Follow Me! Anna Held, Lillian Russell and Alice Nielsen As New Women Of the Stage At The Turn Of the Twentieth Century
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At the turn of the twentieth century, singing actresses Anna Held (1872-1918), Lillian Russell (1861-1922), and Alice Nielsen (1873-1943) were conquering the stages of musical comedy and opera. Using their pre-existing biographies and multiple primary sources, this thesis reexamines these women’s lives through the lens of the New Woman, highlighting their activism and entrepreneurship. These women were financially independent, outspoken in their beliefs, and focused strictly on their careers. Anna Held, considered the first Ziegfeld girl, was a highly savvy marketing genius, using her beauty, provocative songs, and French connections to draw in a crowd. As a result, she assembled a troupe of actors and brought supplies and entertainment to the front-line hospitals in Belgium during World War II. Lillian Russell became known as “America's Beauty” as a famous soprano on the operetta stage. Among her contributions was her role in transforming the idea of the unfeminine suffragist into the ideal modern woman. For Kansas Citian, Alice Nielsen founded and produced two successful opera companies. During World War I, her tenacity would lead her to raise funds for the Red Cross and later establish a scholarship to promote further study for female singers. Each of these women exhibited characteristics that made them fascinating on stage, but it was their feminist ideals that exemplified what it means to be a New Woman. Consequently, Anna Held, Lillian Russell, and Alice Nielsen made it possible for women in the theater to speak out against injustice and take charge of their careers.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Anna Held: Femme Fatale to trailblazing new woman -- Lillian Russell: from queen to sergeant -- Alice Nielsen: a new woman of opera -- Conclusion
M.M. (Masters of Musicology)