Genevieve Stebbins

Genevieve Stebbins

Born (1857-03-07)March 7, 1857
San Francisco
Died September 21, 1934(1934-09-21) (aged 77)
Monterey, California

Genevieve Stebbins (March 7, 1857 – September 21, 1934) was an American author, teacher, and performer of the Delsarte system of expression.[1]

Early life

Genevieve Stebbins was born on March 7, 1857 in San Francisco, California to James Cole Stebbins and Henrietta Smith. Her mother died when she was two years old. As a young child she always loved to dance and perform.[1]

Theater career

In 1875 she moved to New York City to pursue a career in theater. She made her stage debut on February 19, 1877 in Our Boys at the New Broadway Theater. Over the next eight years she appeared in several plays. From spring 1884 to 1885 Stebbins briefly returned to play a few roles in New York, but soon abandoned professional theater.[1]

Her Study of Delsarte

In 1876 she began a two-year study with theater innovator, James Steele Mackaye on the approach to dramatic expression initially developed by François Delsarte. Stebbins demonstrated at the Boston University School of Oratory for Mackaye's Delsarte lectures. She was eventually given full responsibility of the Delsarte program at the University. Stebbins, along with Mary S. Thompson, opened two Delsarte schools, one in Boston and one in New York. In February 1888 Stebbins and Thompson presented their first Delsarte Matinee at the Madison Square Theater in New York City. In 1893 Stebbins founded the New York School of Expression in the Carnegie Music Hall and later retired from the school in 1907.[2]

Personal life

Stebbins was married to Joseph A. Thompson from 1888 until she divorced him in 1892. Thompson was most likely a relative of Mary Thompson so after the divorce her partnership with Mary Thompson ended. Stebbins was remarried to Norman Astley, a journalist, in April 1892. There is no record of Stebbins having children from either marriage.[2]

Genevieve Stebbins Astley died on September 21, 1934 in Monterey, California. [3]


Stebbins's work created more opportunities for late nineteenth-century American women to engage in physical culture and expression, especially in the realm of dance. She provided the means, rationale, and model for what could be accepted as the appropriate practices for middle and upper class ladies. Her work in the Delsarte system facilitated the new "modern dance" which would develop in the United States and Europe in the twentieth century.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 Garraty, John A. (1999). American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press.
  2. 1 2 Garraty, John A. (1999). American Biography. New York: Oxford University Press.
  3. California Death Index, 1905-1939
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