- Claudia Durst Johnson
Keene, Laura (1820?–04 November 1873), actress, theatrical manager, and playwright, was born in London, England. Nothing is known of her parents or even of her birth name. Much of her early life remains mysterious because she and Joseph A. Donahoe, one of her biographers, made a concerted effort to conceal it. One source reports that at fifteen she began supporting herself tending bar in London and that in 1846, when she was fifteen or sixteen, she married a tavern keeper named John Taylor. After the birth of two daughters and the deportation of Taylor as a convicted criminal, Keene, then in her mid to late twenties, attempted to secure work in the theater. She eventually received an acting position in the company of the fabulous theatrical manager Madame Vestris....