History is a fickle beast. Sometimes the most important people get lost in the annals of time. Maybe they were on the losing side of a war, or they existed so long ago, that records no longer exist. I find these figures are sometimes the most interesting.
One such little known person of history is Yekaterina Romanovna Vorontsova-Dashkova. Sometimes known at Princess Dashova, or Catherine the Little. Here are ten reasons why you should get to know her:
1) She put Catherine the Great on the Russian throne, by organizing a coup against her husband Peter III (not Peter the Great). While historians disagree the importance of her role, it’s clear that Russian history, and thus world history, would be much different today without her.
2) She was the first woman in the world to head an academy of science as the Director of the Imperial Academy of Arts and Sciences. Not only did she head it, but she rescued it from obscurity after years of mismanagement, and turned it into a world class scientific organization at the time.
3) She was the first woman to be invited into the American Philosophical Society. This occurred after a fateful meeting between her and Ben Franklin in Paris. The American founding father was quite intrigued with Katerina Dashkova and they corresponded by mail for many years.
4) She was the first woman member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science.
5) She excelled in all areas despite resistance to her gender (which was considerable in those times), doing things her way, and succeeding in every one.
6) She was named a colonel in the Russian military at the time (though this fact is disputed by some historians)
7) She was a woman of many skills. Read this description of Dashkova by a friend, Catherine Wilmot (who later helped publish Katerina’s memoirs).
“She helps the masons to build walls, she assists with her own hands in making the roads, she feeds the cows, she composes music, she sings and plays, she writes for the press, she shells corn, she speaks out in church and corrects the priest if he is not devout. She speaks out in her little theater and steers the performers if they stray from their parts. She is a doctor, an apothecary, a surgeon, a veterinary, a carpenter, a magistrate, a lawyer. In short, she hourly practices every type of incongruity. She corresponds with her brother, with authors, with philosophers with poets with all her relations, and yet, appears as if she had time hanging on her hands.”
8) She met and inspired the greatest minds of the Enlightenment, Diderot and Voltaire.
9) Katerina led the creation of the first Russian dictionary.
10) She’s the brilliant, flawed, oft-misunderstood, and determined heroine of The Dashkova Memoirs.
The first book in the series, Revolutionary Magic, is out now on Amazon for $0.99.