On This Day in 1918

On November 16, 1918 the Irish Standard in Minneapolis put the story of an actress on their front page. The First World War had officially ended only days before and most newspapers were too busy with stories about disarmament, President Wilson, death tallies, and post-war sundries to spend any time writing about a mere woman. The Irish Standard, though, saw value in bringing their readers a more uplifting story about a beautiful and talented woman that might otherwise be overlooked in the hubbub.

This very long article published across five columns in the paper heap admiration onto “Our Mary” who started out as a beloved stage actress. The author recalls how enchanting she had been when performing, how charming she was when off the stage, and laments that she might be forgotten after 25 years of retirement. 

Mary herself then steps into the story to explain in her own words, “… with the advent of hostilities I realized that all preconceived plans would have to be abandoned for the unprecedented needs of a world-war. Then it was that I asked myself, what could I do to help?” So, Our Mary called upon her talents once again. She launched into a grueling tour where she reprised six different roles, sometimes performing twice per day for weeks. Each of her performances was a monetary success and she donated all of the proceeds to the war effort.

The author ends by noting that Mary, a devout Catholic, had been condemned by the Catholic Church for her work on the stage since, at the time, the Church believed actresses to be a corrupting influence on society. Yet, it is apparent that the old religious guard was mistaken. They labeled Our Mary a harlot and a corruptor when they should have recognized her as courageous, talented, and heroic.

Mary Anderson as Parthenia in Friedrich Halm’s  Ingomar the Barbarian,  1883

Mary Anderson as Parthenia in Friedrich Halm’s Ingomar the Barbarian, 1883

NWHS strives for accuracy. Please contact us if you spot any mistakes in our work.