Susan Webb Cushman

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Susan Webb Cushman (born March 17, 1822, Boston, Massachusetts – d. May 10, 1859, Liverpool, England), was an American actress. She was the younger sister of actress Charlotte Cushman She 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.[1]

American career[edit]

Following a failed marriage that same year to Nelson Meriman, after which he left her destitute with a child, she followed Charlotte's advice to pursue an acting with her. Together they acted in New York City and Philadelphia, circa 1841–1842, as Grace Harkaway (Susan) and Lady Gay Spanker (Charlotte). She received acclaim in the play Satan in Paris and played Desdemona to George Vandenhoff's Othello.[1]

In 1842 Susan was a member and Charlotte a stage manager of the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, where Vandenhoff 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".[1]

Migration to England[edit]

Susan followed Charlotte to England in 1845. Charlotte sought more acclaim both there and back home. On December 30, 1845, at the The Haymarket in London, they were so successful in playing Romeo and Juliet,[2] respectively, (using the original version as opposed to theatre prompt) before an audience who labeled them as "American Indians", that they continued there for eighty nights before touring 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.[1]

In 1848 Susan enraged a theatre manager during the rehearsal presentations for The Lady of Lyons in which she was to play the part of "Helen" to Mrs. Anna Cora Mowatt's undisclosed part. When Susan walked in late during the manager's audition of replacement actress, 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.[1]

Later that year, Susan married James Sheridan Muspratt, and retired from the stage, residing in Liverpool.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. III. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1959. 
  2. ^

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