Anna Cora Mowatt essay by Damla Ricks

Women were criticized and looked down on for following a career in acting. Mowatt, Kemble and Cushman tried many different performance styles and found what worked best for them. All three women connected acting, reading and performing to entertain and educate their audience.

Mowatt who did not have any serious acting experience before she became a professional reader, started out by writing, directing and acting with her siblings. She went against the societies norms by making public appearances. Women were not to take on major rolls in the society just yet. People were curious but also judgmental towards her braveness. I found her passion towards reading very powerful.

Kemble who started her career by acting with her father, later on discovered the power of reading Shakespeare. She valued dramatism and had harsh words for theater because of its lack of reality. This reminded me of Stanislavsky’s performance methods. The importance of human nature should be as real as possible. “Men does not live by bread alone” (Thompson) is a great saying that still answers why performers who do not make enough money still do what they do for our society today. Her sense of feminism and passion for performance is incredible because the powerful women in the past opened doors to equality.

Cushman’s sense of acting was criticized by many people. Her acting as Romeo and Lady Macbeth brought many questions to minds. Because she brought power and strength as a woman to stage, she was referred to as too violent. Her physical characteristics and emotional strength is judged because it carries masculine characteristics. She later on made a career out of her readings which the audience enjoyed the most.

The society was not ready for women to take such strong rolls in acting. These three women seem as they are stand up performers of today. Their power and dedication to performance was seen as awkward and not welcomed by many people. Through performance, they pushed the limits to equality and showed the society that women are just as capable of reading and performing as men.

Reprinted with permission

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