Emily Winstead is the daughter of an influential socialite. As a result, Emily was given opportunities many other girls didn’t have. When Emily turned two, her mother’s best friend, “aunt” Florence, put Emily on Maggie, a great beast of a white horse, her little legs warmed by the mare’s flanks. In no time, riding became Emily’s world. With her little hands gripping the reins, this passion became a lifelong love affair. It gave Emily freedoms she never thought possible.
Emily’s mother taught her that sketching could help make sense of her feelings. So together, they’d venture to the country, caught by the perfect light, their art supplies spread out before them. Emily always noted the difference in those afternoons, especially when returning home to the constraints and expectations placed on both of them.
Some years later, attending Swan Lake in Paris with her mother, Emily sat spellbound by what she saw. Such freedom! Dancers spun upon the stage. They were in control. Emily insisted she must be one of them – and her mother enrolled her in ballet. A perfectionist at anything she loved, Emily’s uncanny talent freed her to move and dream of excellence. With Paul, her dance partner and best friend, she fell in love with the Russian company Ballet Russe and began dreaming of a career on stage. Her parents gave her free reign, doting on her every whim.
But when she was fifteen, Emily’s younger brother drowned, and everything changed. In addition to losing her brother, her father turned on her. The once indulgent man now spied on her every move – had to get her in line. Grateful she hadn’t yet pushed to attend college, he pressed further. Give up that dance career, Emily! Decent ladies ride sidesaddle, Emily!
Now all he ever spoke of was the importance of marrying well. Emily’s resentment and anger grew, reminding her father of his mother, who died in an asylum. “I know what damage a weak woman’s mind is capable of, Emily!” Then, when she was 17, he had Emily committed for the first time. Frightened by the power of men and wincing at her parents’ loveless marriage, Emily wasn’t sure she even wanted to marry. She chafed at the bit, determined to control her own life. Was freedom from all this even possible for women?