Mary Ansell Barrie as an Actress

Somewhere, along the path of her life, it appears that Mary Ansell began to “fudge” about her actual age. She worked at a time when actresses were often “finished” by the time they reached the age of 30.

Mary, apparently, didn’t want that to happen, so she began to "extend" life in her twenties.

How do we know this? Because Robert Greenham, a British author, had a hunch. He then went digging for records, in old archives, and found the evidence. Mary’s birth certificate identifies her exact date of birth. It was different—by many years—than her representations to others.

First the discrepancy was six years, then eight and, finally, ten.

When Ansell married Barrie—on the 9th of July, in 1894—she was actually 33 years old. Her marriage certificate, however, says she was 27.

After her divorce from Barrie, Ansell married 25-year-old Gilbert Cannon on the 28th of April, 1910. That marriage certificate lists Mary’s age as 41. Based on her birth certificate, she was actually 49.

In the 1911 census, Mary’s age is listed as 40. By that time, she was actually 50.

Greenham gives a possible reason for the age changes:

From this information we can see that, in common with many actresses, at some time during her twenties or early thirties Mary Ansell had decided to “reduce” her age so as to remain in her twenties for as long as possible in order to prolong her prospects of securing acting roles on the stage.

Further, we may conclude that, having possibly deceived Barrie from the time of their meeting in 1892 to the time of their marriage - and presumably having successfully deceived Barrie's minister uncle, David Ogilvy, who officiated at the marriage - Mary chose to maintain the 6-year difference throughout their marriage.

The photo of Mary Ansell, at the top of this page, was taken by Alexander Bassano (1829-1913) sometime between 1891-1892.  Click on it for a better view.

Media Credits

Image of Mary Ansell by Alexander Bassano (1829-1913); photo taken sometime between 1891-1892; National Portrait Gallery, London. License: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0


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"Mary Ansell Barrie as an Actress" AwesomeStories.com. Jul 31, 2015. Aug 20, 2019.
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