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Woman of the Century/Charlotte Saunders Cushman

CHARLOTTE SAUNDERS CUSHMAN.jpgCHARLOTTE SAUNDERS CUSHMAN. CUSHMAN, Miss Charlotte Saunders, actor, born in Boston, Mass., 23rd July, 1816, died in Boston, 18th February, 1876. Miss Cushman was descended from two families of prominence in early New England. She was eighth in descent from Roliert Cushman, the preacher who delivered the first sermon ever heard in New England. Her mother's ancestry ran back to the Puritan Babbits. The house in which Charlotte was born stood on the site of the present Cushman School, which was built in 1869. The school was named after her. Her early ambition was to become an operatic singer, and she made her début as a singer in Boston, in April, 1835. where she sang in a concert. After some experience as a singer in New Orleans, she decided to go on the dramatic stage. She at once began to study for the stage, and made her debut as Lady Macbeth in New Orleans, in 1835. She made a good impression and played in a variety of characters, at first with no distinct preference for any particular line of drama, and finally settled on tragedy and Shakespearean roles, in which she won her greatest fame. She was a charming comedian always, but her commanding talents drew her irresistibly to the higher walks of the profession. Her first appearance in New York City was in Lady Macbeth, 12th September, 1836, and she at once took a leading rank. After playing throughout the United States, always with growing power and reputation, she went to London, Eng., where she made her debut in Bianca, 14th February, 1845. She returned to the United States in 1850, and played a second season in England in 1853. She played important engagements in the United States in 1857 and 1858. and again in 1800 and 1861. In addition to her stage work she won fame as a reader. She gave her first public reading in October, 1870, in New York. Her last appearance in New York was 7th November, 1874, and in Boston, 15th May, 1875. Her last appearance as a public reader was in Easton, Pa., 2nd June, 1875. She was an ardent patriot, and during the Civil War she gave $8,267 to the Sanitary Commission. For over forty years her life was that of a great actor and a great-hearted woman of irreproachable character. She was buried in Mount Auburn, near Boston. She was a woman of intense emotional nature, an affectionate woman in private life, kind to a fault to the younger members of her profession, and generous in all ways to worthy causes. She had a voice of remarkable strength and flexibility, and her power over her audiences was sometimes appalling. Her famous female rôles included Lady Macbeth, Meg Merrilies, Nancy Sikes, Queen Katherine, Widow Melnotte, and many others, and she also played Romeo, Claude Melnotte, Hamlet, Cardinal Wolsey and other male rôles.