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Reignolds, Catherine Mary (1836–1911)

Reignolds, Catherine Mary (1836–1911)

English-born American actress, dramatic reader, and teacher . Name variations: Kate Reignolds; Kate Winslow. Born Catherine Mary Reignolds on May 16, 1836, near London, England; died of sunstroke on July 11, 1911, in Concord, Massachusetts; daughter of Robert Gregory Taylor Reignolds and Emma (Absolon) Reignolds; married Henry Farren (an actor), in December 1857 (died January 8, 1860); married Alfred Erving Winslow (a merchant), on June 28, 1861; children: Charles-Edward Amory Winslow (b. February 4, 1877).

Catherine Mary Reignolds, or Kate as she was better known, was born in 1836 in England, the eldest of three girls. After her father Robert Reignolds died, her mother Emma Reignolds took an acting job in Chicago in 1850, and brought her daughters to the United States. As Emma made her Chicago debut in Cinderella, her 14-year-old daughter Kate appeared on the same stage in a small role, her first ever. Kate's mother, as well as her two sisters, Georgie and Jane Reignolds, continued to pursue acting careers, but Kate was the one who was destined to make a name for herself.

In 1855, after little success in Chicago, Reignolds convinced Edwin Forrest to give her a part in a play at the Broadway Theater in New York. Her performance was impressive enough to bring her more work, and in 1857 she joined Ben De Bar's Opera House company in St. Louis, Missouri, where she associated with some of the most prominent stars of the day, including Charlotte Cushman . In December of that year, she married another actor in the company, Henry Farren, who died only two years later. In 1860, she played Anne Chute in The Colleen Bawn in Agnes Robertson 's final appearance at New York's Winter Garden, and later that year became leading lady of the stock company of the Boston Museum, where she was quite popular.

In 1861, Reignolds married a successful and pedigreed young Boston commission merchant, Alfred Erving Winslow. After 1865, she traveled abroad as a celebrated actress, appearing in London's Princess Theatre in 1868 and then in other major English venues, but Boston would be her home for the rest of her life. A stage accident in England forced her to return to the United States, but after her recovery she resumed touring in America as head of her own company. When her son Charles-Edward Amory Winslow was born in 1877, she quit the public life of the theater, and some years later began giving dramatic readings. William Carson maintains that in choosing this career path, Reignolds (now Mrs. Winslow) was likely emulating Fanny Kemble .

In 1887, under her married name, Reignolds published a book of memoirs, Yesterdays with Actors, and in 1895 published Readings from the Old English Dramatists. During the 1890s, she gave private elocution and acting lessons to promising young women; acclaimed actress Josephine Hull was one of her most successful students. Reignolds died at age 75 at her summer home in Massachusetts, and was remembered as a gifted, respected and versatile actress who held a prominent place in American theater for over 20 years.


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

Jacquie Maurice , freelance writer, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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