March 01, 2009

Deconstructing Dashkova

born March 17, 1743

Yekaterina Romanovna Dashkova had a talent for misfortune. Her life was constantly being knocked off course, took many dramatic twists and turns, and left her in the dirt more than once. But every time, she would get up, dust herself off, and journey on, head held high. As a result, a marvelous mythology grew up around her, fed by the energetic efforts of this exceptional woman and her many sincere admirers.

What do we know about Dashkova? We know that she helped Catherine the Great attain the throne through her active involvement in the conspiracy to overthrow Peter III, only to suffer the Empress’ cruel ingratitude. She left the court for many years, traveled, dazzled Europe with her charm and erudition, and then returned and became the first (and to this day, the only) woman to head the Russian Academy of Sciences and the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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