Helena Modjeska in the role of Ophelia. Photograph, 1889–90. Folger Shakespeare Library.
Cleopatra snake girdle, late 19th or early 20th century. Folger Shakespeare Library.
Madame Modjeska as Queen Catherine. Photogravure, 1892. Folger Shakespeare Library.
A long-time leading actress in Poland, Helena Modjeska moved with her husband to Anaheim, California, in 1876 to help found a farming community. But the venture soon failed, and after intense coaching in English, she began acting in San Francisco. Accompanied by her husband, she toured the United States and Canada for 30 years and eventually included fourteen major Shakespeare roles in her repertoire. Her performances were so effective that her age was no obstacle; one author notes that Modjeska played Juliet even after she became a grandmother.