Born in New Orleans on June 10, 1833, Pauline Cushman grew up to be a raven haired woman so beautiful that, when arrested as a female spy of the Civil War (on the Union side), General John Hunt Morgan was so smitten with her that he set her free. Acknowledging Pauline’s valuable work as a spy, President Abraham Lincoln commended her for her service and she was awarded the honorary rank of brevet major.
Following the Civil War she performed on the stage telling people about her experiences as a spy. Her troupe toured the country from New York to San Francisco. Out west it wasn’t unusual for the cowboy audience to shoot off their guns, instead of clapping.
Finally settling down in Casa Grande, Arizona, just south of Phoenix, she married a handsome and wild man who broke her heart on a number of occasions. In Casa Grande Pauline was known to hold up for injured animals… at gun point, flog with a whip anyone who spoke badly about her and referee gunfights.
Trying to hold onto the affection of her husband, Pauline told him a prostitute’s baby was theirs. When the plot was unraveled, Pauline was so embarrassed, she left town. By now she had gray-streaked hair and leather-like skin dried by the desert sun. And she dressed in a fashion from 20 years in the past.
In 1880’s no one was interested in Civil War stories. Pauline ended up being deep in the bottle, and the only job she could get was scrubbing the floors of the San Francisco theaters. These were the same theaters where years earlier men were shooting off guns to show tribute.
In December 1893 her landlady found Pauline Cushman, this woman who was a Federal spy, famous theatrical performer, referee of gunfights, protector of animals and defender of own her honor, dead alone in her small apartment.