DIVA Museum How Opera Divas Changed the World! Art.History.Women.Opera.Fashion: 1700-1920








Why We Always Needed

a DIVA Museum!



26 Epic Diva Lives!


Divas à la Mode



 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum



Diva Bibliography






A Diva's Cabinet

of Curiosities



 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum


 It's Not Easy Being

A Great Opera Diva When . . .

An Illustrated Slideshow of

(Mostly) Heartbreaking Challenges

Faced by Celebrated Women Singers, 1700-1920


Tiaras and Social Change:

The Long and Fabulous


of the

Queen of Accessories

Triumphant Women

8-hour course

 Beacon Hill Seminars

3/2015; 3/2016


The Diva:

Jenny Lind



 Guest author

of Boston

Lyric Opera's

"In the Wings"

blog on

Jenny Lind's incredible life



Meet 9 amazing divas featured in

Opera Hub's DIVAS

Opera News DIVA Issue: 11/18:  Quoting me

on Diva Jewels


DIVA Salon:


and Social Change

in Song and Story,



©Kathleen McDermott

Artist and author










World premiere play with opera music

by Laura Neill

Produced by OperaHub

in collaboration

with DIVA Museum


 June 21-30, 2018

at BCA Plaza Theater


My research support for Laura


About Kathleen McDermott and DIVA Museum

(DIVAS program book, 6/2018)


My interest in female opera singers began with fashion history: I loved the extraordinary visual images they left behind. For 200 years, great artists and photographers captured these dramatic and confident women wearing spectacular costumes in up-to-the-minute fashion silhouettes. I began collecting and sharing these powerful images with my fashion history students. And I created the first round of what would become an entire world of diva-inspired artworks.


In 2009, I began deep research into diva biography and cultural history, using the vast resources of the Boston Public Library and its lending partners. I discovered that most of these women had “come from nowhere,” typically trained within performing families far outside acceptable society. These singers fed opera’s insatiable demand for charismatic female voices and became international stars. Against all odds, they forged full, daring lives, jumping class barriers, and accumulating extraordinary wealth and power.


But their power was not just personal. As I finished researching all 26 divas (so far!) in DIVA Museum, I came to see the bigger picture—the divas’ cultural power as symbols and pathfinders. They broke feminist ground in Western women’s efforts to achieve careers, own property, and eventually vote. This is DIVA Museum’s Big Idea. Divas played a key role in advancing women’s history from 1700 to 1920.


DIVA Museum is my one-woman tribute—a hybrid of fashion history, art, feminism, and research meant to inform and delight. It’s my continuing homage to 26 remarkable women in all their genius and ambition, success and power, image and intelligence. I hope my female leadership narratives and imagery—online and in my art studio—inspire you to explore these fascinating and important lives for yourself.


It’s been a pleasure to collaborate with OperaHub in bringing this story to a new level and wider audience. I’m also deeply appreciative and grateful to each of the many individual artists who worked so beautifully together to make DIVAS. The process throughout has been its own success story of women’s empowerment and the strength of respectful collaboration.