Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Women Playwrights and Authors

 

At the organization of the Woman's Playwright Club, of New York City, there were forty women eligible for admission. This vocation for women is especially an American institution. In no other country are there so many who have obtained recognition in a field where the compensation is the same for women as for men. The New Theatre when opened made its bow to the public with a play from the pen of an American woman.

Biographies of Playwrights and Authors

Mary Hunter Austin, the newest woman dramatist, has spent the greater part of her life in the West, and many of her plays deal with the border life.

Margaret Mayo is another successful playwright, who was the author of "Baby Mine" and "Polly of the Circus," two of the biggest New York successes. In private life Miss Mayo is the wife of Edgar Selwyn, a successful writer and playwright of distinction. He is the author of "The Country Boy."

Kate Douglas Wiggin, whose writings we are all familiar with, dramatized her "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm."

Charlotte Thompson made a most successful dramatization of "The Awakening of Helena Richie," in which Margaret Anglin starred.

Another successful playwright is the author of "The Nest Egg" Anne Caldwell, who has been an actress, opera singer, musician, composer, magazine and newspaper writer. The music of "The Top of the World" is her composition, position.

Another talented writer of plays is Rida Johnson Young, who in five years has successfully produced "Brown of Harvard' "The Boys of Company B,' "Glorious Betsey," "The Lottery Man," as well as two plays for Chauncey Olcott. One of the New York successes, "Naughty Marietta," was written by her, Victor Herbert writing the music. Mrs. Young is the wife of Mr. James Young, leading man, who has appeared with E. H. Sothern. He was formerly a newspaper man on the staff of a daily newspaper of Baltimore, Md. Mrs. Young before her marriage was Rida Johnson.

Lottie Blair Parker is another successful professional woman, whose husband, Harry Doel Parker, attends entirely to the production and the leasing of her plays. "Way Down East," written in 1897, is still being played throughout the country. "Under Southern Skies" is another one from her pen. Among others by this same author are "A War Correspondent," "The Lights of Home," a dramatization of "The Redemption of David Corson," a number of one-act plays, and a novel entitled "Homespun."

Miss Alice Ives, the author of "The Village Postmaster," has done every phase of literary work, art criticisms, music notes, deep articles for the Forum and similar magazines, as well as some light verse. She has written ten plays. "The Village Postmaster" was on the road for ten successive seasons. Miss Ives wrote a clever one-act play, a satire on women's clubs, introducing all the famous women characters of popular plays. She is the first vice-president of the Society of Women Dramatists, to which all these playwrights belong.

The pioneer playwright of her sex is Miss Martha Morton. Some dozen years ago, the New York World offered prizes for the cleverest scenarios to be submitted under assumed names. It was a general surprise when a woman secured one of the prizes. This successful person was Miss Morton. Some of the most distinguished American actors have appeared in her plays, the best known of which are, "Brother John," "His Wife's Father," and "A Bachelor's Romance," Miss Morton was the first vice-president of the Society of Dramatic Authors. Off the stage she is Mrs. Herman Conheim, and is one of the most popular dramatists in New York City.

Another successful prize winner, who ultimately made this her profession, was Mrs. Martha Fletcher Bellinger, a graduate of Mount Holyoke. The title of her scenario was "A Woman's Sphere."

Mrs. Mary Rider Mechtold, also a college woman and successful winner of newspaper prizes, wrote her first plays when she was still a student at the Chicago University. She is the author of a clever play, "The Little Lady."

The thousand-dollar prize offered by the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in England a year or two ago was won by an American woman, Josephine Preston Peabody. The contest for the best play in English verse dealing with a romantic subject was won by a graduate of Radcliffe. It is said that this college has long been famous for its unusually clever plays, in which its students take part.

Beulah Dix is also a graduate of Radcliffe. She was author of "Hugh Gwyeth." She collaborated with Evelyn Greenleaf in a number of successful plays, "The Rose o' Plymouth Town," and "The Road to Yesterday."

Another Radcliffe graduate, who has become a successful playwright, is Agnes Morgan, who wrote "When Two Write History."

Another is Rebecca Lane Hooper. Miss Hooper not only stages these performances herself, but has often played comedy roles.

The exception to the rule of directors for theatrical performances, which are usually men, is Miss Edith Ellis, author of "Mary Jane's Pa," one of the most successful plays produced She began her career as a child actress. She is one of the few successful stage managers, and has frequently strengthened lines in places and made a possible success from what seemed an inevitable failure.

Rachel Crothers is another who supervises much of the rehearsing of her own plays. She began her authorship of plays while a teacher in the Wheatcroft School of Acting. Among her plays are "The Coming of Mrs. Patrick," "Myself Bettina," and "The Inferior Sex," which were written for Maxine Elliott. "The Man on the Box" was dramatized by Grace Livingston Furniss, who with the late Abby Sage Richardson dramatized "The Pride of Jennico." Since then she has written a number of other plays, including, "Mrs. Jack," "The Colonial Girl," and "Gretna Green."

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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