Ada Dwyer Russell

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Ada Dwyer Russell
Ada Dwyer Russell, 1916.jpg
Mary Ada Dwyer[1]:43

(1863-02-08)February 8, 1863[2]:48
DiedJuly 4, 1952(1952-07-04) (aged 89)
Resting placeSalt Lake City Cemetery
40°46′32.6″N 111°51′28.6″W / 40.775722°N 111.857944°W / 40.775722; -111.857944[4]
Spouse(s)Harold Russell (married 1893 separated ~1895)[2]:51
Partner(s)Amy Lowell (together 1912–1925)[5]:xl,xlii
ChildrenLorna Russell Amussen (5 Sep. 1894–30 Sep. 1961)[2]:48[6]
  • Sara Ann Hammer[2]:51
  • James Dwyer[2]:51

Ada Dwyer Russell (1863–1952), was an actress[2]:38 who performed on stage in Broadway and London and became the muse to her poet lover Amy Lowell.[7]

Brief biography[edit]

Dwyer was born in 1863 to a recently baptized Mormon Salt Lake City bookkeeper James Dwyer and his wife Sara Ann Hammer.[2]:51[8]:173 In 1893 at the age of thirty she married Boston-born actor[9] Harold Russell (lived 1859–1927),[10][2]:51 and they had a daughter Lorna the next year, their marriage fell apart soon after Lorna's birth and they entered a lifelong separation, though, never legally divorcing.[11] Although no record exists of Dwyer renouncing the Mormon religion she was raised in, she ceased involvement,[2]:51 and her father was asked to resign in 1913 by top leaders after telling other Salt Lake members that same-sex sexual activity was not a sin.[8]:428

Dwyer and Lowell[edit]

Lowell around 1916, a few years after she and Dwyer met.

Nearly two decades after separating from Russell, she met writer Amy Lowell in 1912 while on an acting tour in Boston for a play.[5]:xl Dwyer moved in with Lowell in 1914 and their long-term lesbian relationship, or "Boston marriage" (the term for a 19th-century romantic female relationship) would last over a decade until Lowell's death in 1925.[12] Lowell lovingly referred to Dwyer as "the lady of the moon"[13] and loved Dwyer's daughter and grandchildren as her own.[14] Unfortunately, most of the primary document letters of communication between the two were destroyed by Ada at Amy's request, leaving much unknown about the details of their life together[2]:47 as they had to hide the nature of their relationship.[13]

Lowell's love poems[edit]

Dwyer's grave marker

Russell was the subject of many of Lowell's poems,[15] and Lowell wanted to dedicate her books to Dwyer who refused except for one time in a non-poetry book in which Lowell wrote, "To A.D.R., This, and all my books. A.L."[16] Examples of these love poems to Dwyer include the Taxi, Absence,[2]:xxi In a Garden, Madonna of the Evening Flowers,[14] Opal,[17] and Aubade.[13] Amy admitted to John Livingston Lowes that Dwyer was the subject of her series of romantic poems titled "Two Speak Together".[18][19] Lowell's poems about Dwyer have been called the most explicit and elegant lesbian love poetry during the time between the ancient Sappho and poets of the 1970s.[13]


  1. ^ Rigby, Chris (Winter 1975). "Ada Dwyer: Bright Lights and Lilacs". Utah Historical Quarterly. 34 (1). Archived from the original on 16 November 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Rollyson, Carl (8 August 2013). Amy Lowell Anew: A Biography. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 1442223928. Preface reprinted at the author's website.
  3. ^ "Obituaries". The Salt Lake Tribune. 6 July 1952. Archived from the original on 16 November 2017. Mrs. Ada Dwyer Russell, 89, retired character actress, died Friday at the home of a daughter, Mrs. Theodore Amussen, Chevy Chase, MD. A broken hip, suffered in a recent fall, complicated long illness, causing death; the well-known pioneer actress figured prominently in plays in the historic Salt Lake Theater and was instrumental in placing the bronze tablet on the theater site. She appeared in the theater's farewell performance Oct. 20, 1928. Mrs. Russell toured England, America, and Australia playing character parts. At 15 she played her first New York engagement. She, was married to Harold Russell, actor, who died in 1926.
  4. ^ "Salt Lake City Cemetery". Name In Stone.
  5. ^ a b Munich, Adrienne; Bradshaw, Melissa (30 November 2002). Selected Poems of Amy Lowell. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0813531284.
  6. ^ "Graveside Rites Set for Widow". The Salt Lake Tribune. 4 October 1961. p. 16. Archived from the original on 19 November 2017. Private graveside services for Mrs. Lorna Russell Amussen, 66, of New York City, will be conducted Friday at 10 a.m. at the Salt Lake City Cemetery. Mrs. Amussen, widow of the late Theodore Amussen, Salt Lake City and Washington D.C., attorney, died Sept. 30 in New York City. Funeral services were conducted in New York City.
  7. ^ Parker, Sarah (21 July 2015). The Lesbian Muse and Poetic Identity, 1889–1930. Routledge. p. 157. ISBN 978-1848933866.
  8. ^ a b Quinn, D. Michael (1996). Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0252022050.
  9. ^ Browne, Walter; Koch, E. De Roy (February 1908). Who's Who on the Stage 1908. New York City: B.W. Dodge & Company. p. 382.
  10. ^ "Harold Russell". Find A Grave. Archived from the original on 19 November 2017.
  11. ^ Rigby, Chris,"Ada Dwyer: Bright Lights and Lilacs," Utah Historical Quarterly, vol. 43, page 45.
  12. ^ History Project (Boston, Mass.) (1998), Improper Bostonians: Lesbian and Gay History from the Puritans to Playland, Beacon Press, p. 75, ISBN 978-0-8070-7949-2
  13. ^ a b c d Karami, Siham (July–August 2016). "In the Manner of Amy Lowell" (PDF). The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide. 23 (4): 39.
  14. ^ a b Hamer, Diane (30 December 2013). "The Love Songs of Amy Lowell". The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide. 21 (1): 48.
  15. ^ Castle, Terry (13 December 2005). The Literature of Lesbianism: A Historical Anthology from Ariosto to Stonewall. Columbia University Press. p. 649. ISBN 0231125119.
  16. ^ Bradshaw, Melissa; Munich, Adrienne (9 February 2004). Amy Lowell, American Modern. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. p. 62. ISBN 0813533562.
  17. ^ Faderman, Lillian. "About Amy Lowell's Poetry". University of Illinois.
  18. ^ Faderman, Lillian. "Amy Lowell (1874-1925)". Georgetown University.
  19. ^ Hamer, Diane Ellen (1 July 2004). "Amy Lowell wasn't writing about flowers". The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide. 11 (4). Reprinted at

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