Simone Weil (last name pronounced “Vay”) was a French philosophical writer and mystic, among other things. She is widely known for her resistance work and dedication to the plight of the working man.
Born in Paris, France, in 1909, Simone Weil was the daughter of Jewish parents and the brother of a famous mathematician, Andre Weil. Although she later converted to Christianity, at the age of 10 she became interested in politics and decided she would become a Bolshevik. She read communist party newspapers as a child and continued to oppose capitalist systems as an adult.
Labor organization and teaching
After graduating college, Simone began her teaching career as a philosophy teacher at a Secondary School for a year in Le Puy. Around the same time, she began to sympathize with laborers and organized a number of marches and other efforts to support. She would also work with them periodically between teaching to better understand their plight and experience life as a working class laborer.
Her work with labor organizations was affecting her teaching career, and by the time mid-terms came, her entire class was failing. At this point, after participating in a protest march, she was asked to step down from her teaching post, which she refused to do, so she was fired. After teaching in Le Puy, she began teaching philosophy in Roanne, continuing her work with the laborers as well. She taught free classes to those working in railroads and mines and also donated portions of her salary to their cause.
Eventually she ended her teaching career and went to live and work among unskilled labor workers, which was physically taxing on her and often left her out of money and food.
Many of Simone Weil’s teachings were published posthumously as the result of a student who took diligent notes while in her class, and then went on to publish them after her death. As a result, today we are able to better understand her views and teachings of philosophy at the time.
While Simone Weil was a pacifist, she volunteered in the Spanish Civil War with the Republican Party in 1936. At this point her beliefs in Communism began to dissipate, and she began working for an anarchist trade movement, La Révolution Prolétarianne.
Although she was born Jewish, Simone Weil took a deep interest in Catholicism and converted to Christianity in 1938, although she refused to be baptized into the Catholic church throughout the remainder of her life. Regardless, when the Nazis occupied France, she then escaped to the United States, then England, in 1942. Her war efforts continued in England as she worked for the Free French movement for a period of time.
Circumstances surrounding death
When she was 34, Simone Weil died in Ashford. The circumstances surrounding her death have been the subject of speculation. While she had tuberculosis, she also refused food and medical treatment out of sympathy of those who were still in occupied France. Some believe she starved herself to death, while others believe she had a mental illness and her self-neglect led to her early death instead of recovering.
Simone Weil was a brilliant woman with a lot of sympathy who contributed much of her energy, time, and money to standing up for laborers who were treated unfairly and supporting the war cause.