The Princess and the Patriot: Ekaterina Dashkova, Benjamin Franklin, and the Age of Enlightenment

February 17 – December 31, 2006

They seemed to have nothing in common. She was the Russian princess Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova, a noblewoman and friend of Empress Catherine the Great. He was the American printer, scientist, patriot and statesman Benjamin Franklin. When they met in Paris in 1781, it was a meeting of two of the most fascinating minds of the Age of Enlightenment.

Although Franklin is the more familiar of the two, both left indelible marks on their native lands. Franklin invited Dashkova to become the first woman member of the American Philosophical Society. As its director, Dashkova made Franklin the first American member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences and Arts in St. Petersburg. They both exemplified the ideals of the Enlightenment that flourished in Europe and America and still shape our world today.

Portraits, memoirs, letters, maps, court attire, jewelry and other decorative arts—many items never seen before in this country—were on view. They documented the extraordinary lives of America’s favorite founding father and the outrageous Russian princess who spoke five languages, helped overthrow a czar and directed the most prestigious scientific organization in her country.

The Princess & the Patriot was part of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, an international celebration of the 300th anniversary of Franklin’s birth.