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Maude Adams. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-101788).

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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 ...

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Adler, Sara (1860?–28 April 1953), actress, was born in Odessa, Ukraine, the daughter of Ellye Levitzky and Pessye (maiden name unknown), merchants. She attended a Russian school, where she made her dramatic debut at age eight in the role of Emilia in Schiller’s ...

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Adler, Stella (10 February 1901–21 December 1992), actress and acting teacher, was born in New York City, the daughter of Jacob Adler, an actor, and Sara Levitzky Adler, an actress and producer. As part of the first family of the American Yiddish theater, Adler was acting from the age of five. Like her parents and five siblings, she was in constant demand as her parents’ Independent Yiddish Art Company played its ever-expanding repertory to packed houses on the city’s Lower East Side. The child-actor’s schedule allowed little time for formal education beyond reading and theatergoing....

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Alexander, Dorothy (22 April 1904–17 November 1986), dancer, teacher, and artistic director, was born Dorothea Moses in Atlanta, Georgia, the daughter of Frank Moses, a sales executive, and Cora Mina Thibadeau. Illness first introduced Dorothy to dance. At the age of six she was forced to spend a year immobilized by osteomyelitis. Dance was recommended to accelerate her recuperation, and the remainder of her life was devoted to the art. Every summer during her early adulthood she left Atlanta in search of the best teachers. Her choices were eclectic; they included ...

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Maud Allan Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1910. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G399-4135-A).

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Allan, Maud (27 August 1873–07 October 1956), dancer, choreographer, and actress, was born Ula Maude Durrant in Toronto, Canada, the daughter of William Allan Durrant, a shoemaker, and Isa Matilda Hutchinson. In the late 1870s the family migrated from Ontario to San Francisco, where Allan grew up and, from an early age, studied piano with several teachers. San Francisco’s thriving theatrical and musical environment in the late 1880s and early 1890s enabled her to see fine performances, including those by some of the best women artists, among them Adele aus der Ohe and Sarah Bernhardt. Allan’s discipline, however, was piano. At age twenty-two, already musically accomplished and very beautiful, she went to Berlin for advanced piano study at the Royal High School for Music then under the direction of Joseph Joachim....

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Allen, Gracie (26 July 1895–27 August 1964), actress and comedienne, was born Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen in San Francisco, California, the daughter of George Allen, an Irish clog and minstrel dancer, and Margaret Darragh. The year of her birth has been cited as late as 1906, but the 1900 U.S. Census confirms the 1895 date. Gracie was the family’s fifth child and fourth daughter. Sometime after 1900 Allen’s father deserted the family, and her mother married Edward Pidgeon, a San Francisco police captain....

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Mary C. Kalfatovic

Allen, Viola (27 October 1867–09 May 1948), actress, was born Viola Emily Allen in Huntsville, Alabama, the daughter of Charles Leslie Allen, a well-known character actor (who was on tour in the South, hence his daughter’s Alabama birthplace), and Sarah Jane Lyon, an actress. She attended schools in Boston, Toronto, and New York before commencing an acting career at age fourteen. Remarkably, Allen’s professional stage debut came in the form of a starring role in a Broadway production when in 1882 she replaced ...

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Allyson, June (07 October 1917–08 July 2006), actress, was born Eleanor “Ella” Geisman in the Bronx, New York, the daughter of Robert Geisman, a janitor, and Clara Provost. Ella's father was an alcoholic and took little interest in her. When she was six months old, her parents separated. Mother and daughter moved from their Bronx tenement on 143rd Street to her grandparents' apartment near Pelham Bay. Clara landed a $20-a-week printing job and moved with her daughter to an $18-a-month coldwater flat off Third Avenue. Ella collected firewood and bathed in a washtub. Many moves followed. Often, Ella was shipped off to her grandparents. She felt isolated and abandoned. “You're going to be somebody in this world,” her grandmother consoled her ( ...

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June Allyson 18 Nov. 1943. Courtesy of AP Images.

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Elizabeth R. Nelson

Anderson, Mary (28 July 1859–29 May 1940), actress, was born Marie Antoinette Henry in Sacramento, California, the daughter of Charles Henry, an English gentleman, and Antonia Leugers, a Philadelphian of German descent. While Anderson was an infant, she moved with her family to Louisville, Kentucky, where her uncle, Father Anthony Müller, a Franciscan, lived. Her father enlisted as an officer in the Confederate army and rose to the rank of general before he was killed near Mobile, Alabama, in 1863. Four years later her mother married Dr. Hamilton Griffin....

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Andrews, Dana (01 January 1909–17 December 1992), actor, was born Carver Dana Andrews in Collins, Mississippi, to Charles Forrest Andrews, a Baptist minister, and Annis Speed. During his years as a Hollywood star, studio publicists listed his birth date as 1912. The third of nine children, he was named after professors his father had studied under at a theological seminary and was known as Dana. One of his brothers also became an performing under the name Steve Forrest....

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Angelou, Maya (4 Apr. 1928–28 May 2014), writer, performer, and activist, was born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, the second child of Bailey Johnson, Sr., a doorman and Navy dietitian, and Vivian Baxter, a registered nurse, cocktail hostess, and Merchant Marine. Her brother, Bailey, Jr., nicknamed her Maya, and the name stuck. After their parents’ divorce, the two young children were sent alone on a train from San Francisco to Stamps, Arkansas, to be met and raised by their paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, and their father’s brother, Uncle Willie, who was disabled. Grandmother Henderson had managed to build and own a general store with living quarters in the back, and it was also a safe black community gathering place in the segregated town. Uncle Willie provided a steady stream of good reading and high scholastic expectations, and their grandmother, “Momma,” taught them no-nonsense life skills, took them to church, and loved them....

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Margaret Anglin. In costume, c. 1910-1925. Photograph by Arnold Genthe. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G432-1303).

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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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Arden, Eve (30 April 1912?–12 November 1990), stage, film, radio, and television actress, was born Eunice Quedens in Mill Valley, California, the daughter of Lucille Frank. Her parents divorced when she was two because of her father’s inveterate gambling. As a single parent, her mother made a living as a milliner, work that accounts in part for the headpieces Arden was noted for in her Hollywood days. She was raised by her mother in San Francisco and by her aunt in Mill Valley, inland from Sausalito. Success in a high school play led her to begin acting professionally at age sixteen with the Henry Duffy company in San Francisco. Soon after, she toured West Coast resorts and hotels (“the citrus circuit”) with the Bandbox Repertory Theater, a “superstock” company. Both allowed her to develop her acting skills. An appearance in a Leonard Silman revue, ...

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Thomas W. Collins Jr.

Arthur, Jean (17 October 1900–19 June 1991), actress, was born Gladys Georgianna Greene in Plattsburgh, New York, the daughter of Hubert Greene, a photographer, and Johannah Nelson Greene. Gladys Greene's father led a peripatetic lifestyle: in pursuit of seasonal photography work, he frequently moved his family to locations in New England and Florida, but in 1909 he abandoned them. When he reappeared in 1910, they were living in Rochester, Maine, and thereafter he came and went for months at a time as he pleased. In 1915 the Greene family moved to New York City. Financial difficulties led her to drop out of high school during her junior year. Around 1918 she began to work as a commercial model. She later explained that she had made up her mind not to be like other women who only wanted “husbands and furnished apartments on the installment plan” (quoted in Oller, p. 34). By the early 1920s she had posed for Alfred Cheney Johnston, the photographer for Ziegfeld's Follies, and as a “Christy Girl” for the acclaimed magazine illustrator ...

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Jean Arthur Courtesy of the Library of Congress.