Dr. Taylor interviewed at SellingBooks.com

“I think that when we read and write history, we look for people and events who, with a few minor costume changes, could step into the world we live in and speak to problems we face today. Mowatt remains stubbornly in her curls and crinolines. I’m not saying she isn’t relevant. Her polite rebellion against the arrogantly puritanical snobbery of her peers probably did as much to change attitudes about women in the workplace as a hundred street corner speeches by a multitude would-be Susan B. Anthonys did. However, she was not a character from “Sex in the City” who magically found herself transported to 1855. She was a real Victorian who whose views don’t comfortably translate to the modern mind. She was an insider who liked being an insider. She was a privileged, white, conservative lady who decided to do something with her life that privileged, white, conservative ladies just did not do at that time — and she made that choice work with success that was nothing short of remarkable.”
Kelly S. Taylor, Ph.D. interview at SellingBooks.com

Anna Cora Mowatt essay by Heather Scofield

A Fine-Tuned Persona = Success

During the Victorian Age women were viewed as porcelain dolls; fragile and delicate creatures who were incapable of engaging in intellectual discussion. Anna Cora Mowatt; however, was unique in that she used her rhetorical skills to subliminally convince her audience that she (a woman) was deserving of her own autobiography as both an intellect and a virtuous Victorian woman. In the following essay I will delve into the reasons why first person narratives by Victorian female authors were considered inappropriate, how Mowatt overcame these prejudices, and the strategies that she utilized in order to develop an accepted persona.
Continue reading “Anna Cora Mowatt essay by Heather Scofield”

Anna Cora Mowatt essay by Sara Shaunfield

Anna Cora Mowatt and the Performance of Mesmerism

A mid-nineteenth century public reader, actress, playwright, and author, Anna Cora Mowatt, has been deemed the first “lady elocutionist” because she established a career as a public reader without having previously been an actress. Anna Cora Mowatt ended her public career as a public reader due to a deliberating respiratory disease. In her search for comfort and cure, Anna began a treatment regimen called “mesmerism.” Mowatt provided a detailed description of her experience with mesmerism in her autobiography. Within Anna’s description of her experience of mesmerism, she claims to have unwittingly portrayed an alternate persona which called herself “the Gypsy.” According to Taylor (2009) who authored The Lady Actress, Anna’s Gypsy character served as a way in which she could break the Victorian social constraints and strict rules that smothered women. When Anna would undergo mesmerism, she could break away from the repressive behavioral norms imposed upon upper-class American women without gaining the negative social stigma that would normally be placed upon a person who behaved they way she did. Of course, only a few of Anna’s closest friends were privileged enough to observe her private performance in which “The Gypsy” wrote poems, told fantastic stories, and who regularly engaged in debates concerning philosophy and religion, which would have been extremely unacceptable for a woman in the Victorian era.
Continue reading “Anna Cora Mowatt essay by Sara Shaunfield”

The Lady Actress

Where to buy: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Bookfinder; IndieBound; Createspace (10% off code: ZMUUFLZV); eBook format; More options.

The Lady Actress (ISBN: 0615262503)
by Kelly S. Taylor, Ph.D.

“Anna Cora Mowatt Ritchie, a mid-nineteenth century American author, public reader, playwright and actress, was a well-known and respected figure among her contemporaries in American literary and dramatic circles. Despite this, she is largely forgotten to modern theater lovers. In her day, she played to packed theaters and could number Edgar Allen Poe, David Henry Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson among her fans. Oral Interpretation scholars have called her the first “lady” elocutionist because she was the first female to enter the career of public reader without a previous career on the stage. In 1989, John Gentile, writing a history of prominent solo performers, credited her, along with famed actresses Fanny Kemble and Charlotte Cushman, with bringing to solo performance a level of prestige previously unknown in America. He claimed that they, as respectable women in a traditionally disrespected career, brought a respectability and an acceptance that allowed women of a later age to enjoy professional platform careers.1 Her brief career as a public reader inspired many imitators.”
Read Chapter 1: FASHIONED LADY: THE LIFE AND MANY CAREERS OF ANNA CORA MOWATT

Where to buy: Amazon (eligible for free shipping), and Createspace – use this code: ZMUUFLZV at checkout for 10% off.