Alone on Stage

"It was the worst summer of my life . . . "

1932. Suzanne, Ed, Libby and Susan Steele aboard the SS Lafayette, the ship that took them to Paris and the Comédie Française.

     My grandmother, Suzanne Corbet Steele was a strong willed, determined woman. She was born and grew up in "the State of Maine." She married Leon Charles Steele from Alabama, who sang to her the popular song of the day, "Oh, Suzanna, I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee." He was transferred to Fredonia, New York with the task of closing one of the Cudahy Packing Company's canning plants, the Red Wing Company. Instead, he turned the canning plant around and later became its owner.      

     Leon's career advances did not come without considerable effort. In 1932, faced with a summer of 20-hour days, he told Suzanne that the best thing she could do was go to Europe—and to take those noisy children with her! Suzanne had already developed a monologue for Molière's play, "School for Wives." She wasted no time booking reservations to Paris, home of the Comédie-Française, for herself and daughters Libby (my mother), Susan and son, Ed.

     Ed was 10 years old and recalls it was "the worst summer of my life." Suzanne and Susan were involved with drama and Libby planned to study drawing and painting. What to do with Ed? To young to be left on his own, he was sent off with Libby to art school—nude models and all!

     Suzanne undertook endeavors unheard of in her time. Women did not travel abroad without their husbands. Americans did not perform Molière in France. But that didn't slow her down for a moment. I hope enjoy reading about her remarkable achievements.

— Susan Hussey Bush

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