Monday, July 15, 2013

drama queen cushman

Now I will resume my A Queer History of the United States study. In looking for an example of 19th century LGBT history that is not between the lines or subtle we need look no further than Charlotte Cushman. Cushman was a very famous actress who was born in 1816 and died in 1876. Of course we can never see the acting that gave her the huge following that she had, since film had not come on the scene yet, but we can read the newspaper reviews. The newspapers not only covered Cuchman's shows but also her private life. This, along with her personal effects, is how we know she was unabashedly Lesbian.
    Cushman's life was one big drama on stage and off and she did not care who was watching. She dressed in a masculine style and had numerous affairs with women, even as she was publicly acknowledged to be with writer Matilda Hays. In 1852 Hays and Cushman moved to Rome and lived amongst a colony of artists where they both had affairs with other women. They had a bitter brake up because of they're mutual unfaithfulness but Cushman finally did settle down with a women she met there. She stayed with this women until her death, but she still had another female lover twenty-three years her junior, too!
    To paint a picture of Cushman's fame and adoration I'll use the example of her 1874 farewell performance in New York. Twenty-five thousand people gathered outside her hotel to pay tribute to her! How Cushman pulled off her public relationships and affairs with women in the 19th century, and still maintained her notoriety I don't know. But I am sure that the financial Independence she had from her work played a part in that she did not have to marry a man to sustain herself. Hers was a very unusual 19th century life story not only for Lesbians but for Women in general.

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