Minnie Maddern Fiske

Mrs. Fiske

"Mrs. Fiske: Love Finds the Way."
Photograph by Zaida Ben-Yusuf (1896)
Born Marie Augusta Davey
December 19, 1865(1865-12-19)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Died February 15, 1932(1932-02-15) (aged 66)
Queens, New York
Other names Minnie Maddern Fiske
Occupation Actress, playwright
Spouse LeGrand White (1882 - June 25, 1888)
Harrison Grey Fiske (March 19, 1890 - February 15, 1932)

Minnie Maddern Fiske (December 19, 1865 — February 15, 1932), born as Marie Augusta Davey, but often billed simply as Mrs. Fiske, was one of the leading American actresses of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. She also spearheaded the fight against the Theatrical Syndicate for the sake of artistic freedom. She was widely considered the most important actress on the American stage in the first quarter of the 20th century.[1] Her performances in several Henrik Ibsen plays widely introduced American audiences to the Norwegian playwright.



Minnie Maddern Fiske as a child; 1870s.

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, she was the daughter of Thomas Davey and actress Lizzie Maddern and was a professional actress from the age of five. Fiske is perhaps most famous for starring as Becky Sharp[2] in the original 1899 production of Langdon Mitchell's Becky Sharp, a play based on William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair. She wrote several plays and collaborated with her husband Harrison Grey Fiske in writing Fontenelle. Mr. Fiske directed virtually all of his wife's plays after their marriage. According to the New York Times article "Ibsen or Shakespeare?" (March 18, 1928), Harrison Fiske was 12 years old when he first set eyes on the future Mrs. Fisk — she was but 8, performing in a Shakespearean role. Her pay was in lollipops. She was married twice. In 1882 at age 16 she married a musician named LeGrande White but divorced after a short time. She married Harrison Grey Fiske in March 1890 and took three years off from the stage. She had no children with either White or Fiske.

Minnie Maddern Fiske
Photograph by Fred Holland Day.

Among Mrs. Fiske's many triumphs on the Broadway stage were Becky Sharp (1899, revivals 1904, 1911), Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1897, revival 1902), A Doll's House (1902), Hedda Gabler (1903, revival 1904), Leah Kleschna (1904–05), Salvation Nell (1908–09), The High Road (1912–13), Madame Sand (1917–18), a play about George Sand; Mis' Nelly of N'Orleans (1919), Helena's Boys (1924), Ghosts (1927), Ladies of the Jury (1929–30), as well as her self-written plays The Rose (1905), The Eyes of the Heart (1905), The Light from St. Agnes (1906). Mrs. Fiske starred in everything from farce to tragedy and even appeared in a comedy with puppets Wake Up, Jonathan! (1921). Her final appearance on Broadway was in 1930 in an acclaimed production of The Rivals cast as Mrs. Malaprop.

In the mid 1910s, Mrs. Fiske starred in two feature film adaptions of two of her greatest stage triumphs, Tess Of The D'Urbervilles in 1913 and Vanity Fair in 1915, both of which were surprisingly successful with moviegoers, although she herself felt she was not at her best in the medium and declined further film work.

Her love for performing Ibsen over Shakespeare, and her posture that Ibsen is the better study for actors, can not be overstated. She told the New York Times in January 1908:

"Ibsen is of interest to the actor because properly to understand a role you must study the character from its earliest childhood. Most Ibsen men and women have lived their lives before the curtain rises. Shakespeare has often been pronounced tedious by actors because his characters require a great deal of study. But even Shakespeare seems easy when compared with the thought that must be bestowed upon Ibsen. The beautiful verse, the wonderful character drawing of Shakespeare furnish solutions of perplexing problems, but Ibsen is so elusive. He fascinates by his aloofness. He is the Wagner of the drama. Wagner struggled for understanding just as Ibsen has struggled."

