|Mary Cassatt, A Woman and A Girl Driving, 1881|
(Philadelphia Museum of Art)
Mary Cassatt was a maverick among her peers that broke all the conventions of 19th century society while living a perfectly respectable life (which was the most important thing at her day and age) and enjoying success and acceptance as an American Impressionist artist in Paris. When we are still discussing gender discrimination and social gendered roles, Cassatt managed to work as a professional artist, exhibit with the Impressionists and leave behind an exceptional legacy for all American artists to follow. Some might argue at this point that she was born into a privileged background allowing her to pursue her career as an artist in Paris but I would like to point out that she was from a wealthy family in Philadelphia which was a conservative area with very strict expectations from a woman of her position. Like all women of her class, she was expected to marry and have children, not go traipsing about in Europe learning to paint and displaying her talents for all the world to see.