Tuesday, 16 April 2013
Princess Yekaterina Romanovna Vorontsova-Dashkova, a writer, autobiographer, journalist
Born on March 17, 1743, Dashkova was the third daughter of Count Roman Vorontsov, a member of the Senate.
Unlike most European females during the eighteenth century, she received an exceptionally good education. She studied mathematics at the University of Moscow and enjoyed the literary works of Montesquieu, Boileau, Voltaire, and Helveticus. In her youth, she became connected to the Russian court and became one of the leaders of the party that supported Grand Duchess Catherine (later Catherine II, the Great). Dashkova was a very close friend of Russian Empress Catherine the Great as well as a major figure of the Russian Enlightenment of the eighteenth century.
Unfortunately, once Catherine had her throne, she cooled her friendship with Dashkova, though the latter remained loyal to her sovereign. The estrangement made Dashkova uncomfortable enough to request that the Empress allow her to travel abroad. Permission was granted, and Dashkova departed on an extended tour of Europe. As a widow it was acceptable for her to travel. She was received well at foreign courts, and her literary and scientific reputation paved the way to many prominent European salons and connections. While in Paris she became good friends with Diderot and Voltaire.
In 1782 Dashkova returned to Russia and found herself once again in Catherine's favor. Shortly after her return, the Empress appointed Dashkova to the position of director at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts and Sciences, and two years later she was named the first president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which was founded by Catherine at Dashkova's suggestion. Dashkova was the first woman in the world to head a national academy of sciences.
The Memoirs of the Princess Daschkaw, written by herself were published in 1840 in London in two volumes and remain in print today because they provide a birds-eye view of the life and times of Catherine's Russia.