“If one struggling sister in the great human family, while listening to the history of my life, gain courage to meet and brave the severest trials: if she learn to look upon them as blessings in disguise: if she be strengthened in the performance of “daily duties,” however “hardly paid;” if she be inspired with faith in the power imparted to a strong will, whose end is good,—then I am amply awarded for my labor.”—Anna Cora Mowatt, preface to her Autobiography
Anna Cora Mowatt is a figure that often goes unrecognized, despite her immense contributions to the art of theater and for the advancement of women. Mowatt, on the surface, fit the mold of the expectation society had for women in the 19th century, to come across as well-bred and well-mannered. Underneath the surface, however, Mowatt had a drive to pursue her passion for theater. Though her motivations were initially driven by financial need, Mowatt came to terms with her passion. She inspired other women in need of income to turn to the stage instead of remaining in the domestic sphere. She was not overtly radical, however. Mowatt knew how to work within the confines of her gender in order to challenge expectations. She was careful in all her career decisions, and poised throughout the process, as a "True Women" of the time were deemed to be.
Mowatt not only challenged gender roles, but also helped transform the relationship between theater and class. Mowatt began her career as a public reader because she knew that theater was viewed as a "brash" artform that the lower classes primarily attended. (Macki) By introducing a topic that directly criticized many members of the upper class, however, Mowatt was able to, ironically, attract them to the theater. After Mowatt's introduction of Fashion, her most pivotal work as a theater artist, she transformed the landscape of theater-going.