“So very few of my interviewers of today, young people mostly, seem to know about the bright stars of yesterday. How true is that old saying in our profession, “We are so soon forgot.”
Mrs. Blanche Whiffen ~ 1st Female Member of Actors’ Equity Association
Time: May 26th, 1913
Place: Pabst Grand Circle Hotel, New York City
The Cast: 112 Actors
As an actor, genealogist, and history buff, the approaching centennial of Actors’ Equity Association in 2013 sparked my curiosity. We have a list of the 112 founding members in attendance on that day in May, but who were they? Thus began a process of discovery which has been a revelation, an education, and a pleasure. In the coming weeks, as we post more of the biographies and photos of those original 112 members, as well as others who were actively involved in the early days of our union but were not in the room on that particular day, I hope readers will enjoy getting to know our “founding fathers” as much as I have.
And “founding fathers” they were–all of those on the original roster were male. While female actors were actively involved in the formation of the union, it was decided to limit the first membership roll to men only in a gallant attempt to protect actresses from any potential backlash from management. When it became apparent this was not likely to be a problem, membership was opened to female actors within a few weeks of the union’s founding, and we will also post biographies here of some of those female members who played an early and prominent role in the union’s infancy.
As we will see, some founders were established stars, and discovering details of their personal lives and theatrical careers was not a difficult task. Others were journeymen actors with full resumes but with little in the way of personal information available, while some remain elusive in almost every aspect. For those founding members who remain a mystery, I can only vow that the quest to learn more about them and to honor them here will not be abandoned. Anyone with information on these elusive members is encouraged to contact me so that we can give them their well-deserved “hour to strut and fret upon the stage” once again!
Actors’ Equity Member