Simone de Beauvoir was born in Paris into a wealthy family and received a strict, Catholic, bourgeois education. From an early age she distinguished herself by her intellectual abilities. The bankruptcy of her maternal grandfather, a banker, plunged Simone de Beauvoir's family into disgrace and deprived them of resources. Her father, however, instilled in her a taste for literature and studies, which he believed were the only way to lift his daughters out of their mediocre condition.
At the age of fourteen, Simone de Beauvoir became an atheist, marking her emancipation from her family, and decided to become a writer. After her baccalauréat, she studied mathematics, literature and philosophy. It was at the Faculty of Letters at the University of Paris that she met Jean-Paul Sartre, with whom she formed a legendary relationship, "a necessary love" that only death would separate. In 1929, she came second in the agrégation competition in philosophy, just behind Jean-Paul Sartre (unisex ranking).
Unhappy with the teaching profession, Simone de Beauvoir abandoned it in 1943 to pursue a literary career. With Sartre, Raymond Aron, Michel Leiris and other left-wing intellectuals, she founded the review "Les temps modernes" in 1945, the aim of which was to make existentialism known through contemporary literature. She became its director in 1971. Thanks to her novels and essays, she became financially independent, allowing her to devote herself entirely to writing.
Simone de Beauvoir travelled to many countries where she met communist personalities such as Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Mao Zedong and Richard Wright.
She gained notoriety with the publication in 1949 of The Second Sex, a philosophical and feminist essay, which became the reference for modern feminism and revealed her as a great theorist of the women's liberation movement. Outraged by the treatment of women as erotic objects, she described a society in which women were kept in a state of inferiority and advocated "equality in difference" and the emancipation of women.
Simone de Beauvoir played an important role in the struggles of Gisèle Halimi and Elisabeth Badinter for the recognition of the torture inflicted on women during the Algerian War and for the right to abortion. After Jean-Paul Sartre's death in 1980, she made Sylvie Le Bon, a young philosophy student known in the 1960s, her adopted daughter and heir to his literary work. Simone de Beauvoir shares the same grave as Jean-Paul Sartre in the Montparnasse cemetery.