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Madeleine Sherwood (November 13, 1922 – April 23, 2016) was a Canadian actress of stage, film and television. She was widely known for her portrayals of Mae/Sister Woman and Miss Lucy in both the Broadway and film versions of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Sweet Bird of Youth. She starred or featured in 18 original Broadway productions including Arturo Ui, Do I Hear a Waltz? and The Crucible. In 1963 she won an Obie Award for Best Actress for her performance in Hey You, Light Man! Off-Broadway. However, she may be best remembered as Reverend Mother Placido to Sally Field's Sister Bertrille in The Flying Nun (1967–70).[1]

Madeleine Sherwood
Madeleine Sherwood (cropped).jpg
Sherwood in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Madeleine Louise Hélène Thornton

(1922-11-13)November 13, 1922
DiedApril 23, 2016(2016-04-23) (aged 93)
Years active1933-2016
Spouse(s)Robert Sherwood (1940-19??; divorced; 1 child)


Early lifeEdit

Sherwood was born as Madeleine Louise Hélène Thornton in Montreal, Quebec, the granddaughter of the Dean of Dentistry at McGill University. Sherwood made her first stage appearance at the age of four in a church Passion Play. She started her professional career in Montreal when Rupert Kaplan cast her in CBC dramas and soap operas.[2]


Sherwood moved to New York City in 1950 and made her first Broadway appearance in Horton Foote's The Chase, replacing Kim Stanley. In 1953 she originated the role of Abigail in Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Elia Kazan cast her as Mae/Sister Woman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1954) and as Miss Lucy in Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), both by Tennessee Williams. She reprised both roles in the film versions. She became a member of the Actors Studio in 1957 working with Lee Strasberg and was a life member of the Studio.[2]

Sherwood appeared in many soap opera over the years, most notably on Guiding Light as Mrs. Eilers and The Secret Storm as diner owner Carmen. She had cameos on All My Children as a bag lady and Another World as a befuddled matron, returning to Guiding Light briefly as Roxie Shayne's madame, Diamond Lil. She was featured in one of the last episodes of Capitol.[3][better source needed]

Personal lifeEdit

Sherwood was blacklisted during the McCarthy era.[4] During the Civil Rights Movement, she worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., in the late 1950s and 1960s and went south to join CORE (Congress on Racial Equality). She was arrested during a Freedom Walk, jailed, and sentenced to six months hard labor, for "[E]ndangering the Customs and Mores of the People of Alabama".[5]

During the 1980s, she received a grant from A.F.I. as one of the first women to direct short films for them (along with Cicely Tyson, Joanne Woodward, and others). She wrote, directed and acted in her film, Good Night, Sweet Prince, which received excellent notices.[citation needed]

In the 1970s, she met Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and other activists at the First Women’s Sexual Conference at Barnard College in New York City.[citation needed] From there, she started consciousness-raising groups and counseling workshops for Women and Incest.[citation needed]

In the early 1990s, she returned to Canada and resettled in Victoria, British Columbia, and Saint-Hippolyte, Quebec. She had been a long-term permanent resident of the United States, but remained a Canadian citizen all her life. She was a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers).[6]


Sherwood died on April 23, 2016, at her childhood home in Lac Cornu, Quebec. No cause of death was disclosed. She was survived by her daughter.[7]

Original Broadway productionsEdit

Off-Broadway – original productionsEdit

  • Getting Out
  • Hey You, Light Man
  • Brecht on Becket
  • Older People (at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater)

Selected film and television rolesEdit


  1. ^ Matthews, Liam (April 25, 2016). "Actress Madeleine Sherwood Dead at 93". TV Guide. Retrieved May 7, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Roberts, Sam (April 26, 2016). "Madeleine Sherwood, 93, Actress on Stage, Film and 'Flying Nun,' Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2018.
  3. ^ Madeleine Sherwood on IMDb
  4. ^ King, Susan (August 31, 2003). "The Blacklist's gray tones". Los Angeles Times. p. E25. Retrieved February 25, 2009.
  5. ^ Stanton, Mary (2011). Freedom Walk: Mississippi Or Bust. Jackson: Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 133. ISBN 978-1604735413.
  6. ^ Reid, Michael D. (January 29, 2010). "Star still carries torch for actors". Times Colonist. Retrieved 2019-01-22.
  7. ^ Barnes, Mike (April 25, 2016). "Madeleine Sherwood, Star of Tennessee Williams Classics on Stage and Screen, Dies at 93". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 7, 2018.

External linksEdit