Helena Modjeska was born in Poland in 1840 and started her career on the stage in 1860. In 1876 she and her husband emigrated to California, and she was by then already established as one of Warsaw's most distinguished actresses. She and her husband planned to farm in the west, but by 1877 she was back on the boards in San Francisco, where she was warmly welcomed by the public and praised by the critics. After that she toured extensively throughout the United States, England, and the Continent.

She had already played Shakespearean parts, but her dream was to act--and find critical acceptance--in Shakespeare on a London stage. Her moment came in 1881 when she played Juliet with Forbes-Robertson as Romeo. She was in England for two years, from 1880 to 1882, and then again in 1890.

The Oxford Companion to the Theatre says in her entry that she had a repertory of 260 plays, and fourteen of them were the plays of Shakespeare. Her most acclaimed performance, the entry adds, was in Lady Macbeth's sleep-walking scene.

Madame Helena Modjeska
a studio postcard

a studio postcard

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