Susan Webb Cushman
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Actress Susan Webb Cushman (born March 17, 1822, Boston, Massachusetts - d. May 10, 1859, Liverpool, England), younger sister of actress Charlotte Saunders Cushman, first débuted in Epes Sargent's play, The Genoese in 1836, a year following a trip with her mother to see Charlotte, an up-and-coming actress, in New York City and Albany, New York.
Following a failed marriage that same year to Nelson Meriman, in which he left her destitute with a child, she followed Charlotte's advice to pursue a semi-interlinked acting career with Charlotte. Together they acted in New York City and Philadelphia, circa 1841-1842, as Grace Harkaway and Lady Gay Spanker (Susan acting the former part). She received acclaim in the play Satan in Paris and played as Desdemona to George Vandenhoff's Othello.
In 1842 Susan was a member and Charlotte a stage manager of the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, where Vanderhoff performed for six nights for $180. Vandenhoff later acknowledged both Charlotte's and Susan's cool-headedness in his autobiographical book entitled Leaves from an Actor's Notebook. In it he wrote that Susan was "a pretty creature, but had not a spark of Charlotte's genius..." and that "she pleased 'the fellows', howerever, and was the best walking-lady on the American stage".
Susan followed Charlotte to England in 1845, Charlotte wanting more acclaim both there and back home. On December 30, 1845, at the The Haymarket in London, Charlotte and Susan were so successful in playing as Romeo and Juliet, respectively, (using the original version as opposed to theatre prompt) before an audience which labeled them as "American Indians", that they continued there for eighty nights before being taken on a tour of England. Though Charlotte, who enjoyed playing masculine roles, was a good showman and received much acclaim by critics, they also praised Susan for the "grace and delicacy of her acting". Sheridan Knowles commended Charlotte primarily, but, in regards to Susan, lauded the first act as being "admirably personated by her beautiful sister". The sisters also played together in Twelfth Night.
When Susan walked in late for her part at the manager's beginning audition of another actress to replace her, an angry scene developed which, by Mrs. Mowatt's account, was "such as I never before, and I rejoice to say never after, witnessed in a theatre". Susan was forced to leave the theatre.
- Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. III. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1959.