1. A character from "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo. The year is 1823, in Montreuil-sur-Mer, France. Fantine is a young, unmarried mother who works in a factory owned and run by the reformed Jean Valjean, the protagonist of the story. Fantine's daughter, Cosette, is the result of a boyfriend who used and deserted Fantine; the young Cosette lives with the thieving Thenardier family who (unknown to the illiterate Fantine) abuse Cosette and make false claims about Cosette's health so that Fantine can give them money (which they take for themselves).

Upon finding out that Fantine has a child out of wedlock, the other women (who are jealous of Fantine's beauty) urge the foreman (who has unsuccessfully tried to bed Fantine) to fire her. Desperate for Cosette and frustrated by her unjust dismissal, Fantine sells what she can for money, including her golden hair and her pearl-white eye-teeth. Ultimately, she becomes a prostitute to support Cosette and eventually dies of tuberculosis... but not before Valjean comes to her aid and promises to take care of Cosette.

2. By extension, any single mother of young children who has fallen on hard times and, out of desperation and love for her little ones, is willing to do almost anything to give her children a chance at a better life.
"I had a dream that life would be
So different from this Hell I'm living!
So different now from what it seemed-!
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed...!"
-Fantine, "I Dreamed a Dream"

Sarah's husband left her and now she has four children to raise by herself. She's even trying work as a stripper as well as a nurse. She's such a Fantine if she's willing to do that!
by Lorelili May 14, 2009

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