De Claris Mulieribus, or On Famous Women as translated to English was written by Giovanni Boccaccio and first published in 1374, the year before Boccaccio died in 1375. He was 62 years old, having been born in 1313 in Florence, Italy. Boccaccio lived through the Black Plague in Europe, which served as inspiration for his art, most importantly his most famous story, The Decameron, which was a story about a group of people sheltering to escape the Plague.
Boccaccio's father was a banker and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. However, since an early age when Boccaccio was introduced to the works of Dante Alighieri, he was much more interested in poetry and writing than banking and law. However, nonetheless, his father sent him to Naples to study law and banking to carry on the families legacy.
When Boccaccio eventually moved back to Florence, he was financially struggling because he had decided to give up on law and pursue his real passion, writing, and poetry. He became a staple to the Renaissance, and many of the other Renaissance scholars knew him as a Latin scholar.
Biographies were relatively uncommon when Boccaccio first started writing his biographies and was one of the first pioneers to make them a popular genre of writing. He believed that one should look for glory in the world that already exists as opposed to trying to create new glory. In addition to this, On Famous Women was one of his more modern pieces. In a time where women had virtually no credibility, Boccaccio put together a collection of biographies of 106 women that he believed made a very significant impact on history, good or bad.
The collection was the very first collection of women's biographies to ever be written and it was one of the first works that started to shift the view of women into a more modern approach. He writes the collection alongside another story, De Casibus Viorum Illustrium, or On the Fates of Famous Men, and showed the world many examples of people throughout history that could set an example on how others could behave to be virtuous.
In the last twenty years of his life, Boccaccio constantly revised and rearranged On Famous Women, with upwards of nine different variants being published during his lifetime. The collection contains the biographies of both historical and mythological women, but often Boccaccio will explain that the gods and goddesses may not be exactly as they have been told through history.
The influence of On Famous Women expanded far, and it has been translated into many different languages. Being the first collection of biographies of women ever created it started a new trend for not only biographies as a genre but also a more modern and positive outlook on a women's effect on their society.