Highlights from the Collection, Part 3: Student Perspective

The time has come for me to say goodbye to the archive. As a student assistant, I worked on the collection over the last six months. After sifting through hundreds of items – letters, articles, diary entries, and so much more – there were many that stuck out to me for different reasons. Charlotte Cushman lived such an interesting, eventful life that it is quite hard to narrow down my favorite items, but I will attempt to do so nonetheless.

Charlotte Cushman’s Gender-Bending Performances

What immediately drew me to Charlotte Cushman were her famous gender-bending performances as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Hamlet. Consequently, I was thrilled to discover that even in her private life, Cushman refused to conform to the gender roles of her time, as mentioned in this article in the Illustrated American News which my fellow student assistant Arunima Kundu discusses in her blog post. In addition to her well-documented intimate relationships with women, Cushman enjoyed wearing men’s clothing while she was out and about – “hat, coat, unmentionables, and all.”

“MISS CUSHMAN IN MALE ATTIRE”, Illustrated American News, Aug 9, 1851, link.
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