I started this blog back in 2011, when I found out I would be spending a year in Paris.
I had a newly empty nest, and I finally had the freedom to follow the dreams I’d had on hold for many years. As you pack up your youngest child for college, you have a lot of time to ponder that big question: What’s Next?
My husband got a one-year job offer in Paris and I was free to join him.
I knew I had to make my time in Paris my own, to put my signature on it. I decided to follow my passions in art, history and literature, and to follow in the footsteps of the American artists and writers who had traveled to Paris before me. Especially the women.
I have a thing for women’s history in the late 19th century. My senior history thesis was on the Woman’s Club Movement in America from 1890-1920. It’s such a great era. Women’s roles were undergoing a radical change between Victorianism and the era of “The New Woman.” Daring women could take off their corsets, ride a bike, pursue a career, and even travel to Paris with other women.
Some of the American women artists and writers who traveled to Paris in those years are well known. We’ve all heard of Mary Cassatt, Edith Wharton and Gertrude Stein. But there were so many more, names who might not be as familiar, like Elizabeth Gardner, Cecilia Beaux, Lilla Cabot Perry, Janet Scudder, The Emmet Sisters, Anna Klumke, May Alcott, and more. What did they hope to find when they came to Paris? How did it change them? What could they teach me about the second half of my life?
In the spirit of those adventuresome women who came before, I decided to name my blog after a real boarding house called American Girls Art Club in Paris. The Club opened its doors In 1893 at 4 Rue de Chevreuse near the Luxembourg Gardens, intending to provide proper room and board to the growing numbers of female art students from the United States. AGAC was a rambling, four-story yellow building with a courtyard and gardens. Click here to read a post I wrote about the history of the Club.
I’ve taken what I learned from my year in Paris and have returned to the States for the second half of my life with a renewed sense of inspiration. I’m painting in oils and pursuing my French, and I update this blog whenever I feel the spirit. Maybe I’ve read a good book set in France or I’ve stumbled upon some interesting tidbit about art, history or travel. I hope you’ll follow along.
Margie White, Founder, American Girls Art Club in Paris
Feel free to comment on this blog or reach out to me on Twitter at @parisartclub. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.