Although Charlotte Cushman descended from the Mayflower Pilgrim and preacher, Robert Cushman, there was nothing traditional about her. At age 13 she took up opera to support her family. As a girl Cushman became famous for playing Romeo, which marked the start of her prodigious success in male roles. Subsequently Cushman played Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth and became the most celebrated tragedienne in the country. In 1875 Cushman retired with a large fortune to her villa in Newport, Rhode Island. She died a year later of breast cancer.