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Americans have journeyed to Paris for centuries – to experience its romance, style, and culture. The visits of Jefferson and Franklin in the 1780’s and Hemingway and Fitzgerald in the 1920’s are familiar to many. Historian David Mccullough’s latest book explores a group of lesser-known travelers — three generations of talented young Americans who set off for Paris in the 19th century. They went neither as diplomats nor as tourists but to study art, medicine, and culture. And they came home with new ideas about communication, architecture, and racial tolerance. Diane and award-winning historian, David McCullough, talk about the legacy of Americans in Paris.
McCullough reads an excerpt from his book:
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough once said each of his books begins a new journey. His latest work chronicles three generations of 19th century Americans who traveled to Paris. They went to learn to work and to make their mark. The book is titled, "The Greater Journey" and David McCullough joins me in the studio to talk about how their experiences changed America.
MS. DIANE REHMAnd, of course, your calls, your comments are always welcome. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Feel free to join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to you, David McCullough.
MR. DAVID MCCULLOUGHGood morning, Diane. It's very, very good to be back on your show. Thank you for including me.
REHMAnd it's so good, so good always to see you. You open this book with this sentence. You say, they spoke of it then as the dream of a lifetime, and, for many, for all the difficulties and setbacks encountered, it was to be one of the best times ever. And hearing you speak, as I did yesterday, about these Americans who had gone to Paris, each of them looking for something, perhaps most of all something in themselves, what were you looking for?
MCCULLOUGHI was trying to see if, in the story of these very exceptional Americans because each was quite gifted in a variety of ways, I could demonstrate that history, the human experience is a mix of much more than just politics and the military and social issues, that art, music, architecture, medicine, science, adventure, ideas, all of that is a big part of the human experience and that you can't leave the yearnings of the soul out of the human story. And further, as you well know, all of us understand there are some civilizations about which virtually all we know is their art because they were so far in the past.
MCCULLOUGHAnd it may be very possible that our painting, our literature, our music, our poetry, our theater, and our sculpture may be what is remembered best about us 1,000 years from now. And to exclude that, to keep that out of our understanding of history, is not only to miss a big part of the story but is to miss a very big part of the pleasure of history because history should be enjoyed as well as known.
MCCULLOUGHIt isn't just something that you need to be a better citizen. You do need that. And you do need it to understand human nature. But to shut yourself off from it would be as if you shut yourself off from hearing any music for the rest of your life or ever walking in a garden. You just don't do that if you want to really live to the fullest. And you don't have to always live in the present because you can go into the past, and the past is different from the present.
REHMWas there a moment when you knew that that's where you wanted to go with this book?
MCCULLOUGHI think, yes, there was one very vivid moment. And it happened here in Washington, D.C., not very far from where we're sitting. I was driving down Massachusetts Avenue on my way into town. It was morning, early morning. I had an appointment. And it was springtime, window was open, and we got to Sheridan Circle, just past Embassy Row. And there was a big traffic jam, rush hour traffic. And I looked over, and there was Gen. Philip Sheridan of Civil War fame in the middle of the circle, up on his horse, requisite pigeon on his head.
MCCULLOUGHAnd I wondered to myself, how many of the thousands of people who go around this circle every day, twice a day, have any idea who that was? And it's a very good statue. It's by Gutzon Borglum who did the faces in Mount Rushmore. At the same time, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue was playing on the radio, and I was lifted out of my frustration of the traffic jam and my worry that I'd be late for my appointment because of that transporting, wonderful, brilliant music. And I thought, here we have these two Americans, Gen. Sheridan and George Gershwin.
MCCULLOUGHWho's the more important? Who's the more alive today? Who's the more alive for me at this very moment? No question -- well, I can't say who's more important. The point is that they're both important. And so I don't think history ought to be either read or talked about or taught by leaving out the kind of accomplishment that I'm writing about in my new book, accomplishment in the arts, accomplishment in ideas and how those accomplishments have shaped us.
MCCULLOUGHWe don't think we're much shaped by France, and yet here you and I are sitting in our nation's capital, which was designed by a Frenchman, among other very obvious examples of the French influence.
