Blanche Bates to Jane Addams, April 21, 1911



↑Hudson↓ Belasco Stuyvesant Theatre
Forty-fourth Street
New York.

My dear Miss Addams

Mr. Lovejoy has wired me to send you a statement of my views of the child on the stage -- and ink-less and pen-less. I hasten [page 2] eagerly to do it. They can have value only as coming from a real child of the Theater in that my mother and her mother before her were identified with the Theater -- and witness. I was a grown girl, cared for, educated and, it was hoped, [weaned] away from the Theater before I chose to set foot upon the stage as a means of livelihood. We hear much, from the other side, [page 3] of the value of infantile training upon the stage, but if that baby-training is necessary, why is it that outside of Mrs. Fiske and Miss Adams -- (the opposition's glowing examples) -- the [scores] of stage prodigies [page 4] of the last twenty years has been barren of results in the "commercial staples" -- if I may be allowed a managerial term. Miss Barrymore, Miss Harned, Miss Anglin, Mr. Drew, Mr. Faversham, Miss Grace George, Mrs. Carter, Mr. Warfield, Mr. John [page 5] Mason, Miss Frances Starr, Miss Nance O'Neill, Miss Ada Rehan, Miss Rose Coghlan, Miss May Irving, Mr. Bruce McRae, Mr. Tyrone Power, Mr. William Courtleigh, Mr. William Courtenay, Miss Helen Ware, Mr. Leo [Ditrichstein] -- all players of the first magnitude and nearly all "staples" -- never saw the inside of a theater, professionally, before their 18th year. We might have reached greater heights had we been exploited before our sixteenth year -- or our little powers might have been [page 6] extinguished by too prodigal a waste so early years -- who can tell?

If a baby, brought into the world not of its own volition must earn its bread and butter -- if it's a choice between the factory and the stage -- I say, by all [page 7] means -- the Theater. The air is a bit purer, the environment a trifle cleaner -- mentally and morally-- But if the child is forced there by parental laziness or desire for cheap [interest] then I say the law should protect that offspring [page 8] as much as the young of the lower strata forced into the mills or the streets.

As for all this talk of infantile training in a theater being necessary to the ripening of genius -- I say bosh! Young children brought up in a theater, may develop and take a place of distinction in that profession, but it would be in spite of early association with the stage, not because of it! The lady who can not read a [page 9] part -- nor conceive a character -- is taught by rote like a clever parrot -- and with the aptitude of the young of any animal -- can imitate perfectly. But our art -- if we have one -- is the offspring of divine -- given imagination [page 10] -- the ability to grasp salient points of characterization character and project that <characterization> over the footlights. Can an immature mind do that? And will early training in imitation and mimicry foster that gift? [page 11] This -- taken in conjunction with unfinished, casual education and the over-stimulation of the unreal atmosphere of a Theater. There is the one child of the thousand who will reach his destined place -- albeit, dragged up in a Theater -- dependent for his scholarship on "[jinups?]" -- [illegible] get if stay in cities and his own general desire. But I'd bank for greater strides on a protected childhood -- [page 12] a proper formative and growing period. And be morally certain their talent -- or genius if you will -- will not be dimmed by sixteen years of education, ↑growth,↓ preparation and proper study towards the desired end. [page 13]

These few words are only in relation to the child itself. In his relation to the stage, many pages could be written. All summed up though, and laid to commercial selfishness. The [page 14] necessity for the child on the stage is just as great, and can be overcome as easily, as the need for tiny fingers in turning some delicate mill-machinery!!  And if there is any assistance that any of us can give -- us, whose aim is the betterment of conditions in our work, the raising of standards in our profession -- call on us.

And write me down as [page 15] saying, the exclusion of children from the theater, in front or behind, is a step toward that end.


Blanche Bates

Your pardon that this could not be typed in time, my dear Miss Addams --