Forgotten Leading Ladies of the American Theatre

Lives of Eight Female Players, Playwrights, Directors, Managers and Activists of the Eighteenth, Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries


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About the Book

These eight women made remarkable contributions: Laura Keene challenged tradition in 1858 by heading her own dramatic troupe; her career was ruined by Lincoln’s assassination. Mrs. John Drew, a star at 7 who toured until she was 76, was the matriarch of the Barrymore dynasty. Anna Cora Mowatt eloped at 15 with a lawyer more than twice her age, and went on the stage when he lost his fortune. She wrote a play, Fashion, that is still performed 140 years later. Five other women also have fascinating stories of courage and talent: Susanna Haswell Rowson, Sophia Turner, Charlotte Cushman, Fanny Kemble and Minnie Madern Fiske.

About the Author(s)

The late Mary M. Turner was an associate professor and technical design coordinator at Point Park University. A costume designer for more than 300 theatrical productions, she was the founding executive director of the Smyrna Opera House. She lived in Smyrna, Delaware.

Bibliographic Details

Mary M. Turner
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 182
Bibliographic Info: 9 photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014 [1990]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9373-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Dramatis Personae xi
Prologue 1

Act One: The Playwrights
Susanna Haswell Rowson 5
Anna Cora Mowatt 19

Act Two: The Actresses
Sophia Turner 38
Charlotte Cushman 51

Act Three: The Managers
Laura Keene 72
Mrs. John Drew 86

Act Four: The Activists
Fanny Kemble 103
Minnie Madern Fiske 118

Epilogue 137
Appendix: “Mrs. Fiske Prepares the Actor” 139
Notes 141
Bibliography 157
Index 167

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Straightforward…well documented…well told”—Choice
  • “Style of the writing here should invite browsers to read further”—WLW Journal
  • “Turner has succeeded in accurately investigating the lives of three native born or ‘adopted’ American actresses and writers whose theatrical work has often been untended by modern scholars…. Well-documented and contains an excellent bibliography. Painstaking detective work is what will make this book appreciated by scholars”—LSU-ECCB.