1899 - 1991

“Innovators are inevitably controversial.”

 – Eva Le Gallienne

Eva Le Gallienne was born in London on January 11, 1899. She made her professional stage debut at age 15; the following year she sailed for New York. Already unguarded about her sexuality, she enjoyed a brief affair in 1918 with iconic silent film star – and notorious lesbian – Alla Nazimova. By age 21, Le Gallienne became a Broadway star in several productions including “Not So Long Ago” and “Liliom”. Around this time she began a five year relationship with writer Mercedes de Acosta. Other lovers included Tallulah Bankhead and Beatrice Lillie. In 1926, she announced she was disgusted with commercial theater and opened the Civic Repertory Theatre which sought to provide classic theatrical performances to general audiences at low ticket prices. There she acted, produced and directed dozens of productions. In 1927 she became involved with married actress Josephine Hutchinson, whose husband eventually named Le Gallienne as "co-respondent" in divorce proceedings. The press had a field day and, although her lesbianism became public knowledge, the effects on her career were minimal. Five months later, she performed in and produced a play about Emily Dickinson, titled “Alison's House,” which won a Pulitzer Prize. During the Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt offered her the directorship of the National Theater Division of the WPA; Le Gallienne declined saying she was more interested in nurturing true talent than providing jobs for hungry actors. Over the course of her illustrious career she acted in and directed over 150 stage productions with roles spanning from Peter Pan to Hamlet to Hedda Gabler. Her career encompassed dozens of radio broadcasts, recordings, and four books, including her memoir With a Quiet Heart (1953). In 1964 she received an honorary Tony Award. Through the 1970s she continued to appear in television and films, including her Oscar nominated performance in "Resurrection" (1980). She received the National Medal of the Arts in 1986.  On June 3, 1991 the woman who so profoundly shaped 20th Century American theater died at 92 of a heart attack in her Connecticut home.


Gender Female

Sexual Orientation Lesbian

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United Kingdom France United States

Era/Epoch Interwar Period (1918-1939)

Field(s) of Contribution






Commemorations & Honors

Time Magazine Cover (1929)

Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Alison's House (1931)

Honorary Tony Award Recipient (1964)

Emmy Award Winner for The Royal Family (1976)

National Endowment for the Arts National Medal of the Arts Recipient (1986)


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Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell