A (growing) list of the best, worst, and – quite frankly – weirdest descriptions of Cushman’s relationships (with friends as well as lovers).

What’s gossip without a fitting code, after all?

  • “Both Nathanial and Sopia Hawthorne, nonetheless, took an instant liking to the young sculptress [Hosmer] on a visit to her studio in 1858, but William Story frowned on these independent females, who struck him as a distasteful crowd of Bohemians.” (Paul Baker, Fortunate Pilgrims. Americans in Italy, 1800-1860, 1964)
  • “Charlotte Cushman allowed her friend Emma Stebbins to edit her memoirs and letters just before her death.” (Nan Mullenneaux, Staging Family: Domestic Deceptions fo Mid-Nineteenth-Century American Actresses, 2018) [I find this one particularly galling, since the author repeatedly quotes from Merrill, and yet … ‘her friend’]
  • Emma Stebbins “formed a warm friendship with Charlotte Cushman, in whose shadow she thereafter contentedly lived.” (Margaret Farrand Thorp, The Literary Sculptors, 1965)
  • harem (scarem) as I call […] the emancipated females who dwell there in heavenly unity; namely, the Cushman, Grace Greenwood, H., S.,and Co.;” (William Wetmore Story to J.R.Lowell, 1953, qtd. in (William Wetmore Story and His Friends, Vol. 1, Henry James, 1903)
  • “[William Wetmore] Story’s ” Hatty ” is of course Miss Harriet Hosmer, the most eminent member of that strange sisterhood of American ‘lady sculptors’ who at one time settled upon the seven hills in a white, marmorean flock” (William Wetmore Story and His Friends, Vol. 1, Henry James, 1903)
  • “Miss Cushman is mouthing it as usual, and has her satellites revolving around her” (William Wetmore Story, qtd. William Wetmore Story and His Friends, Vol. 2, Henry James, 1903)
  • “… I remember well how delicious and fascinatinng she can be when she ‘sleekens’ for I was a pet bird to her many long years ago.” (Anne Brewster Papers 27.8, Letters to Howell)
  • jolly female bachelors” (Charlotte Cushman, qut. in When Romeo Was A Woman, Lisa Merril, 2000, 169)
  • “Charlotte Cushman with a parade of female lovers that ended with Emma Stebbins” (The Indomitable Spirit of Edmonia Lewis: A Narrative Biography, Albert Henderson and Harry Brinton Henderson, 2013)
  • “Cushman was open about her love affairs and became known as a polyamorous heartbreaker, who often maintained more than one relationship at a time” (“This history-making lesbian actress played Romeo & broke many women’s hearts,” Victoria A. Brownworth, 2019)
  • Cushman “maintained what her observers termed a ‘cherished celibacy,’ and was controversially masculine in demeanor from the start” (Parrott, “Networking in Italy” 317)
  • “Although there was always one special friend to whom she remained faithful and devoted, there were many others who surrounded her and for whom she repeatedly intervened professionally and personally” (Parrott, “Networking in Italy” 319)
  • “another roommate and Cushman’s beloved friend, the sculptor Emma Stebbins” (Parrott, “Networking in Italy” 324)
  • “Her reputation was enhanced, also, by her well-known solicitude for her family and the probity of her private life. Although her fondness for masculine roles (she appeared in more than thirty) caused some comment, no breath of scandal ever touched her name. A brief girlhood engagement and a short-lived love affair in 1836 exhaust her romantic history. Reared as a Unitarian, she was a person of deep, nondoctrinaire religious feeling. A great actress who also abided by the Vistorian code of womanly behavior inevitably appealed to a wide public … After 1857 her constant companion was the American sculptor EMMA STEBBINS” (Kleinfield, “Charlotte Cushman” 424)
  • “Catherine Clinton speculates about the nature of Cushman’s relationships with two women, one of whom must be Greenwood, before her more public friendship with sculptor Emma Stebbins (163).” (Garrett, Prodigal Daughters 40)
  • tbc….

(author: Katrin Horn, Selina Foltinek)

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