Session 1: Magazines, Modernity, & Middlebrow Culture Chair: Anouk Lang

“She is a Toronto Girl”: Canadian Actresses’ Transatlantic and Transnational Careers Through the Lenses of Canadian Magazines, 1890s-1930s

Cecilia Morgan, Professor
Theory and Policy Studies in Education
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

From the late nineteenth century until at least the end of the 1920s, English-Canadian periodicals such as Saturday Night, Mayfair, and The Canadian Magazine were keen to cover ‘the stage’ and those Canadians who appeared on it, both in Canada and abroad. Figures such as Margaret Anglin, Julia Arthur, Viola Allen, May Irwin, Bea Lillie, and Margaret Bannerman (to name a few), performers whose work ranged from Shakespeare, Greek tragedy, drawing-room comedies, and vaudeville, were featured in these publications, their work in Canada and ‘abroad’ heralded as evidence of the county’s talent in the performing arts. These women also were depicted – sometimes consciously, sometimes indirectly – as evidence of certain Canadians’ ability to move across and around national borders, proof that the country was linked to transnational and transatlantic circuits of performance and, in particular, cultural knowledge. Yet cosmopolitan subjects though they might be, these actresses were, nevertheless, always ‘Toronto girls’ (or Hamilton or Ottawa), women whose considerable charms and appeal were frequently grounded in their country of origin. My paper will explore the ways in which these upper-middle-class periodicals helped shape these actresses’ image, as they reported these women’s movements on and off-stage, in Canada, the United States, Britain, and (in some cases) Australia. It also will consider the ways in which these actresses might, in turn, have lent even more glamour, sophistication, and cosmopolitanism to the periodicals themselves.


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