Massachusetts Historical Society


"For the entertainment of her friends": Working Actresses, Society & Performance in Boston 1790-1830


Author: Emma Futhey, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences University
Comment: Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, Northeastern University

This is a hybrid event. The in-person reception will begin at 4:30 pm.

This paper explores the lives of working actresses and theatre managers in Boston through the early republic, contextualizing their places in the developing cultural identity of an “American” city. Using actress-manager Elizabeth Powell as a case study, and supplementing her story with additional figures, this paper illuminates how the working actress presented herself to potential employers and audiences, creatively deploying her femininity in an attempt to balance the dueling tensions of economic practicality and gendered social expectations. In this way, patterns of performative behavior are constructed, revealing new aspects of the working actress’s life in Boston.

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Hybrid Event

The in-person reception starts at 4:30 PM and the seminar will begin at 5:00 PM.

Masks are optional for this event.

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