Browse Exhibits (6 total)

1857: Breakup with Hays

Cabinet Photo of Cushman and Hays

This exhibit revolves around accounts of the romantic and passionate relationship between Matilda Hays and Charlotte Cushman in the 1850s and their breakup in 1857. After Cushman's rise to success in the 1840s, she carefully watches her public image which involved keeping her same-sex relationships private. The exhibit devotes attention to the (lack of) archival material that provides insights into this period of Cushman's life.

For a blog post about this event which also inquires the  intracacies of gossip as uncertain knowledge, please visit

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Cushman's Networks

CCP 11, 3302-3303, Fields, Annie to CC, Feb 5, [1868].pdf

This exhibit explores the social circles and networks that Charlotte Cushman built and/or actively shaped in order to manage her public image.

Choose a gallery page to learn more about

  • the people among Cushman's circle of acquaintances and admireres
  • the homes she build in Rome and in the US to entertain friends and house her family
  • the long letter-exchange with James T. and Annie Fields, in which we encounter a seasoned professional in terms of managing her reputation and a private person navigating the open secret of her relationship with Emma Stebbins
  • tbc

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Final Farewell Tour

Cushmania - CCP 19 - press coverage - newspaper clippings.JPG

Charlotte Cushman starts her final Farewell Tour in the US in 1874 after a series of dramatic readings between 1871-1874.

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Stebbins Bio.JPG

After Charlotte Cushman's death, newspaper articles and various memoirs change her public image by emphasizing certain aspects of her life (such as a narrative of Cushman as a heterosexual spinster) and leaving out others (such as personal motivation for taking on breeches roles). This exhibit collects the most influential of these posthumous accounts and thereby offers crucial insights into developing discourses of gender and sexuality.

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Public Image of Charlotte Cushman

Boston Evening Transcript, October 31, 1843, page 2 - false report - annotated.pdf

The items aligned here in various subcategories range from negative to favorable accounts and display the results of and threats to Charlotte Cushman's reputation management. The exhibit also comprises retrospective accounts that were published after Cushman's death in 1876.

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Transatlantic Success in the 1840s

Portrait of Rosalie Sully ("The Student")

During the 1840s, Charlotte Cushman becomes a successful actress known across the Atlantic. After struggling financially, she establishes a reputation as the first gifted American actress who succeeds at performing different gender roles on stage. This exhibit provides an overview over press coverage as well as personal material concerning this crucial moment in Cushman's career.

There are numerous articles published both in the US and England for the years 1845-1852. Among these articles, various reports are reprints. The sections in which these articles can be found are called "private correspondence," "intelligence," "gossip," and theater-related columns.

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