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Delacroix’s portrait of George Sand and her most famous lover, Frederic Chopin, shows her sensual grace and the sensual tenderness between the two. Sand, born Aurore Dupin in 1804, helped put the free in freethinker. Daughter of an aristocrat and a proletarian Parisienne, Aurore was raised by her aristocratic grandmother, a well-meaning despot, at the family estate, Nohant. Aurore inherited two sets of irreconcilable rules, discarded both, and stepped into male privilege—and trousers.

Following an early marriage and two children, Aurore left and eventually divorced her husband, a near-unthinkable move at that time. She said she couldn’t wait for widowhood to live her own life. The financial loss in the wake of the divorce would have shattered a lesser woman. Aurore, not shattered, began wearing trouser suits because they were more practical than ankle-length dresses in dirty bohemian Paris and smoking because she enjoyed it, thus scandalizing her public even as a pre-public figure. She chose a male pseudonym, George Sand, so her books would be taken seriously—borrowing a syllable from her current lover, Jules Sandeau.

Indiana was published in 1832. Novel after remunerative novel, and lover after lover, followed: Prosper Mérimée, Alfred de Musset, Giuseppe Pagello, Frederic Chopin, Alexandre Manceau, and at least one woman, Marie Dorval. Sand was a prolific writer and workmanlike stylist, but her content pushed her public’s buttons with punctilious regularity. Lélia, 142 years before Fear of Flying, addressed female sexual satisfaction. During her career as a serial monogamist and best-selling novelist, she was painted by Auguste Charpentier, Charles Louis Gratia, Louis Boulanger, and others, all clearly reflecting fascination with something beyond mere beauty.

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Shady Ladies Women's History

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