The Lady Actress

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The Lady Actress (ISBN: 0615262503)
by Kelly S. Taylor, Ph.D.

“Anna Cora Mowatt Ritchie, a mid-nineteenth century American author, public reader, playwright and actress, was a well-known and respected figure among her contemporaries in American literary and dramatic circles. Despite this, she is largely forgotten to modern theater lovers. In her day, she played to packed theaters and could number Edgar Allen Poe, David Henry Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson among her fans. Oral Interpretation scholars have called her the first “lady” elocutionist because she was the first female to enter the career of public reader without a previous career on the stage. In 1989, John Gentile, writing a history of prominent solo performers, credited her, along with famed actresses Fanny Kemble and Charlotte Cushman, with bringing to solo performance a level of prestige previously unknown in America. He claimed that they, as respectable women in a traditionally disrespected career, brought a respectability and an acceptance that allowed women of a later age to enjoy professional platform careers.1 Her brief career as a public reader inspired many imitators.”

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