REHMAnd one of the people in your book in whom I am so interested is the woman who went to Paris and became a physician.
MCCULLOUGHElizabeth Blackwell. Elizabeth Blackwell is a real story of a hero. Determination to make the most of herself, determination to excel in her own chosen field, she was the first American doctor, and she went to Paris to enroll in the Ecole de Medecine, which was the greatest medical university in the world and to which many Americans went at the time, including Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. and who came back and changed how medicine was practiced in this country and equally, if not more important, what was taught in the medical schools in this country.
MCCULLOUGHShe went because she wanted to get a full medical education, and they wouldn't admit her to the Ecole de Medecine. That happened later with Mary Putnam, who was the first woman -- who's also somebody that I write about -- to be a graduate of the Ecole de Medecine. But Elizabeth Blackwell was put into a school for women who assisted at birth.
REHMWhat we would think of as midwives.
MCCULLOUGHThat was a midwives' school. And it was mostly young, 18-year-old French women, girls, and they lived very much like nuns in a nunnery. And it was not easy, and they were up all the time, almost 24 hours a day, attending patients, women giving birth for their whole training period. And it was rigorous. It was Spartan. It was cloistered, literally cloistered. They couldn't go out. And she did it. She wanted to become a surgeon. But in the course of her time there, she contracted an eye disease from which she lost vision in one eye.
MCCULLOUGHAnd what is so remarkable is in her journals and what she wrote in her letters, she never complained about any of it. And she said what superb care she'd been given while she was so ill with her eye disease. I'll never forget that. No self pity, none. And she would not give up. Of all those medical -- American medical students who went to Paris and were subjected to a rigorous curriculum such as they had never known, plunged into a big-time medical school where instruction is all in a language they didn't yet speak, not one of them ever said, well, this isn't what I expected.
MCCULLOUGHI'm going home. Not one. They all stayed until they got what they came after.
REHMFascinating to me that, at the time, male physicians were not -- in this country, were not permitted to fully examine females.
MCCULLOUGHCorrect. Most American women of the day -- this was the 1830s, '40s, '50s, up through the time of the Civil War and after, to a large degree, most American women would have preferred to die than to have a man examine their body. And since all doctors were men, alas, that meant a great many of them died. Also, for a very long time, the use of bodies for dissection, cadavers, was frowned on by religious principles or by social stigmas or by law.
REHMHere in this country?
MCCULLOUGHIn this country. So, as a consequence, what bodies were available to be used for dissecting were available because they were stolen. Grave-robbers went out and got them. They were on the black market, as it were, and thus were very expensive. So most medical students never dissected an arm or a leg to understand the anatomy of that part of the body. And, very often, the first time they ever took a scalpel and started to work on an arm or a leg was on a living arm or leg. And, keep in mind, there were no anesthetics as yet.
REHMDavid McCullough, he's twice received the Pulitzer Prize. His newest book is titled, "The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris." We'll take just a short break. And when we come back, talk further about others who went between 1830 and 1900. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. David McCullough is here with me. He has won Pulitzer Prizes for his biographies of presidents Harry Truman and John Adams. But now he's turned his attention to a different period and to different Americans, those who traveled to Paris between about 1830 and 1900, a group of lesser-known Americans who achieved not only their own dreams, but came back to share what they had learned in Paris with their own country.
REHMThe book is titled "The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris." And we are going to take your calls. Join us on 800-433-8850. Who were these people who set out, David? Why did they decide to go? Was there something missing here, or did they simply decide that they needed to see Paris?
MCCULLOUGHAll of that, all of that. It would be as if somebody were a terrific shortstop and they decided they had to try out for the -- a big league team. Paris was the cultural capital of the world. And if you wanted to know truly how to become a painter or an architect or a top-ranked physician, you wanted to know anything about opera or the ballet, if you wanted to write in an atmosphere where literature and poetry and writers were taken very seriously, you went to Paris. Keep in mind, there were no schools of architecture in this country. There were no schools of art in this country.
