ART and BIOGRAPHY
FASHION and COSTUME
SOCIAL CHANGE and FEMINISM
26 Epic Diva Lives!
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
An Illustrated Slideshow of
(Mostly) Heartbreaking Challenges
Faced by Celebrated Women Singers, 1700-1920
The Long and Fabulous
Queen of Accessories
Beacon Hill Seminars
"In the Wings"
Jenny Lind's incredible life
Meet 9 amazing divas featured in
Opera Hub's DIVAS
and Social Change
in Song and Story,
Artist and author
A new play with opera music
by Laura Neill
Produced by OperaHub
in collaboration with
Premiering June 21-30, 2018
at BCA Plaza Theater
My ongoing 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.