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Stuart got her start on The Doctors as lab technician Toni Ferra, a role she played from 1971 to 1977. Her character was involved in a triangle with her husband, Dr. Mike Powers, and old boyfriend Dr. Alan Stewart. She followed up her work on The Doctors originating the role of Dr. Gina Dante Lansing on rival soap General Hospital (1977-1978) where she was reunited with her former "The Doctors" co-star Gerald Gordon who played her brother, Dr. Mark Dante.
In 1981, she filled in for Maeve Kinkead on Guiding Light as Vanessa Chamberlain while Kinkead was on maternity leave. It was during this time that Vanessa was a prime suspect in the murder of Diane Ballard. This was Stuart's first time playing a schemer on the soaps, and led to playing other sophisticated trouble-maker on practically every New York based soap.
Stuart is best known for her role as Donna Love Hudson on Another World, which she played from January 1983 to November 1986 and again from February 1989 to the show's final episode in June 1999. The role of Donna Love was originally written as a very complex society snob (resembling Iris Cory), interfering in the love life of her brother Peter (by succeeding in busting up his relationship with the divorced Sally Frame and then conspiring against her former friend, Cecile de Poulignac) and dating Iris's ex-husband, Bay City mayor Brian Bancroft. At first a supporting character, Donna was slowly made a lead as she became involved in a triangle with ex-husband Carl Hutchins and flashy novelist Felicia Gallant. Her storyline became more complex when it was revealed that not only was her sister Marley really her illegitimate daughter, but had actually given birth to her twin, Victoria, as well. As Stuart became more popular, a major romance was created for her with Michael Hudson (Kale Browne) who was Victoria and Marley's father. The Michael/Donna pairing remains one of the show's top supercouples.
When Stuart left the show in 1986, the role of Donna was recast with Philece Sampler, who had previously played Renee Dumonde DiMera Banning Marshall on Days of Our Lives in the early 1980s. The recast however was panned by soap periodicals and after two years, Sampler's contract was terminated when Stuart expressed interest in returning to Another World. Her return was highlighted by her being asked to be a part of the show's 25th-anniversary Soap Opera Digest cover.
Stuart took medical sabbaticals from her role as Donna in 1990 and 1993, during which former GL and Another World co-star Sofia Landon briefly played the role. In the early 1990s, Donna began a May–December romance with Matthew Cory (Matt Crane), which proved to be very popular. As the 1990s went on, however, the character was written in such a way that longtime viewers no longer recognized Donna. Stuart was quoted in Soap Opera Digest after Another World's cancellation as saying that if the show had not been canceled in 1999, she would have left the role due to her disapproval regarding her character's direction. When Michael Hudson was killed off in 1997, Donna's behavior became particularly bizarre with the character blaming her daughter Victoria for causing Michael's death.
After the show's cancellation, Stuart and several other cast members played their characters on the soap opera As the World Turns in an attempt to lure fans of Another World to watch that program (also a Procter & Gamble soap). Stuart's appearance was initially to have lasted for two episodes in order to help introduce the character of Jake McKinnon to the show, but she ended up recurring on the show for almost three years as Donna paid Jake occasional visits after the death of his wife Victoria. Her final appearance in April 2002 took place when Jake was suddenly killed off, with Marley (Ellen Wheeler) and Donna taking Jake and Victoria's children back to Bay City with them.
After "Another World"
Immediately following this, she began the role of Mary Smythe (Greenlee's neglectful and self-centered mother) on All My Children where she played opposite former Another World castmate Mark Pinter. Ms. Stuart holds the distiniction of being one of the few actors to have appeared on three soaps in one calendar year. Originally meant to be written in for only a short stint, the character became integral in a plotline in which Mary revealed that Jackson Montgomery was Greenlee's natural father, making her the latest in the long line of rivals to that show's reigning queen, Erica Kane. Mary had a brief romance with Adam Chandler before disappearing off the canvas in 2005. She returned to the show for two episodes in 2009.
In 2010, Stuart debuted on the internet based soap opera Gotham.
- All My Children as Mary Greenlee Smythe (2002–2005, 2009)
- One Life to Live as Rae Cummings (April 25, 2002). Stuart appeared for only one day when former AW co-star Linda Dano fell ill.
- As the World Turns as Donna Love (1999–2002)
- Another World as Donna Love (1983–1986, 1989–1990, 1991–1993, 1993–1999)
- Guiding Light as Vanessa Chamberlain (1981). Stuart appeared for a few months while Maeve Kinkead went on maternity leave.
- General Hospital as Dr. Gina Dante Lansing (1977–1978)
- The Doctors as Toni Ferra Powers (1971–1977)