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Adams, Maude (11 November 1872–17 July 1953), actress, was born Maude Ewing Kiskadden in Salt Lake City, Utah, the daughter of James Henry Kiskadden, a banker, and Asenath Ann Adams, an actress. Adams’s mother was raised a Mormon but married outside the church. Adams, the only surviving child, was introduced to an audience at nine months and took her first speaking role at the age of five. She used her mother’s maiden name from the outset of her career. She appeared frequently in stock companies with her mother, first in Salt Lake City, then in 1874 in Virginia City, Nevada, in 1875 in San Francisco, and on tours throughout the West. Reports on Adams’s schooling vary, the longest estimate being that she studied from the age of six to sixteen. According to Phyllis Robbins’s biography (informed by Adams’s mother and various other family members and corrected in manuscript by Adams), she had only intermittent schooling before spending her tenth and eleventh years at the Salt Lake City Collegiate Institute under her maternal grandmother’s protection; formal tutoring ended when her father died and Adams was summoned to San Francisco to join her mother. They toured together until 1888, when Adams received her first engagement in a resident New York company. Several years of stock with E. H. Sothern followed before Adams made a success in 1892 in ...

Article

Elizabeth R. Nelson

Anglin, Margaret (03 April 1876–07 January 1958), actress, was born Mary Margaret Anglin in Ottawa, Canada, the daughter of Timothy Warren Anglin, Speaker of the House of Commons, and Ellen A. McTavish. Born a Roman Catholic, she was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Montreal until she left school at fifteen to pursue a career as a concert reader. Despite her father’s disapproval, her mother supported her choice and enabled Margaret to go to New York to study elocution when she was seventeen....

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Cushman, Charlotte Saunders (23 July 1816–18 February 1876), actress, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Elkanah Cushman, a merchant shipper, and Mary Eliza Babbit. Due to her father’s ill health and financial collapse in 1829, Charlotte was obliged to quit school at age thirteen. Between chores in her mother’s boardinghouse, however, she often accompanied her uncle, Augustus Babbit, to the Tremont Theatre. Though her puritanical parents strongly opposed such pleasures, Charlotte later referred to those evenings watching top English and American actors perform as her real, true education....

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Dee, Ruby (27 Oct. 1922–11 June 2014), actor, author, and civil rights activist, was born Ruby Anne Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio, to Edward Nathaniel Wallace, who held various positions with the Pennsylvania Railroad, and Gladys Hightower. When the unstable Gladys left the family, her father married Emma Amelia Benson, a former teacher....

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Douglas, Helen Gahagan (25 November 1900–28 June 1980), actress and politician, was born in Boonton, New Jersey, the daughter of Walter Hamer Gahagan, a civil and contracting engineer, and Lillian Rose Mussen. In 1905 the family moved to an exclusive neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Helen’s authoritarian father made all the family decisions; her mother stressed education and the religious values of the Episcopal church. She also had a penchant for the opera and took Helen to every performance of the Metropolitan Opera. As a child Helen often staged dramatic presentations atop her father’s billiard table for siblings and friends. Although bright, she was a poor student and dreamed of being an actress, a career choice neither parent found acceptable....

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Drew, Louisa Lane (10 January 1820–31 August 1897), actress and theater manager, was born in London, England, the daughter of Thomas Frederick Lane and Eliza Trenter (or Trentner), both actors. On stage from infancy, she played numerous children’s parts in regional repertory companies throughout England not only with her parents but also with traveling stars. Her father died when Louisa was five, and two years later she and her mother emigrated to the United States, arriving in New York City on 7 June 1827 after four weeks at sea. She made her American debut at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre on 26 September 1827 as the Duke of York in ...

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Duse, Eleonora (03 October 1858–21 April 1924), actress, was born Eleonora Giulia Amalia Duse in Vigevano, Italy, the daughter of Vincenzo Duse and Angelica Cappelletto, members of an itinerant theatrical family. She first appeared on stage at the age of four years. Her abundant gifts were obvious from the start, and when she was fourteen she played Juliet in Shakespeare’s ...

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Fiske, Minnie Maddern (19 December 1864?–15 February 1932), actress, playwright, and director, was born Marie Augusta Davey in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of Thomas Davey, an actor-manager, and Minnie Maddern, a musician and actress. As an infant she performed during the entr’actes in her parents’ company. Her dramatic debut occurred at the age of three, as the duke of York in ...

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Kalich, Bertha (1872–18 April 1939), actress, was born Beylke Kalakh in Lemberg, Galicia, the daughter of small brush makers whose Americanized names may be Solomon Kalich and Babette Halber. Kalich started her theatrical career at the age of thirteen, when she sang in the chorus of ...

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Kemble, Fanny (27 November 1809–15 January 1893), author and actress, was born Frances Anne Kemble in London, England, the daughter of Charles Kemble, an actor and theatrical manager, and Marie-Therèse deCamp, a Swiss-French actress in Kemble’s troupe. The niece of noted actress Sarah Siddons, Kemble became a member of what theater historian Mary M. Turner called “the most distinguished actor-family England has ever produced.” As a child Kemble breakfasted with Walter Scott, sang duets with Thomas Moore, and posed for a portrait by Thomas Lawrence. Educated sporadically in English and Parisian schools, at which she acquired the reputation of a nonconformist, Kemble intended a writing career, but when financial ruin threatened her parents’ theater in Covent Garden in 1829 she studied acting for three weeks and then made a sensational debut as Juliet in ...

