George Sand

an amazing woman

George Sand (1804-1876)

George Sand portrait by Charpentier

"The world will know and understand me someday.
But if that day does not arrive, it does not greatly matter.
I shall have opened the way for other women."

George Sand was an amazing author, personality, and all-around woman. She earned as much notoriety for her Bohemian lifestyle as for her written work. Born Aurore Dupin, she was the most famous woman writer in 19th-century France. A prolific and iconoclastic author of novels, stories, plays, essays, and memoirs, she represented the epitome of French romantic idealism. She demanded for women the freedom in living that was a matter of course to the men of her day. George's first independent novel, Indiana, the story of an unhappy wife who struggles to free herself from the imprisonment of marriage (explicitly called a form of slavery), made her an overnight celebrity. Subsequent novels, such as Valentine and Lélia, astounded readers with their frank exploration of women's sexual feelings and their passionate call for women's freedom to find emotional satisfaction. In the eyes of many critics, George's masterpiece is her autobiography. Though she was a brilliant writer, she was perhaps most famous for her personality and lifestyle. I have read several of her books, but her work is not why I think she is an amazing woman. Rather, it is her personal life... just being who she was is what makes her an amazing woman, especially considering the time when she lived and how radical a person she was - not only for that time, but for modern times as well.
In case you are completely new to George, let me describe the type of person she was. Largely temperamental, rashly creative, fiery and opinionated - George pushed the limits in all kinds of ways. But perhaps most interesting is simply her look, the way she behaved herself (or rather, didn't), and how she acted around even the most distinguished aristocracy. George, of course, was not her birth name. She changed her name to George Sand when she became a writer. So Aurore, who happened to be married to a baron, left him (obviously a scandal in those times), took their two kids, moved out on her own, changed her name to George... and the rest is history. George had open and notorious relationships with famous men (artists, writers, musicians) she knew in Paris, including Jules Sandeau, Alfred de Musset, Frédéric Chopin, and others. She was friends with the best of them: Eugène Delacroix, Franz Liszt... and of course, most famously, with Chopin. She and Chopin had a complicated relationship, going from friends, to lovers (briefly), to eventually being more like mother and son. Their relationship was one of the most intriguing and unlikely in history. Chopin was aristocratic, well-behaved, finicky, proper, a bit stuffy even (gasp!!). And George was... well, read on.
As for her personality, I think I gave a good idea of George above. Loud, lewd, shocking, and scandalous. You may notice I use the word scandalous a lot on this page. That's not because I don't feel like using the thesaurus, but because her life simply was scandalous in most aspects. I may be sensationalizing this a bit; I admit I have her biography but have not yet tackled the whole thing (it's about 900 pages)... but what I do know about George is that she was not your typical Parisian lady of the 1800s. Her behavior and personality aside, and also aside from her boldly leaving her husband and becoming a writer, well, you have the way she dressed. To protest the unequal treatment accorded to women, George usually wore men's suits: shirt, pants, jacket, tie, top hat... the whole deal. So you can see why people of her time had a bit of a problem with her. Probably the only reason she got away with it was because she was such a famous writer. Otherwise she surely would have been locked away and condemned by society. But instead she became a bit of an icon, the envy of so many proper ladies who wore their corsets and frilly dresses. Not only did George wear men's clothes, she also smoked cigars and had a rowdy sense of humor (much like Frida Kahlo). So for these reasons I consider George to be an amazing woman. This page is not so much about biographical details or incidents in her life, nor is it devoted to her enormous body of work. George was such a complicated, prolific, and fascinating woman, there are huge volumes devoted to those kinds of details. But instead, here I have briefly described why I believe George to be an amazing woman. It is not for her work or her accomplishments, but simply for being herself (and what a person to be!). A rebellious, cross-dressing, cigar-smoking, scandalously-acting woman writer who lived at a time that was certainly much more of a man's world than today, who was not afraid to be herself; the icon that she was, the freedom that she represented, the boundaries that she completely ignored, the propriety she didn't care about, the lives she changed... George Sand is an amazing woman for being the woman she was.

George Sand George Sand portrait by Delacroix George Sand photograph by Nadar

This site is about amazing women;
their brilliance, talent, and passion;
and the power of all women
to be amazing.


George Sand Links:

A brief, straightforward biography
Descriptions of a few books
Detailed timeline (in French)
All things George (in French)
The George Sand Association
Back to Amazing Women

George Sand Must-Haves:
Story of My Life
Autobiography of George Sand
by George Sand

Please visit my bookstore for more George Sand items.

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© Amy Brown