Marie le Jars de Gournay
Feminism, Virtue Ethics, Political Philosophy

Kate Lindemann's 

Women Philosophers


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Marie le Jars de Gournay is sometimes called La Dame de Gournay, Marie de jars, Marie de Gournay de Jars or Marie de Gournay. This use of different names by different scholars can be particularly confusing when using search engines since they do not usually cross cataloge pages unless a name is given as a "keyword" in the text. Students and scholars using the Internet should be advised of the alternate naming so they can find all relevant web sites.


1565 - born in Paris on October 6, 1565 into a noble family of Jeanne de Hackqueville and Guillaume le Jars. Marie was the first born in a family that eventually had a total of six children.

Her father died suddenly and her mother moved the family from Paris to an estate in Gournay. From her earliest years Marie liked to study and she says in her autobiography that she would steal away to study as often as she could. She taught herself Latin and read as much as she could. The Essays of Michel de Montaigne came into her hands and she was very impressed by their content.

1588 - she met Montaigne. Marie and her mother were visiting Paris and learning that Montaigne was in the city, she wrote him a note. Michel de Montaigne came to call the next day! A friendship grew and Montaigne, who was some 32 years her senior called her his 'adopted daughter'. Their connection grew strong and later, when Marie and her mother were living in Picardy, Montaigne visited for some 12 weeks.

1591 - Marie le Jars de Gournay's mother died. After settling the estate in a manner favorable to her siblings, she went to Paris where she lived with a servant, Nicole Jamyn and a cat. Her generosity to her brothers left her in reduced financial circumstances. She became acquainted with poverty.

1592 - Montaigne died but Marie did not learn of his death until Spring of 1593. Montaigne's widow asked her to prepare a new edition of the Essays and this came out in 1595. Marie le Jars de Gournay visited Madame de Montaigne at the family home near Bordeaux for some fifteen months and then she went to the Netherlands where she was well received.

Back in Paris, she set about obtaining a state pension. To do this she needed to look the part of a lady and she spent much of her remaining inheritance on horse and carriage etc. Finally Queen Marguerite of Valois to whom Montainge had dedicated one of his work did give Marie her hoped-for pension. She was presented at Court of Henry IV and he gave her hopes of additional benefits but in 1610 Henry was assassinated.

In the aftermath of the assassination there were charges and counter charges. Marie entered the turmoil with a pamphlet but then she in turn was attacked. The 'dust settled' but forever after Marie le Jars de Gournay was 'fair game' for ridicule, attack and practical jokes. Even Cardinal Richelieu poked fun at her when first introduced, but her gracious reply caused him to apologize ....and to offer her a small pension.

To live a single life, to hold ideas ahead of her time, to have little income....Marie le jars de Gournay did not 'fit in' very well. But her home on Rue St. Honore became the meeting place of many of the intellectuals of Paris. She was also invited to a number of other prominent salons in the city. Poor or not, she had her independence and her beloved intellectual life.

1645 - Marie le Jars de Gournay died leaving a legacy of intellectual work. Like many later French philosophers she did not separate philosophy and literature - in this she was a forerunner of 20th century literary philosophers such as Sartre and de Beauvoir.


1595 - a new edition of Montaigne's Essays. This included her Preface to the Writing of Michel de Montaigne by his 'adopted daughter'. Also later edtions in 1617, 1625 and 1635. . This work not only included editing but translating into French texts quoted by Montaigne from the Greek, Latin and Italian. Her association with Montaigne was said to have helped her by opening doors to her. But she is also the person who worked to keep Montaigne's work and ideas before the public until his reputation was solidified.

Apology for the Woman Writing (Remember that the word Apology means 'reasons for' and not the modern meaning of 'expressing regrets.')

L'Ombre de la Damosielle de Gournay.

Les Advis ou les Presens de la Demoiselle de Gournay

On the Birth of the Children of France

On the Education of Princes

On the Vicious Virtues

There are copies of the following works online:

Marie le Jars de Gournay: Egalité des hommes et des femmes .

Grief des dames and Peincture de Moeurs

Marie le Jars de Gournay is one of more than 100 women whose portraits appear in A Pictorial History of Women Philosophers photo album, and among the 40 women featured in

Busted!! A Pictorial History of Women Philosophers DVD Volume 2.

This page was last updated 12/13/14.

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