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Logan, Olive (22 April 1839–27 April 1909), actress and writer, was born in Elmira, New York, the daughter of Cornelius Ambrosius Logan, an actor, and Eliza Akeley, an actress. Logan’s show business career began when, as a child, she appeared on stage with her parents. For most of her professional life in the theater she played leading and character roles on the New York stage and toured throughout the country, primarily in the company of ...

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Melissa Vickery-Bareford

McClendon, Rose (27 August 1884–12 July 1936), actress, was born Rosalie Virginia Scott in Greenville, South Carolina, the daughter of Sandy Scott and Tena Jenkins. Around 1890 the family moved to New York City, where her parents worked for a wealthy family as a coachman and a housekeeper, respectively. An avid reader, McClendon and her brother and sister were educated at Public School No. 40 in Manhattan. Although she admitted to having no inclinations for the stage at this time, as a child she participated in plays at Sunday school and later performed in and directed plays at St. Mark’s African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1904 she married Henry Pruden McClendon, a licensed chiropractor and Pullman porter for the Pennsylvania Railroad. The couple had no children and McClendon was content as a housewife for a number of years while also active in the community and at St. Mark’s....

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Miller, Marilyn (01 September 1898–07 April 1936), dancer and actress, was born Mary Ellen Reynolds in Evansville, Indiana, the daughter of Edwin D. Reynolds, a lineman for the Cumberland Telephone Company, and Ada Thompson, who had theatrical aspirations. The Reynolds’ marriage broke up when Edwin was reassigned to another locale, and Marilyn’s mother rejected transferring the family. Marilyn was brought up by her mother and a stepfather, Oscar Caro Miller, who had sung, danced, and performed acrobatics in vaudeville and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas....

Article

Felicia Hardison Londré

Modjeska, Helena (12 October 1840–08 April 1909), actress, was born in Cracow, Poland, the daughter of Jozefa Misel, whose husband, Szymon Benda, a businessman, died ten years before Modjeska was born. Although Modjeska’s paternity is not certain, she was called Helena (originally Jadwiga) Opid, after the music teacher Michael Opid, who lived in the Benda home until his death (c. 1847). She was given private lessons in music from the age of four and attended a local convent school until she was fourteen. The Cracow fire of 1850 left the family destitute until they were befriended by Gustav Sinnmayer, a wealthy Austrian who came to live with them. Under his guidance, Helena spent her evenings avidly studying German and dramatic literature. In theatrical circles Sinnmayer used the name Modrzejewski; thus it was as Helena Modrzejewska that she made her theatrical debut in July 1861 at a charity event in the salt-mining town of Bochnia, where Sinnmayer and she had gone to live when it was learned that she was pregnant. They had a son, Rudolph, on 27 January 1861; it is not known whether they ever married. A daughter, Marylka, was born the following year but died at the age of three....

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Montez, Lola (1818–17 January 1861), dancer and actress, was born Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert in Limerick, Ireland, the daughter of Edward Gilbert, a professional soldier, and Mary Oliver. At age four Eliza, as she was known, left with her parents for Calcutta, where her father had been posted. After his death in 1824, her mother remarried, and Eliza was sent by her stepfather, John Craigie, to live in Montrose, Scotland. Rebellious and individualistic even at this early age, Eliza was placed in the care of Sir Jasper Nicholls, a distinguished soldier and friend of her stepfather, with whose daughter Fanny she continued her education in Paris and Bath. In 1837 she eloped with Thomas James, an officer in the Indian army on leave in England; they had no children....

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Normand, Mabel (09 November 1892–23 February 1930), silent screen comedienne, was born in Staten Island, New York, the daughter of Claude G. Normand, a stage carpenter and pit pianist, and Mary Drury. Mabel was a backstage child, and there is no evidence that she received any formal education....

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Russell, Lillian (04 December 1861–06 June 1922), entertainer, actress, and singer, was born Helen Louise Leonard in Clinton, Iowa, to a well-to-do family. Her father, Charles E. Leonard, was the publisher of the local newspaper, the Clinton Herald, and her mother, Cynthia Howland Van Name, was an early and ardent feminist. Her family moved to Chicago in 1865, and she attended local schools, completing her formal education at the Park Institute, a finishing school. However, as she later recalled, her most significant education occurred at home: “Our family was a musical one. We sang and danced and played, and all my sisters had exceptionally fine voices, which were carefully trained.” Her parents subsequently divorced after separating in 1877, and, with her mother and sisters, she moved to New York City. Within a short time, she secured a chorus part in Edward E. Rice’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s ...

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Templeton, Fay (25 December 1866–03 October 1939), actress, singer, and comedienne, was born in modest circumstances in Little Rock, Arkansas, the daughter of John Templeton and Alice Vane. She began her stage career playing Cupid, and on 19 August 1873 she played Puck in ...