Stage Mothers: Women Work and the Theater, 1660-1830

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post from Chelsea Phillips reviews a new edited collection on women in the theatre.

Stage Mothers: Women Work and the Theater, 1660-1830. Edited by Laura Engel and Elaine M. McGirr. Bucknell University Press (Rowman and Littlefield), 2014.

This collection offers a broad range of approaches to the intersections of maternity and theatre that will appeal to scholars of the eighteenth century and beyond. For our members, the detailed unpicking of familiar narratives (literary or in the form of conduct and advice manuals), from the realities of working mothers, will be of greatest interest.

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Sarah Siddons and the Performance of Pregnancy

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Information on how to contribute is available here. Today’s post is contributed by Chelsea Phillips, a PhD candidate in Theatre at Ohio State University.

Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) was the leading actress of her day and specialized in playing tragic wives, mothers, and queens. She was also a mother to seven children and performed throughout each of her pregnancies, usually up to about a month before birth.

In 1785, Drury Lane theatre was facing a major dilemma: Siddons was pregnant and due in December, the middle of the season. With the theatre dependent on Siddons’ powerful and lucrative performances, the managers had to accommodate her needs as a pregnant woman while remaining financially solvent. Fortunately for Siddons and the theatre, it was common for women at the time to remain socially active until shortly before birth, meaning Siddons could perform throughout the fall.

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