Fiske was also one of the most prominent animal welfare advocates of her era. Mark Twain wrote the story "A Horse's Tale" for her.[3]


She died from congestive heart failure, aged 66, in Queens, New York. She and Harrison had no children. The actress Emily Stevens (1882–1928) was her cousin, as was Elizabeth Maddern, the first wife of author Jack London; she was also related to stage actress Merle Maddern (1887–1984).[4][5][6]

Selected theater appearances

  • Hunted Down by Dion Boucicault, New York (1871)
  • Fogg's Ferry by Charles Callahan, Wisconsin (1882)
  • Juanita by Charles Callahan, Illinois (1883)
  • Caprice by Howard P. Taylor, Missouri (1884)
  • In Spite of it All by Victorien Sardou, New York (1885)
  • Hester Crewe by Harrison Grey Fiske, New York (1893)
  • A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen, New York (1894)
  • This Picture and That! by Brander Matthews, Texas (1896)
  • Cesarine by Alexandre Dumas, fils, Pennsylvania (1896)
  • The Queen of Liars by Harrison Grey Fiske, New York (1896)
  • A Doll's House, New York (1896)
  • A Light From St. Agnes by Minnie Maddern Fiske, New York (1896)
  • Cesarine, Illinois (1896)
  • Divorcons by Victorien Sardou, Illinois (1896)
  • The Right to Happiness by Marguerite Merington, Louisiana (1896)
  • Tess of D'Urbervilles by Lorimer Stoddard, New York (1897)
  • Little Italy one act by Horace B. Fry with Divorcons, Illinois (1898)
  • Magda by Hermann Sudermann, New York (1898)
  • A Bit of Old Chelsea by Mrs. Oscar Beringer, New York (1898)
  • Love Finds the Way by Marguerite Merrington, New York (1898)
  • Becky Sharp by Langdon Mitchell, New York (1899)
  • Frou Frou by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy, New York (1899)
  • Miranda of the Balcony by Anne Crawford Flexner, New York (1901)
  • The Unwelcome Mrs. Hatch by Mrs. Burton Harrison, New York (1901)
  • A Bit of Old Chelesa, New York (1902)
  • Tess of D' Urbervilles, New York (1902)
  • A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen, New York (1902)
  • Little Italy and Divorcons, New York (1902)
  • Mary of Magdala by Paul Heyse, New York (1902)
  • Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen, New York (1903)
  • Becky Sharp, New York (1904)
  • Hedda Gabler, New York (1904)
  • Leah Kleschna by C. M. S. McLellan, New York (1904)
  • Three One Act Plays by Minnie Maddern Fiske: The Rose, A Light From St. Agnes, The Eyes of the Heart (1905)
  • The New York Idea by Langdon Mitchell, New York (1906)
  • Tess Of D'Urbervilles, Louisiana (1907)
  • Leah Kleschna, Louisiana (1907)
  • Rosmersholm by Henrik Ibsen, New York (1907)
  • Salvation Nell by Edward Sheldon, New York (1908)
  • The Pillars of Society by Henrik Ibsen, New York (1910)
  • The Green Cockatoo by Arthur Schnitzler, New York (1910)
  • Hannele by Gerhart Hauptmann, New York (1910)
  • Becky Sharp, New York (1911)
  • Mrs. Bumpstead-Leigh by Harry James Smith, New York (1911)
  • The New Marriage by Langdon Mitchell, New York (1911)
  • Julia France by Gertrude Atherton, Toronto, Canada (1912)
  • Lady Patricia by Rudolf Frohman, New York (1912)
  • The High Road by Edward Sheldon, Montreal, Canada (1912)
  • The High Road, Massachusetts (1913)
  • Mrs Bumpstead-Leigh, New Jersey (1914)
  • Lady Betty Martingale by John Luther Long and Frank Stayon (1914)
  • Erstwhile Susan by Marian de Forest, Massachusetts (1916)
  • Madame Sand by Philip Moeller, New York (1917)
  • Service by Henri Lavedan, translated by William C. Taylor, New York (1918)
  • Out There by J. Hartley Manners, allstar play toured America to raise funds for The Red Cross (1918)
  • Mis' Nelly of N' Orleans by Lawrence Eyre, New York (1919)
  • Wake Up, Jonathan! by Hatcher Hughes and Elmer Rice, New York (1921)
  • The Dice of the Gods by Lillian Barrett, Illinois (1923)
  • Mary, Mary Quite Contrary by St. John Ervine, New York (1923)
  • Helena's Boys by Ida Lublenski Erlich, New York (1923)
  • The Rivals by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Massachusetts (1925)
  • Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen, New York (1927)
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare, New York (1928)
  • Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, Pennsylvania (1928)
  • Mrs. Bumpstead-Leigh, New York (1929)
  • Ladies of the Jury by Fred Ballard, New York (1929)
  • It's a Grand Life by Hatcher Hughes and Alan Williams, New York (1930)
  • The Rivals, New York (1930)
  • Ladies of the Jury, Illinois (1931)
  • Mrs. Bumpstead-Leigh, California (1932)
  • Against the Wind by Carlos Drake, Illinois (1933)


