women in the profession

   The modern era was one of great change for women working in the theatrical profession. From the 18th-century beginnings of American theatre, women had been present as actresses, and sometimes as managers, but other opportunities seemed closed. In the mid-19th century, as actresses more frequently managed their own companies, liberation from traditional roles for women characters began to take place, beginning with more overt displays of sexuality. Charlotte Cushman and others performed in breeches roles, while Adah Isaacs Menken and Lydia Thompson's "British Blondes" scandalized audiences with displays of the feminine form. European plays, particularly those by Henrik Ibsen and George Bernard Shaw, offered deeper, more complex women characters, allowing American actresses like Minnie Maddern Fiske and Mary Shaw, and later Alla Nazimova and Eva Le Gallienne, to address inequities faced by women in contemporary life.
   The end of the 19th century saw a remarkable flourishing of women playwrights, including Edith Ellis, Marion Fairfax, Harriet Ford, Eleanor Gates, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Margaret Mayo, Marguerite Merington, Martha Morton, Lottie Blair Parker, Josephine Preston Peabody, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Madeline Lucette Ryley, and Rida Johnson Young. Some of these, notably Ellis and Morton, directed their own work.
   Rachel Crothers, Zoe Akins, Sophie Treadwell, and Susan Glaspell stood out among a generation of women playwrights working after 1900. Zona Gale won the second Pulitzer Prize for a dramatization of her novel Miss Lulu Bett (1920). The runaway success of Anne Nichols's popular comedy Abie's Irish Rose (1922) proved the commercial value of women playwrights. After World War I, as Crothers and Glaspell continued to contribute challenging works with diverse female characters, the next generation of women dramatists emerged, including Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edna Fer-ber, Mae West, Zora Neale Hurston, Clare Kummer, Dorothy Parker, Zelda Sears, and Lula Vollmer.
   Women drama critics at the turn of the century included Amy Leslie, Kate Field, and Olive Logan. Ada Patterson promoted women playwrights in her Green Book articles. Inroads were made in other theatrical jobs that had typically gone to men, including producing, scene design, and running agencies. Jane Addams, the Lewisohn sisters, and Jessie Bonstelle produced plays and contributed to the little theatre movement. Aline Bernstein was an outstanding early woman set designer. Eva Le Gallienne established New York's Civic Repertory Theatre, serving as its producer, director, and star. Elisabeth Marbury was an outstanding playwrights' agent.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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