Charlotte Cushman

Charlotte Cushman

American Actress

1816 – 1976 A.D.

When she was but twelve years of age her father became bankrupt and it was necessary for her to contribute to the family support. She possessed a contralto voice of unusual quality and power. For some time she sang in church choirs, and when Mrs. Wood came to Boston in search for a contralto voice she selected Miss Cushman. After singing in the Tremont Theater she went on to New Orleans to sing in an opera there, but her voice failed, partly through the change of climate and partly through seeking to transform her voice into a soprano.

This proved a crisis in her life. She was without funds and must earn her living. She had previously shown some dramatic talent and was asked to take the part of Lady Macbeth. This she did with great success in the principal New Orleans theater.

Her next experience was in New York. She accepted a three years engagement at the Bowery Theater. She was without wardrobe, but the manager procured this, arranging to deduct five dollars a week from her wages. Her mother was keeping a boarding house in Boston. She induced her to come to New York, bringing the two sons. For the elder, Charlotte secured employment. So the household was together again.

But another calamity came. She was prostrated for several weeks with rheumatic fever and soon after she recovered the theater was burned, her wardrobe destroyed, and her three years engagement was at an end. Not discouraged she went to Albany and had excellent success.

When she was but twenty-six she took the management of a theater in Philadelphia and at the same time acted leading parts.

A few years later she went to Europe and won success in London. She summoned her family to her and they lived happily in a cottage at Bayswater. Her sister Susan studied with her. Charlotte and Susan appeared as “Romeo and Juliet” at the Haymarket Theater. When she returned to America she had won a distinguished place in the dramatic worked and was soon the possessor of a comfortable fortune.

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Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence, and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World published by the King-Richardson Co. in 1903.