Mary (Cushing) Boit (1846-1894)

Mrs "Isa" Mary Louisa (Cushing) Boit

Associated Houses

The Rocks


She was born at Boston, Massachusetts, the only daughter of John Perkins Cushing who made a fortune predominantly through trading opium from China. She was known as "Isa" and on June 16, 1864, she married the popular and aspiring artist, Edward Darley Boit, who had recently graduated from Harvard and was said to be, "a fine fellow". A family friend remarked, "it is a great thing for Ned Boit certainly, this match with Isa Cushing and her million of golden charms". Their wedding reception was held at the Cushing's country estate, Bellmont: "a lovely day - bands of music - a great marquee for the collation; the young bride in her $5000 dress - the present of one of her brothers, and her eight bridesmaids, all pretty girls, all in white, with white illusion veils, made a lovely group; and throngs of splendidly dressed women every where. Isa’s dress was a complete dress of exquise point lace over white silk - and point veil of course. I hear one of (the bride's) brothers gave her diamonds and another all her silver".

Having initially lived between Boston and The Rocks in Newport, from 1871 the Boits went to live in Europe (Rome and then Paris). Despite their apparent charmed existence, whether Isa was aware of it or not, there was a darker side to family life. Their daughters (none of whom were to marry and all of whom suffered from psychological damage in one way or another) are immortalized in John Singer Sargent's famous painting on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston: The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (1882). According to the New England Historical Society: "Sargent may have picked up on a discordant strain in the Boit family. Fourteen years after he painted the four girls, Edward Darley Boit announced he would marry the 20-year-old friend of one of his younger daughters. Their cousin Mary Boit then visited them in Paris just after the announcement: 'It is a very strange thing and I am more sorry for the girls than anything,' she wrote. 'Uncle Ned quite scares me'". Isa had died at Dinard in Brittany (northern France) and three years later (1897) her husband married Florence Little, 36-years his junior. 


Contributed by Mark Meredith on 28/10/2020 and last updated on 06/08/2021.