MCCULLOUGHYou couldn't go -- except for in New Orleans, you couldn't see an opera. Ballet was not known. There were very few public gardens -- public parks as we now know them. Architecturally, it was not only lacking in the splendor of a place like Paris, but it was all pretty new, again, compared to what they are accustomed to here in the United States. When people arrived from the United States in France and saw a great cathedral for the first time, it was an experience they never, ever forgot.
MCCULLOUGHAnd some of them wrote about it powerfully because it wasn't just that it was so grand architecturally and big in scale, but that it was so old. An old building such as, let's say, Independence Hall in Philadelphia was less than 100 years old. Here they were, say, at the cathedral at Rouen or Notre Dame in Paris. They were looking at something that was started before Columbus ever set sail. And this was a huge adjustment for them and thrilling. Charles Sumner, who's one of the most interesting of them, said that he never before felt the prestige of age.
MCCULLOUGHLast night, we walked out of the Library of Congress, looked up at our Capitol dome all wet, and it evoked so many memories of this history, this story, the age of our country. Imagine what a European felt knowing when that cathedral was built, when that museum was first opened. Also, there were no museums, Diane. There was no place you could go and look at great paintings in this country. Now, they also went to -- because, as James Fenimore Cooper wrote, there was always the expectation of a little pleasure at the bottom of the cup.
MCCULLOUGHThey weren't just going to work hard. And they did work hard. All of them worked exceedingly hard. They included people like Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the great sculptor, James Fenimore Cooper, the author of "The Last of the Mohicans" and numbers of other very important books, the first internationally known American writer up until that point.
MCCULLOUGHSamuel F. B. Morse, who went over as a painter and who not only came back with a masterpiece of his paintings inside the Louvre, but got the idea and came back with the idea for the telegraph, who later went back on another trip and returned to the United States having seen the first examples of photography by Louis Daguerre, the daguerreotype and, with Daguerre's permission, brought photography back to the United States.
MCCULLOUGHIt includes people like Mary Cassatt, who became the first American woman to be a painter of international note, the first and only American asked by the impressionists of France to become one of them. It includes people in the arts other than painting, such as Henry James who wrote one of his great novels in Paris, "The American."
MCCULLOUGHAnd it includes Henry Adams, the greatest of our historians, and includes architects who were to come back and reshape the buildings of which surround us to this day. Charles McKim, H. H. Richardson, Stanford White all trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts because there was no place to train here. And it includes people you have not ever heard of but who became celebrated in their fashion.
MCCULLOUGHOne of my favorites is a young painter, young Irish kid from the streets of Boston, George Healy -- excuse me -- who had no money, knew no French, knew nobody, had no contacts. But, as he said, he had a great stock of courage and of inexperience. And inexperience is often very helpful. And I went, he said, to make the best of what was in me.
REHMAnd you know what he said because you have seen his diary.
MCCULLOUGHYes. And they all kept diaries or wrote letters. It was part of life then. And some of these letters are just spectacular. Now, someone like Oliver Wendell Holmes who became -- was already a known poet -- became -- continued to be a poet and an essayist, wrote letters home to his parents who were very straight-laced New Englanders. His father was a Calvinist preacher, explaining that it was all right for him to go to the theater in Paris and that they didn't have to tear that part of his letter off if they wished to show that letter to some of their friends.
MCCULLOUGHBut it's thrilling and somewhat humiliating -- humbling, I should say -- to see how well these young people -- they were mostly all in their 20s -- how well they wrote with no notion that they -- I'm talking about those who were not there as writers -- how well they wrote without being writers. All of them, almost without exception -- I think this is terribly, terribly important -- came home to be teachers in one way or another. They themselves who went there to be taught, whether it was painting, medicine, whatever it was, came home to become teachers in their lives.
MCCULLOUGHOliver Wendell Holmes had spent 30 -- more than 35 years teaching anatomy, having done dissecting all of his time in Paris, teaching anatomy at the Harvard Medical School. Saint-Gaudens came home to teach. Emma Willard, the great pioneer of higher education for women, brought home all kinds of new attitudes toward the world, history, culture, art to carry on with her lifelong teaching career.
REHMWhat surprised me was the courage that it must have taken to take that voyage to begin with. Many of them didn't know how bad it was going to be, whether they'd survive that trip. It must have been god-awful.
