Saturday, August 17, 2013

"The Coming Woman"--1896 Play Depicting Cortland in the Year 2000

Cortland Evening Standard, Thursday, April 16, 1896.


As Portrayed by the Fortnightly Club Last Night.

   The Fortnightly club turned its attention last night from literary pursuits and proved the versatility of its talents by presenting as clever a bit of amateur dramatics as has ever been given in Cortland upon a similar occasion. The small hall of the G. A. R.* equipped with stage arrangements was kindly placed at its disposal and club members with a limited number of invited guests filled every seat of the miniature auditorium.

   Miss Maud Fitzgerald as chairman of the entertainment committee of the club was mistress of ceremonies, the title being hers in deed as well as in word, since to her executive ability is due the conception and success of the entertainment.

   The ushers were Miss E. Jeanette Collins and Mrs. A. M. Jewitt, who were assisted between the acts by Miss Mabel Fitzgerald in passing lemonade—a delicate attention much appreciated by the audience. The dainty programs decorated with appropriate drawings were the work of Mrs. Herbert L. Smith.

   "The Coming Woman" was the suggestive name of the play presented with a thoroughly up-to-date plot depicting Cortland in the year of 2000 where the women have grasped the reins of government and "the ballot box has crushed the band box flat."

   Mr. Tom Carberry, impersonated by Miss Mary H. White, is a young bachelor who is just returning from a ten years' residence in China and is delayed at the Blodgett Mills railway station. From the local papers—the Democrat and STANDARD—and from certain "specimens" which he sees at that station he gets strong hints of the radical change which has come to municipal and social affairs during his absence. Soon he is introduced to the actual working of the new order of things at the home of his old friend, Mr. Wigfall.

   Around Mr. Carberry center all the incidents of the play and the part was admirably taken by Miss White who showed close observation of the peculiarities of the other sex by imitating their gestures and attitudes so cleverly as to cause constant merriment in the audience.

   Mr. Wigfall, the changed man, darns the stockings and rocks the baby while his wife—now judge of the Cortland county bar—attends to law and politics. The parts were taken by Mrs. L. M. Head and Miss Belle Fitzgerald and were excellent in every particular. The shrewd, though vanquished spirit of Mr. Wigfall, contrasted with the rather questionable law doctrines of his wife, who, however, looked superb clothed in the panoply of the law, appealed to t h e audience as very humorous.

   Their daughter, Victorine, not fit either for a clergyman or sportsman, proves the despair of her mother by following her natural profession which is being a charming young lady. And charming she was, with bewitching costumes, confiding manners and a pretty accomplishment of singing to the accompaniment of a guitar. Mrs. W. R. Cole was most attractive in this character.

   Miss Maud Fitzgerald appeared as the maid who was attending to the interests of the committee for the suppression of male dinner parties.

   Miss Elizabeth Turner and Miss Ella VanHoesen were the typical ultra-new women of the play. Both were attired in a fashion which Mrs. Bloomer herself could not have improved upon and both were strong minded to perfection. Miss Turner as Wolverine Griffin, a politician who has just returned from "the female Areopagus of modern Athens," showed her usual superior order of acting and made a decided hit. Miss VanHoesen as Mrs. Badger was also fully equal to t h e occasion as the assessor of the Blodgett Mills district and one who levied taxes on all bachelors. Both of these women of improved types see a possible husband in Mr. Carberry and render the situation highly absurd and amusing by proposing marriage to the young and unprotected gentlemen in question. The tragedy is relieved in the happy engagement of Victorine and Mr. Carberry, sanctioned by the maternal Judge Wigfall.

   The play throughout was full of wit, bringing within the scope of its jokes many of the names of the members of the club as well as interests which concern Cortland and the surrounding towns.

   Miss Cornelia A. White and Mrs. Geo. W. McGraw recited very charmingly between the acts. For the audience neither amusement nor interest abated for a moment during the entire evening and it is only to be regretted that the hall was too small to accommodate the many friends who would have keenly appreciated the pleasure and excellence of the entertainment.

   *A civil war veterans' hall for the Grand Army of the Republic (G. A. R.). The Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote in national elections, was ratified and became law on August 18, 1920.  Here is a link to Wikipedia's Women's Suffrage in the United States. The Fortnightly Club was established on November 14, 1894. For a membership list and additional information, click on this link and go to page 98: Grip's Historical Souvenir of Cortland.

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