During Edwin Forrest’s divorce trial, witnesses endeavored to show that Clifton’s “unbecoming familiarity” with Forrest during their 1842-43 tour was tantamount to adultery. The accusations raised questions about acceptable realms of familiarity between a married man and a then-unmarried woman, however professionally connected. They also involved competing interpretations of Clifton’s reproductive biology.
In Washington D.C. while researching 19th century American actress Charlotte Cushman, I briefly stumbled into the world of Eva McCoy, a girl from rural Illinois who penned a piece of fan mail to her idol in 1874. The letter survives today taped into a red bound volume in the Charlotte Cushman Papers in the Library of Congress. It is likely that the letter was received and read by Cushman’s life partner Emma Stebbins, and later saved by Stebbins, who took on the weighty task of managing Cushman’s legacy after the actress’ death from breast cancer in February 1876. The letter was preserved and later mounted, along with miscellaneous fan mail, much of it from the 1870s and much of it from other women.