MCCULLOUGHWell, it was. And except for Samuel Morse and for James Fenimore Cooper, almost none of them had ever left the mainland of America. They'd never been in a foreign country. They had never been to sea. And they were going -- until the late 1840s, 1850s, they were going by sailing ship 'cause steam navigation hadn't started yet on the Atlantic until late in the 1830s. And it was a horrendous voyage. It took at least a month at best. There were no passenger liners. You got quarters, as it were, on a freight boat and a two masted sailing ship. And the quarters were cramped. The food was dismal.
MCCULLOUGHThere was nothing to do. And, of course, you could run into storms and have terrible experiences with seasickness, which nearly all of them did and described sometimes in hilarious detail. And then they landed, and then they would arrive at, say, Rouen and see the cathedral or get some general sense of the wonders of Paris. And they realized, as great as that journey had been at sea, the greater journey of the mind and the spirit and of new ideas and new understanding of the extent of human expression had begun. That was the greater journey.
MCCULLOUGHAnd what's, to me, so thrilling is to see these young men and women who came from very humble origins -- Augustus Saint-Gaudens, our greatest sculptor, was an immigrant shoemaker's son who was put to work when he was 13 years old, went over to France in steerage. We think of people coming the other way in steerage. Many of these people went there in steerage. And out of sheer determination, practically starving to death as a student in Paris, he became what he was. And it would not have happened had he not gone to Paris.
MCCULLOUGHNor would somebody like Charles Sumner have had the epiphany moment of realizing that here in France they treat black people the way human beings ought to be treated, and we have to change that. We treat African-Americans the way we do because that's what we've been taught, and it's not part of the natural order of things. And that's what he wrote in his journal the day he had this revelation.
MCCULLOUGHAnd that man came back, went into politics, was elected to the United States Senate in his early 40s, became the most powerful voice for abolition in the United States Senate and, as a force, a factor in the whole abolition movement at the time of Lincoln, he was second only to Lincoln, and at nearly the cost of his life because he was almost beaten to death by a South Carolina Congressman who was offended by one of Sumner's speeches, thought that the South had been offended and attacked him, blindsided with a heavy walking stick and nearly killed him.
MCCULLOUGHIn fact, Sumner never recovered from that attack, either physically or psychologically. Sumner's one of the great characters, one of the great pivotal figures in our whole story as a country. And John Brown's so-called Potawatomie massacre where he attacked the white people in Kansas was in vengeance for the attack on Charles Sumner. That atrocity committed by Brown and his followers in Kansas would never have happened, theoretically and most likely, had Sumner not been attacked the way he was.
MCCULLOUGHAnd all of that was brought back from Europe by this remarkable young man who had gone to Paris strictly because he felt he didn't have a sufficient education.
REHMDavid McCullough. We're talking about his latest book. It's titled "The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris." There are a great many people on the phones waiting to talk with you. We'll open them now. First to Norman, Okla. Good morning, Ed. You're on the air.
EDGood morning. Mr. McCullough, your books are the only books I've ever read more than one time. And I liked your comparison a moment ago to Phil Sheridan. I've enjoyed how your history stories -- they tell stories of how lesser recognized people have made huge, huge impacts upon American history. Such as if you want to understand 35-plus years of American Foreign Cold War policy, you read "Truman." And I just love how your stories have done that. And I cannot wait to read "Greater Journey" and thank you for your great work.
MCCULLOUGHWell, thank you. And I must say that one of my purposes in my work and my pleasures in my work is when I feel I have given credit where credit is long overdue. And I felt this way particularly with this book because, in this case, I could choose the characters that I included in what I've written. I didn't -- couldn't possibly have included everyone who went to Paris, even limiting it to people who went there for a specific purpose, not just to have a good time or be a tourist.
MCCULLOUGHSo I had to pick and choose those examples which I felt were the most interesting, but also, of course, those people who did keep the diaries or did write the letters from which to draw their firsthand experience from them firsthand.
REHMHow difficult was that for you to find, to research, to uncover?
