Pauline Cushman: The Actress Who Became A Spy
On June 10, 1833, Harriet Wood was born in New Orleans. Her father was a Spanish merchant, and her mother was the daughter of one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s soldiers. The family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to establish a trading post, and while she lived there, she learned how to fire shotguns and ride horses. She and her brothers also canoed in the local rivers. In 1862, she moved to Louisville to make her stage debut. She didn’t remain in Louisville, however, and headed for New York, where she took the stage name, Pauline Cushman.
At the age of 18, she moved to New York City to pursue a career as an actress, but she was unable to find a job. She was hired by a theater manager in New Orleans, and she changed her name to Pauline Cushman. She developed a reputation for her charms and met her future husband, Charles Dickinson. They moved to Cleveland, Ohio, after which, Dickinson enlisted in the Union Army as an infantry musician. He contracted dysentery and died in 1862 (although reports as to his cause of death vary).