Ariel Durant started as Will Durant’s student, became his wife and then his equal. A brilliant conversationalist and sharp debater, Ariel’s intellect blossomed under the guidance of the man whom she referred to as her "teacher, lover, mentor and friend," Will Durant.

To Will Durant, she was the embodiment of life itself; fun loving, controversial, unafraid to speak her mind (in fact, refusing to do otherwise) and a champion of women’s rights. Born Chaya, which means "life" (Ida in English) Kaufman on May 10, 1898 in Proskurov (now Khmelnitski) Russia to Jewish parents, Chaya immigrated with her mother, three sisters and older brother to the United States, landing in New York in November of 1901, Chaya would grow up on the streets and learn to fight and fend for herself at an early age.

At the age of 13 she discovered the Ferrer School, which specialized in libertarian education. Not long after she began attending, a young man by the name of Will Durant signed on to be a teacher in that institution. He immediately was attracted to the young student, who reminded him so much of a sprite that he nicknamed her "Puck." According to Ariel’s recollection:

Will for years called me Puck, from one of Shakespeare’s flighty fairies; but in his premature autobiography, Transition (1927), he rechristened me Ariel, from another fairy – forgetting that they were both male. This has become my legal name…

By the time she reached the age of 15, teacher and student had fallen in love. Realizing the potential problems that would attend such a student-teacher relationship, Durant resigned his position and spoke to Chaya’s mother about marriage. Despite some initial misgivings, Mrs. Kaufman in time gave her consent to the union and accompanied Will Durant to City Hall to witness the marriage. Chaya herself almost missed the service, as she had opted to roller skate to the locale and, to everyone’s relief (and after one or two falls en route) Chaya arrived at City Hall – out of breath, but ready to start a new chapter in her life as a married woman.

The first years of marriage were not easy; Chaya (now Puck) was still a restless spirit and many was the night she spent looking at her young husband’s back as he prepared for his twice weekly lectures – their sole source of income at that point. During the day, she was left at their home alone as Will attended College and lectured on philosophy to bring in money. Puck ran away at least twice during these early years, but always called for Will to come and pick her up. She preferred the company of artists and poets to philosophers, but in spending time with Will she began to understand that philosophy need not be boring and inconsequential to real-world issues. Soon she caught the fever herself and began debating her husband on certain points (both at home and on the lecture platform) and began to hold her own in the company of such distinguished philosophers and friends as Bertrand Russell and George Santayana.

Durant’s affection increased ever more for his wife as he witnessed the blossoming of her intellect. He offered encouragement, support and, in time, grew to trust her judgment on key points. It was a perfect example of the Chinese symbol of yin-yang; the pair could not have been more different and yet they came to rely on their interdependence for their very existence.

Over time, Puck (now Ariel) began to contribute more and more to Will Durant’s research and writing, until, by volume Eight of The Story of Civilization, she was listed as the co-author. This marked the culmination of the Durant’s life-long partnership – in marriage, life and art. Their cooperation was electrical; by Volume Ten, the pair had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for literature and the Medal of Freedom from the United States Government, the highest award granted by the government to civilians. Ariel was nominated as "Woman of the Year" by the City of Los Angeles in 1977, her opinions on history, philosophy and social issues such as woman’s liberation and education being much sought after by both women and men throughout the world. But the final words in summing up her life and relationship must belong to Ariel, transcribed from a recording she made with her husband Will Durant:

Every once in a while I had to go off and be myself and do my own adventures and I came back and I met people and we exchanged ideas, and meanwhile I was growing all the time. When you met me, Will, I was a tabula rasa, and you knew that it was because I knew nothing that you could make something of me. And because you knew that I was good for you; that my adventurous spirit, my energies, and my desire to know everything; I would fill myself up and I would bring it to you. You were stationary, you had to sit all the time; you had to read the words of books, the great knowledge in the world, and I had to go out and meet people, gather adventures and bring every kind of personality to you. I introduced you, didn’t I, to all the artists that were in Greenwich Village? I brought them to your table – you never knew with whom you were going to eat, did you? I brought them all to you from Woodstock. We had great adventures, but I brought the world to you so that, though you were learning the world from books, you had not had many adventures because you were almost like a little monk. From the age of four to the age of twenty-seven -- when you were excommunicated -- you knew nothing but Church history, Church philosophy and the word of God, but did you know much about the word of man? Did you know much about what man was around you, or everywhere within us? I was the adventure in your life and I brought you this life, and what did you do for me? You educated me; you quieted my wild blood. You brought unity and meaning to our lives so that now, after 59 years of marriage you have toned me down so that I may be a helpmate to you and I have been so happy to think that, as I believe in the Woman’s Liberation Movement, women should go shoulder-to-shoulder with men. I was so happy the first time that I saw my name with yours in the books that we were working on together for so many years. So many years of research and labor and love before we could see our names united before the whole world as representative of the unity that a man and woman can achieve and must achieve – and will achieve all over the world. I believe the time is right for all that -- with or without a Woman’s Liberation Movement. If you have character, endeavor, personality, courage and the capacity for concentrated labor, you will do what is your destiny – and, perhaps, even do it well. And for so much of the life that we have lived together, learning, contributing to each other’s way of life and character and considering the complexity of the universe, I have so many years of happy memories. And so much of it I believe I have to thank you for, Will. Not only all the attractions of a husband and a lover, but the deep companionship that has developed between us so that we almost have one breath, one life, one interest.