Many American women viewed the “Americanized” version of Delsartism as a means for them to assert a professional identity that was unusual for the Victorian era. The author explores the limitations of current theater scholarship in regard to the complexity of the Delsarte system as a cultural phenomenon, and to argue for its role in encouraging a professional orientation for women. To better understand the support Delsartism lent to the professional aspirations of its female adherents and the backlash those adherents encountered, he considers several key Delsarte training manuals and examines two of the most popular lampoons written to ridicule American Delsartism. The efforts of women to forge a professional identity through Delsartism represent a quiet victory for American women at the turn of the century and an important advance in American theater training.

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