Field, Kate


Field, Kate
(1838-1896)
   The multitalented activist was born Mary Katherine Keemle Field in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of well-known Shakespearean actors Joseph M. Field and Eliza Riddle. Like her father, who built the Varieties Theatre and founded the St. Louis Daily Reveille, she devoted herself to both theatre and journalism. After her father's death, her millionaire uncle Milton L. Sanford financed her education and took her to Italy. Although the uncle disinherited her when she began sending abolitionist travel articles to the Boston Courier, she found a surrogate family in Anthony Trol-lope and other writers living in Florence. Beautiful and outspoken, she became a model for several of Trollope's intelligent women characters in his novels. She supported herself by writing for newspapers and magazines, lecturing on the Lyceum circuit, and writing plays in which she performed.
   Field made her acting debut at Booth's Theatre on 14 November 1874 in the title role of Peg Woffington. Despite the harsh response from critics, she continued to perform on tour for three seasons, including a season as John T. Raymond's leading lady in The Gilded Age. Under the name Mary Keemle, she performed her own "brilliant little comedy" Extremes Meet in London and on tour in England in 1877 (Whiting 1900, 341). In 1880, she performed her own musical monologue Eyes and Ears in London, which included a burlesque of Italian opera. According to the New York Times (10 April 1880), the "wittily and charmingly elaborated" monologue was "full of sharp hits at persons and things" and "flavored with a delicate, yet incisive, humor." For five years, she published her own newspaper, Kate Field's Washington, which included theatrical news as well as her own playlets.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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