MCCULLOUGHOh, Diane, I love that part of it. One of the joys of my work in my life is the reading I have to do. And I felt a little like a casting director in that I would say, all right. Well, tell me your story and what do you do and show me what you do. And then don't call me, I'll call you. But I -- there were some I cut, not just in the early process, but cut from the book, not because they weren't interesting or not because they were -- their work was unimportant. But I felt that they hadn't had any experience that was particularly revealing or relevant.
MCCULLOUGHIn some cases because, though, it might be extremely important, I didn't feel that the Paris experience changed them particularly. Winslow Homer, for example, one of our very greatest painters, I don't think his work was greatly changed by being in Paris. And he didn't write much about what he saw or did. I must emphasize, too, Diane, that -- imagine finding yourself in a city where the food was out of this world. Imagine finding yourself in a city where you could go to a play any night of the week or go to the opera or see a ballet, see Taglioni, the greatest living ballerina at the time.
MCCULLOUGHThey were transported by this experience. And I'm not imposing that conclusion by myself. It's in what they said, what they wrote at the time. They were ecstatic. They also found the French astonishingly welcoming, polite...
MCCULLOUGH...civil, that, in fact, as Holmes writes, the only people they found could be sometimes obnoxious were the English they ran into in Paris.
MCCULLOUGHEven though they spoke not a word of the language. But I don't speak much French, and I have never found anybody in France who was abrupt or the slightest bit rude with me or my wife Rosalie once we told them we're trying to learn your language. We can read it fairly well, but speaking it is not easy for us. And these -- oh, and they saw no graffiti. There was no -- the white marble statues in the parks weren't all marked up or written on. They found that there was nobody -- nobody spit.
MCCULLOUGHNow, keep in mind, back in this country then, men chewed tobacco, and everybody was spitting all the time. And the idea -- there was no spitting.
REHMDavid McCullough. The book is titled "The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris." Short break, and when we come back, more of your calls, your email. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMWelcome back. And if you've just joined us, one of my favorite people in the whole wide world, and he just happens to have won the Pulitzer Prize twice. He's received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, none other than David McCullough. His newest book is titled "The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris." In this book, he's talking about the lesser-known figures who did journey to Paris between about 1830 and 1900, took with them a desire to learn, a desire to experience and were changed by that experience, brought back to this country what they had learned, and our country became the richer for it. How long did this book take you, David?
MCCULLOUGHFour years. And most of the research was here because the letters, the diaries are in this country. Many of them are here in Washington at the Library of Congress, and others are in university libraries around the country. Rosalie and I went to Paris, I guess, four times during those four years for about two weeks each time, in a way so I could see what I had -- hadn't gotten right, to walk the walk, so that if I were talking about Saint-Gaudens, going from his apartment to his studio in 20 minutes, I wanted to make the same walk through the Luxembourg Gardens...
MCCULLOUGH...and to go to some of the restaurants, which are still there -- the Cafe Procope, which was the favorite left bank cafe is still right where it always was. And it's pretty thrilling to go in there and sit down and realize that Jefferson and Voltaire...
MCCULLOUGH...have dined there, as did Oliver Wendell Holmes and the other people that I've been writing about.
REHMOne of your favorite characters is Elihu Washburne.
REHMTalk about him.
MCCULLOUGHWell, Washburne was not a young, talented American who went to excel in his or her chosen field. He was a congressman from Illinois who had served during the years before the Civil War and was a very close friend of Abraham Lincoln. And when Lincoln became president, Elihu Washburne became Lincoln's most -- his strongest supporter and representative, as it were, in the House of Representatives. And Washburne was also a great friend, because Washburne came from Kolina, Ill., of a fellow named Ulysses S. Grant, who was neighbor of his in Kolina, Ill.
MCCULLOUGHAnd he's the one that kept pressing Lincoln to give Grant a greater role and, ultimately, to give him supreme command. And after the war was over and when Grant became president, Grant asked -- appointed him Secretary of State, and Washburne accepted it for a few days only because he'd become quite ill. And his family worried for his life. He was exhausted from all that he'd -- effort he'd put in and the worry and the rest during the Civil War. And so Grant then asked him if he would like to be our minister to Paris. And he accepted.
