Charity Cannon Willard Papers1891-2006
Charity Cannon Willard was born in Eureka, Illinois, August 9, 1914. She earned her A.B. at Hiram College in 1934, her M.A. in French at Smith College in 1936, and her Ph.D. in Romance Philology at Radcliffe College/Harvard University in 1940. She studied at the Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study from 1962 to 1966, and at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris during the 1967-1968 academic year. She was married to Sumner Willard, a colonel at West Point Military Academy. Since West Point officers' wives were not permitted to work fulltime outside the home, Willard declined the offer of a professorship at Brown University and instead taught children at West Point and spent time in Europe searching for existing manuscripts of Christine de Pizan. She later taught at Ladycliff College, a women's college in Highland Falls, N.Y. (now closed). She was the first West Point colonel's wife to pursue a professional career. Willard became an internationally recognized authority on France's first professional woman of letters, Christine de Pizan, and is credited with establishing de Pizan's reputation in the English-speaking world. She was the author of Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Works (New York: Persea Books, 1984), and produced many translations and critical editions of de Pizan's work.
Willard was awarded the Ordres des Palmes Academiques by the French government in 1984, the Distinguished Alumnae Award from Hiram College in 1988, an L.H.D. from Saint Mary College in 1993, and a Smith College Medal in 1998. She died June 5, 2005.
Christine de Pizan (1363-1440) was the daughter of Tommaso di Benvenuto da Pizzano, a lecturer in astrology at the University of Bologna (1348) and later a physician. Shortly after Christine's birth, her father became court astrologer to Charles V, moving the family to Paris in 1368. De Pizan was educated by her father in spite of her mother's objections, and was married at age fifteen to Étienne du Castel, a royal secretary, who encouraged her to continue her studies. She was widowed at age twenty-five and left with three children, a niece, and her own widowed mother to support; her father had died impoverished, and her husband's estate took fourteen years and numerous lawsuits to close. Most feminist scholars date the beginning of the modern feminist movement to the works of Christine de Pizan. She was France's, and possibly Europe's, first woman known to have earned her living by the pen; she is also considered by some scholars to be Europe's first professional writer, male or female. While establishing her reputation as a writer, she earned her living by copying and illustrating other people's works. Her works included all genres: biography, autobiography, poetry, history, novels, short stories, feminist polemics, books on advice and morality, military techniques, religion, politics, and literary commentary.
[See also APPENDIX: PUBLICATIONS ON CHRISTINE DE PIZAN]