The earliest known literary productions by women living in Europe were probably written by French writers. As early as the 12th century, women troubadours in the south of France were writing poems. French women continued writing through the ages, their number increasing as education became more available to women of all classes. And yet, of the great number of works by women writers who preceded the current feminist movement, very few have survived. A few writers such as Marie de France, George Sand, and Simone de Beauvoir became part of the canon. But critics, mostly male, had judged the works of only a few women writers worthy of recognition. As part of the feminist move to reclaim women writers and to rethink literary history, scholars in French literature began to take a new look at women writers who had been popular during their lifetimes but who had not been admitted into the canon. This reference book provides extensive information about French women writers and the world in which they lived. Included are several hundred alphabetically arranged entries for authors; literary genres, such as the novel, poetry, and the short story; literary movements, such as classicism, realism, and surrealism; life-cycle events particular to women, such as menstruation and menopause; events and institutions which affected women differently than men, such as revolutions, wars, and laws on marriage, divorce, and education. The volume spans French literature from the Middle Ages to the present and covers those writers who lived and worked mainly in France. The entries are written by expert contributors and each includes bibliographical information. The entries focus on each writer's awareness of how her gender shaped her outlook and opportunities, on how categorizations, structures, and terms used to describe literary works have been defined for women, and the ways in which women writers have responded to these definitions. The volume begins with a feminist history of French literature and concludes with a selected, general bibliography and a chronology of women writers.