Adah Isaacs Menken

Adah Isaacs Menken

About Adah Isaacs Menken

Adah Isaacs Menken was an American actress, painter and poet, the highest earning actress of her time. She was best known for her performance in the melodrama Mazeppa, with a climax that featured her apparently nude and riding a horse on stage. After great success for a few years with the play in New York and San Francisco, she appeared in a production in London and Paris, from 1864-66. After a brief trip back to the United States, she returned to Europe. She became ill within two years and died in Paris at age 33. As Menken told so many versions of her origins, including name, place of birth, ancestry, and religion, historians have differed in their accounts. Most have said she was born a Louisiana Creole Catholic of mixed race, with European and African ancestry. A celebrity who created sensational performances in the United States and Europe, she married several times and was also known for her affairs. She had two sons, both of whom died in infancy.
Better known as an actress, Menken wanted to be known as a writer. She published about 20 essays, 100 poems, and a book of her collected poems, from 1855–1868 (the book was published posthumously). Early work was devoted to family; after her marriage her poetry and essays featured Jewish themes but, beginning with work published after moving to New York, with which she changed her style, Menken expressed a wide range of emotions and ideas about women's place in the world. Her collection Infelicia went through several editions and was in print until 1902.

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