Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Family of Edward Darley Boit

After the period of time covered in my novel (1882-84),  hard times lay ahead for the Boit family, at least emotionally. Isa died in 1894, and the four girls (Florence, Jane, Mary Louisa and Julia), with their father, continued their travels throughout Europe, Great Britain and the U.S. But none of the girls liked America very much, and Ned, too, preferred the ease and openness of Europe to his native land. He was married again in 1897 to a very young woman, a friend of his daughter Mary Louisa, confusingly enough named Florence, and together they had two boys. Unfortunately, his second wife died a few weeks after giving birth to her second son, in 1902. After recovering from this untimely death, Ned renewed his interest in his painting, and mounted several exhibitions of his work (one with Sargent in Boston). Ned died in 1915, in Florence. 
As for the Boit daughters, Florence (leaning against the pillar in the painting) was always a rather odd duck, never evincing the slightest interest in marrying or attending the usual social events. She was an avid player of the relatively new sport of golf—which she introduced to the Boston area, inspiring the local rich folks to build a course at a country club in Newport. She and a cousin, Jane Boit Patten, nicknamed “Pat” to distinguish her from the innumerable Jane’s and Jeanie’s in the family, became fast friends and in later years, lived in what was called a “Boston marriage”, two spinster ladies living together. 
The second daughter, Jane (standing next to Florence, facing forward), both before Isa died and afterward, was ill a great deal, both physically and emotionally, and spent several periods of time in and out of “retreats” and institutions where she underwent various cures to allay her apparently rather violent fits of anger and depression. Not much is known about Mary Louisa (standing to the far left, hands behind her back) except that she and Julia (on the floor with her babydoll) were always together, and Julia became fairly well known for her paintings and illustrations in water colors. Florence died at age fifty-one, on December 8, 1919, in Paris. 
With the outbreak of WWII in 1939, the three remaining sisters moved back to the United States. Julia and Mary Louisa (also known as “Isa” like her mother) lived in Newport, where Mary Louisa died on June 27, 1945, at age seventy-one. Jane (or “Jeanie” as she was known) died at the age of eighty-five on November 8, 1955, in Greenwich, Connecticut. Julia passed away in February 1969, at the age of ninety-one.

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