Feminists Before Feminism

Emily Franklin on “The Lioness of Boston”

The Lioness of Boston is a portrait of what society expected a woman’s life to be, shattered by a courageous soul who rebelled and determined to live on her own terms.

When Isabella Stewart Gardner transformed her Italian palazzo-style home into a museum in 1903, showcasing her impressive collection, she had already made waves in Boston’s high society. But her journey began in 1861 as a young, uncertain bride, striving to fit into the city’s elite circles. Rejected by the upper crust after personal tragedies, Isabella found liberation in travel.

Her adventures took her across the globe, where she embraced art, intellect, and unconventional friendships with figures like Henry James and Oscar Wilde. As she broke free from societal expectations, Isabella became a trailblazing eccentric, immortalized in a daring portrait by John Singer Sargent and known for her audacious stunts like walking lions in public parks.

In the series:
June 11: Daisy Goodwin On “Diva”
July 23: Emily Franklin on “The Lioness of Boston”