  1. ^ John Hall Wheelock, Matthew Joseph Bruccoli, Judith Baughman (2002). The last romantic. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 9781570034633. http://books.google.com/books?id=EMCX8VBu33YC&pg=PA30&dq=Minnie+Maddern+Fiske&lr=. 
  2. ^ Clapp, John Bouvé; Edgett, Edwin Francis (1902). "Becky Sharp". Plays of the Present. NY: The Dunlap Society. pp. 32–33. http://books.google.com/books?id=YhoOAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA32. 
  3. ^ Albert Bigelow Paine, Roy J. Friedman (1912). Mark Twain, a biography. Harper & Brothers. pp. 1245–1247. http://books.google.com/books?id=7EMLAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA1245&dq=Minnie+Maddern+Fiske&lr=#PPA1246,M1. 
  4. ^ NEW YORK TIMES; obituary, Merle Maddern January 18, 1984
  5. ^ NEW YORK TIMES Monday February 28, 1910 ; MISS G. ELLIOTT'S NEW ROLE.;Succeeds Eleanor robson as Glad .... (4th paragraph titled "Mrs. Fiske's Cousin in Her Company")
  6. ^ Michael C. Bussacco (30 April 2009). Heritage Press Sandglass Companion Book: 1960-1983. Tribute Books. pp. 77. ISBN 9780982256510. http://books.google.com/books?id=GhU4NHMJW3cC&pg=PA77. Retrieved 28 November 2010. 


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Minnie Maddern Fiske — Fotografiada por Zaida Ben Yusuf en 1896 Nombre real Marie Augusta Davey Nacimiento 19 de diciembre de 1865 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Minnie Maddern Fiske — Minnie Maddern Fiske, de son vrai nom Marie Augusta Davey et plus connue sous son nom d artiste Mrs. Fiske (19 décembre 1965, Nouvelle Orléans, Louisiane 15 février 1932, New York), est une actrice américaine des plus connues… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Fiske, Minnie Maddern — (1864 1932)    Born Marie Augusta Davey in New Orleans, the diminutive redhead was the only child of touring actors Thomas W. and Lizzie (Maddern) Davey. As a toddler, she sang and danced between the acts in her parents company. At three, she… …   The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater

  • Fiske, Minnie Maddern — ▪ American actress original name  Marie Augusta Davey  born Dec. 19, 1865, New Orleans, La., U.S. died Feb. 15, 1932, Hollis, N.Y.  American actress who became one of the leading exemplars of realism on the American stage, especially through her… …   Universalium

  • Fiske — is a surname, and may refer to:* Bill Fiske (1905–1975), British politician * Billy Fiske (1911–1940), US sportsman and fighter pilot * Bradley Fiske (1854–1942), United States Naval officer * Donald W. Fiske (1916–2003). US psychologist,… …   Wikipedia

  • Fiske, Harrison Grey — ▪ American playwright, theatrical manager, and journalist born July 30, 1861, Harrison, N.Y., U.S. died Sept. 3, 1942, New York City       American playwright, theatrical manager, and journalist who with his wife, Minnie Maddern Fiske (Fiske,… …   Universalium

  • Fiske, Harrison Grey — (1861 1942)    Born in New York to a wealthy family, Harrison Grey Fiske worked in his teens as a drama critic for the Jersey City Argus, but quit to attend New York University. In 1880, his father bought the New York Dramatic Mirror and made him …   The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater

  • Fiske — /fisk/, n. 1. John (Edmund Fisk Green; John Fisk), 1842 1901, U.S. philosopher and historian. 2. Minnie Maddern /mad euhrn/ (Marie Augusta Davey), 1865 1932, U.S. actress. * * * …   Universalium

  • Fiske — /fisk/, n. 1. John (Edmund Fisk Green; John Fisk), 1842 1901, U.S. philosopher and historian. 2. Minnie Maddern /mad euhrn/ (Marie Augusta Davey), 1865 1932, U.S. actress …   Useful english dictionary

  • Mrs. Fiske — Minnie Maddern Fiske (Mrs. Fiske) (December 19, 1865 – February 15, 1932), was one of the leading American actresses of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. She also spearheaded the fight against the Theatrical Syndicate for the sake… …   Wikipedia

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