Charlotte Cushman



  • (1816 - 76) The first great US-born actress. She was talland rather plain, having masculine features and a rough voice, a combinationthat made her a natural for breeches parts. Acceptance infeminine roles was slower in coming, but after five years on the Londonstage, she returned to America in triumph, winning Walt Whitman'saccolade as "the best living player."

    Charlotte, who had originally intended to be an opera singer,made her acting debut in 1836 at the Bowery Theatre, New York, asLady Macbeth, a role she repeated in London with William Macready.Other outstanding roles included Queen Katharine in Henry VIIIand the intriguingly named Lady Gay Spanker in Boucicault's LondonAssurance. Her male roles included Hamlet and Romeo; both productionsalso featured her beautiful younger sister Susan (1822 - 59),as Ophelia and Juliet respectively.

    In 1907 a Charlotte Cushman Club was established in Philadelphia;its clubroom contains paintings of the actress and many of her theatricalrelics.