It’s easy to assume the women of high society in the Gilded Age did nothing more than sip champagne and attend parties with the rest of Mrs. Astor’s 400. But not every woman who counted herself among New York’s elite was content to just sit back and enjoy the party. Edith Hope Goddard was one woman who wouldn’t let her social status define her.
Goddard was an avid sailor and golfer, once defeating Russian Grand Duke Michael in a 1900 golf tournament. But her main claim to fame came in 1895, when she became the first woman to ever sail as a crew member to compete for America’s Cup. At the 1895 America’s Cup competition, she sailed as a crew member on the Defender, one year after she married banker and yachting enthusiast Charles Oliver Iselin.
According to the America’s Cup records, Men and Women of the Outdoor World magazine reported: “[Iselin's] second wife is an enthusiastic yachtswoman and her counsel and presence during a race are patent factors in his achievements. She is charming and demure, sports white gowns and natty sailor suits and is as hospitable and popular as she is attractive“! Goddard competed for America’s Cup again in 1899 and 1903, the latter just after the birth of her son.
The miniature Peter Marié commissioned of Goddard was painted four years before her first America’s Cup win, when she was just 23 years old. Her lacy gown and hair in curls makes it easy to mistake her for a demure and quiet young woman. But her delicate looks just prove that looks aren’t everything.
Goddard’s miniature and more are on display through July 8 in Beauties of the Gilded Age: Peter Marié’s Miniatures of Society Women. You can also learn more about women in sports on The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports.