided to live her best life), that lead to her career as a writer, and more.

In the years that followed, Amantine (who soon renamed herself as George Sand) had a number of affairs with prominent men, including Jules Sandeau, Alfred de Musset, and Frederic Chopin. She also had what historians call an “intimate friendship” with the actress Marie Dorval, which sparked rumors of a lesbian affair. Supposedly these were “unconfirmed”, but in a letter from Sand to Marie, she once spoke of “wanting you either in your dressing room or in your bed”. Chopin, however, was one of her longest and most well-known affairs, lasting for 10 years before they fell apart over both one of Sand’s books (which featured a character based on Chopin), and Chopin’s support of Solange, when George and her daughter were not speaking due to a fight over money.

George (then still Amantine) began her writing career during her affair with Jules Sandeau, publishing a few stories and a novel (Rose et Blanche) together under the name “Jules Sand”. In 1832 however, she published her first novel on her own, Indiana, under the new name George Sand, which she kept for the rest of her life. Indianawas a novel written as an impassioned protest about marriage and how it binds women to husbands against their will and leaves them trapped in miserable marriages. In her novel, which earned her immediate fame, George’s heroine leaves her unhappy marriage and finds love. This basic concept extended to her novels Valentine andLelia, which took the idea of free association beyond marriage to social and class relationships as well. Eventually she found her “true form” in writing what were known as “rustic” or “pastoral” novels, involving the countryside and characters who represented George’s socialist and feminist views. Many of her novels featured passionate free women, and people who transcended class and convention in pursuit of love.

George was also known politically for her essays and writings, some published in a newspaper she began during the 1848 revolution. She was a supported of the poor, the working class, and of course women’s rights. She is also known for causing a sensation when she began dressing in male clothes in public; she stated her reasons as being that they were less expensive, and more comfortable. Her male dress allowed her to roam more freely in Paris, giving her access from venues where women normally were blocked. She also shocked people by smoking in public (gasp), which women of her class weren’t “sanctioned” to do at the time.

George was referenced in a number of works, and painted by numerous artists, including a double portrait of her and Chopin by Eugène Delacroix, which was later split into two pieces. According to V.S. Pritchett (a writer of short stories) she was, “a thinking bosom and one who overpowered her young lovers, all Sybil—a Romantic”, and Ivan Turgenev (a Russian novelist and playright) once said, “What a brave man she was, and what a good woman.” But one of the most widely-used quotes related to George Sand was her own: “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.”

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