Who was Helena Modjeska?

THE Google Doodle for Tuesday, October 12 celebrates the life of Helena Modjeska.

Here’s everything you need to know about her…

Who was Helena Modjeska? 

Helena Mojeska, also known as Helen Modrzejewska, real name was Jadwiga Benda.

She was a Polish-born actress and fervent Polish patriot who gained fame as a major interpreter of Shakespearean plays for 19th century American audiences.

She was born in 1840 and died April 8, 1909, in Newport Beach, California.

The actress was sent to study at a boarding school for girls and then later to a school run by the Presentation Sister.

She began her acting career on provincial stages with strong support of her life partner, Gustaw Zimajer.

It was thanks to him that she first appeared on stage in Bochnia in 1861.

Reviewers at the time wrote:

'the unquestionable talent of Mrs Modrzejewska who, while still coping with the difficulties of her profession, puts so much work and diligence into every stage appearance that over time she may become the star of the very best theatres.' (Dziennik Literacki, after Józef Szczublewski, Żywot Modrzejewskiej / Modrzejewska's Life, Warsaw 1975)

This is when she made her theatrical debut in 1861 in a one-act comedy called The White Camellia.

While she became successful in Poland’s major cities, she felt the full range of her talent was limited by the scale of how small the country’s venues were.

In July 1876, she claimed she had poor health to quit the Warsaw Imperial Theater to take a year’s leave of absence in the US. 

By the following August that year, she had learnt two new roles in English.

In 1877, she debuted in America under the name Helena Modjeska, which she ended up embarking on a road to American stardom, which lasted three decades.

Her 46-year career saw her act in nearly 300 roles and more than 6,000 plays, both in Polish and English.

She also performed in more than 300 cities globally. 

Why was she honoured with a Google Doodle?

The Google Doodle for Tuesday, October 12 honors Helena Modjeska.

The late Polish actress was widely regarded as one of America’s greatest Shakespearean stage performers of the late nineteenth century. 

 The actress would have marked her 181st birthday today.

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