MCCULLOUGHAnd one of the reasons he accepted because he thought it would be a nice, easy way for him to get his strength back. His wife was fluent in French. His wife wanted to go. The children had grown up in their home in Illinois speaking French at home. So they went. And he arrives, literally, on the eve of the horrible Franco-Prussian War. The Germans advanced very fast across France and very quickly were approaching Paris.
MCCULLOUGHAnd all the other diplomats of the major powers left, got out of town as fast as they could, except for Elihu Washburne, who, of his own choice, decided it was his duty to stay as long as there were other Americans in the city. Now, there were only about 150 Americans left, but he felt he had to stay. So he did stay, and he stayed through the horrific siege of Paris where the Germans had the city surrounded and decided, rather than attack, they would just starve Paris to death -- starve Paris into surrendering, which took four-and-a-half months.
MCCULLOUGHAnd it was awful. And then followed the even more horrible commune where Parisian government, the Commune and the communards, was in a bloody civil war with the government of France. And the city of light, the city of civilization, of the ultimate in all of the arts and the refinements of life, suddenly did an upside down volcanic eruption into the most God-awful example of human depravity, cruelty and the rest imaginable.
MCCULLOUGHThat amazing man not only was there through all of it, tried to save the archbishop of Paris' life, Archbishop Darboy, because he'd been taken prisoner and was going to be executed along with tens of -- hundreds of priests and failed to do so, but he made every effort possible. He, as a foreigner, an American and a Protestant, became so dedicated to that man's life, and one of the greatest disappointments of his entire life was that he failed at that.
MCCULLOUGHBut he also succeeded in getting tens of thousands of Germans, who were there as workers, who had been living there for years and raised their families there -- they were the people who cleaned the streets and took the garbage and were the laundresses, uneducated poor people who were suddenly looked upon as the enemy and were suspected of being spies. He managed to organize the evacuation of those people, the exodus of those people safely out of Paris by train without a hitch, 20,000 -- more than 20,000 people, and, undoubtedly, made impossible what could have been an extremely horrid execution of tens of thousands of innocent people.
MCCULLOUGHBut, at the same time, every single day, he kept a diary. And that diary, which he referred to in his reminiscences, was not until just recently referred to -- or looked at by other scholars, students, archivists, whatever -- for some reason it had been filed in such a way in bound volumes by the family and given to the Library of Congress -- copies of the diary pages. And once my research assistant, Mike Hill, unscrambled this puzzle up at the Library of Congress, to the amazement of the people at the manuscript division of the Library of Congress -- and we realized these were letter press copies.
MCCULLOUGHThen we found the original diary was up at the old Washburne family home in Maine and went up, and there it was...
MCCULLOUGH...along with all the other treasures of the family. That family, four sons, served in the United States Congress at the same time from four different states. One -- it never happened before and never happened since. One son was a general in the Union army in the Civil War. Another son was governor of Maine and was reputedly the first political figure in the country to use the term republican for the new Republican Party. They grew up in Livermore, Maine, in a hard scrabble rocky Maine farm with no money, nothing, 10 children, and they all were distinguished citizens in a variety of ways.
MCCULLOUGHIt is an amazing story. And I love the fact that, when they were trying to explain how they did this, they always said it was their mother, who had very little education, who told them there's no limit to what you can do or how far you can go or what you can accomplish in life if you get a good education. And when a reporter came and asked her, why is -- because these four brothers who were all elected to Congress...
MCCULLOUGH...were from four different states...
MCCULLOUGH...came to her and said, now, why is it that all your sons leave Maine? She said, oh, no state in the country is big enough to hold any of my children.
REHMHow marvelous. Let's go back to the phones to Marian. Sorry, Marian, in Burton, Ohio, good morning.
MARIANGood morning. It's an honor to speak with you both. Journaling is an important source in your excellent works. Do you journal, David, and in what form?
MCCULLOUGHThank you. I do not. I write letters still, and by hand. But it is my wife, Rosalie, who's my editor-in-chief and my hero, who still writes letters exactly as they did in days gone by, almost every day. And thank goodness she does, and she keeps a very day-by-day journal of everything going on in our lives, bless her heart.
