Robins, Elizabeth (1862–1952) By Gates, Joanne E.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1862, Elizabeth Robins established herself in the American theater and then relocated to London in 1888. She epitomizes the grasp that the plays of Henrik Ibsen held on performers in the 1890s. Indeed, she outshone other professionals by laying claim to performing and producing the first English-speaking Hedda Gabler (1891) and the first Hilda Wangel (1893, in The Master Builder).
She felt that the stage-management system prevented women from having a say in their profession, and therefore she welcomed the Independent Theatre Movement. She formed the Joint Management Company with American actress Marion Lea, her stage partner and co-producer for Hedda Gabler, and she organized several subscription series to mount not only Ibsen’s plays but also other artistic theater. Her feminist play Votes for Women (1907) was at the vanguard of pro-suffrage drama.
Performances organized by Robins of Hedda Gabler and The Master Builder were rivaled in impact only by the initial sensation created by Janet Achurch as Nora Helmer in her London production of A Doll’s House in 1889. Robins’ other Ibsen roles included Martha in The Pillars of Society, Asta in Little Eyolf, Agnes in a production of Act 4 of Brand, Ella Reintheim in John Gabriel Borkman, Mrs Linde in A Doll’s House, and Rebecca West in Rosmersholm.