Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin (1804-1876) was an important writer and early feminist who wrote under a male pen name, George Sand. Regarded in France and beyond as a central figure of the French Romantic literary movement, Sand engaged with French artistic and literary society widely throughout her active period, conducting multiple affairs with well-known writers and artists and challenging gender norms in her daily life. Born into a noble family in Berry, Aurore was early to adopt male dress in public as a young woman. Though this wasn’t illegal, women in early nineteenth-century France were required to apply for a permit to wear men’s clothing in public for specific purposes, such as horseback riding. Aurore’s relative privilege as well as her strongly held values of gender equality led to her outright refusal to adhere to the rules of dress. After leaving her first husband, Casimir Dudevant, for Paris and adopting the name George Sand, she continued to subvert gender norms and caused scandals in her social circles by continuing to dress in men’s clothing, enter men’s social spaces, and smoke in public. Despite this, her status as an artist as well as her social status allowed her to circumvent harsh repercussions. Sand was reputed to have had many relationships with her contemporaries, including composer Frédéric Chopin, writer Prosper Mérimée, novelist and co-writer Jules Sandeau and actress Marie Dorval.
In her literary career, Sand’s success was outstanding in France and abroad amongst both male and female writers. Her first book written under the pseudonym, Indiana (1832), made her name and by the age of 27 her reputation in England matched that of Honoré de Balzac and Victor Hugo. Alongside her novel writing, Sand also had a successful career in what would now be considered journalism and literary criticism, launching a literary review, two local newspapers and two national republican political journals. Though she was particularly active in republican and proto-feminist circles and an outspoken supporter of the Revolution of 1848, eventually becoming a member of the 1848 Provisional Government, Sand rejected the notion of women being elected to government and later in her life spoke out against the Commune de Paris in 1871.
For digitized sources on women of this time period see Digitized Sources: Women in the Long 19th Century.
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