REHMThat's terrific. To Jacksonville, Fla. Roselle, you're on the air.
ROSELLEHi, thank you for taking my call.
ROSELLEThis is pretty exciting. I was named after a -- my great aunt who was a physician. Her name was Katherine Lynch, and she went to Paris and was a single woman and traveled all over the world and ended up in Paris practicing medicine and then, because she was a registered communist, apparently, she was -- I guess she decided to walk the walk and gave up all of that kind of high living and moved to Mexico where she worked with indigent Mexicans and retired there.
ROSELLEBut it's so exciting to hear her story kind of fleshed out. I never imagined her involved in this kind of enlightened movement, you know. And I never imagined, you know, her motives for going to Paris. And it's really exciting. I look forward to reading your book.
MCCULLOUGHWell, thank you, very much. It was exciting. And people like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Mary Putnam -- Mary Putnam was a very forceful person. She did not leave Paris either during the Commune because she was bound and determined she was going to get her degree in medicine. So she was -- she put up with all of it. And her writing was superb. And I can't tell you how much I admire the courage of a number of the women. I thought -- I think Mary Cassatt was a very brave woman. She decided she wasn't going to be, as they said then and particularly in polite society, a woman who paints.
MCCULLOUGHShe was going to be a painter. And if it meant giving up virtually everything in the way of a normal life, she would do it in order to achieve that goal. And she did. But, of course, she was a genius, as John Singer Sargent was. Three of the major works by Sargent -- his great El Jaleo, the Spanish dancer painting, his painting of the Boit daughters and his most, I guess, celebrated or well-known painting of Madame X, which is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, were all painted in Paris when he was still in his 20s.
MCCULLOUGHAnd to the Parisians, and particularly the Parisian art world, he was a phenomenon. But the painter who got the biggest greeting in Paris ever -- not just in the period I'm writing about, but ever -- was George Catlin, the painter of our Plains Indians, who brought a whole group of Iowas -- the Iowa Tribe, to Paris, and they took the city by sensation, by storm.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's an email from Christopher. "What lessons should moderate American colleges draw from these 19th century parallels in encouraging current students to study abroad?"
MCCULLOUGHI think current students don't need as much encouragement as some of us think because the desire to study abroad is growing rapidly. And universities all over the country -- our country -- are encouraging study abroad. I would encourage our university faculties and our university -- people who design university curriculum, to try and not keep subjects in categories, that there's the history of art and then there's history, that there's a history of medicine, and then there's a history of the law. It all ought to be taught together much more than it is.
MCCULLOUGHI personally think, for example, that maybe the two most important art forms that we human beings are affected by are music and architecture because they are around us. They shape us. And when someone called architecture frozen music, that's what it is, that the idea that someone like Gershwin can touch us today as powerfully as any performance of his work in the 1930s is -- it transforms time.
MCCULLOUGHAnd, I think, particularly in teaching history and teaching about the love of learning, if institutions of education can instill the love of learning for life, that's what matters above all. And the place to begin doing that, to (word?), is in grade school.
REHMWhy do you suppose you acquired that love of learning?
MCCULLOUGHBecause I was very lucky, very blessed to have gone to three great schools -- grade school, high school and the university. I went to a grade school in Pittsburgh, Penn., a neighborhood grade school, where the arts were never presented to us, never part of the curriculum -- excuse me -- as if they were the parsley around the main course. They were part of the -- they were as important as everything else. We had a symphony orchestra in grade school. It was pretty bad, but we had a symphony orchestra in grade school. We had art every day. We put on plays. We had music every day.
MCCULLOUGHAnd we just grew up with it, and we grew up with it at home. We had the -- I think the maybe emblematic advantage of my whole education was that, in Pittsburgh, Penn., the Carnegie Museum, the Carnegie Art Gallery, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Carnegie Music Hall are all under one roof. You can walk from one to the other. They're not separated, shouldn't be separated.
REHMAnd these people about whom David McCullough writes are all connected as well. They all took the greater journey, which is the subject and title of his new book all about Americans in Paris. What a delight to speak with you.
MCCULLOUGHDiane, thank you so much.
REHMThank you. And thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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