Laurie James was born in Portland, Oregon on January 31, 1930 to Vernon and Welles Harper, with sister Gwen. From an early age Laurie was modeling and acting with The Portland Children’s Theatre and at school.
Following High School came to New York to pursue her dream of acting, and attended the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts. She also attended Lewis and Clark College in Portland where she studied poetry and drama (she later received an honorary degree.in the Arts). She then returned to the East Coast where she apprenticed and then starred in many Summer Stock productions. It was there that she met Clifton James, her future husband. Summer ended and she returned to New York, married and had 5 children: Mike, Winkie, Hardy, Lynn and Mary, and step-daughter Cory . While raising five children she continued her creative ambitions including creating her own program called “Poetry Listen-In” which brought poetry to life for the children and which she performed it throughout New York.
A historian and researcher in heart she focused on women’s neglected place in history, notably Margaret Fuller but all women s place in shaping our society and world. Years of research and study produced a wealthy body of work on the forgotten life of this historic figure by Laurie. Four books: “Men, Women, and Margaret Fuller”, “The Wit and Wisdom of Margaret Fuller Ossoli”, “Why Margaret Fuller Ossoli is Forgotten” and “How I Got to Harvard, Off and On Stage with Margaret Fuller”. She also wrote “Outrageous Questions, Legacy of Bronson Alcott and America’s One-Room Schools.
Across the country and Asia she offered her award-winning one woman presentation about the life and influence of Margaret Fuller entitled “Men, Women, and Margaret Fuller. Other plays Laurie wrote and performed are: “Yellow Wallpaper”, based on an early feminist work by Charlotte Gilman, “O, Excellent Friend” on the friendship of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller, “Winter Wheat” an original work on Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Many other plays, including “Numb is a Freezing Point”, were written. Her final work “Heartblood” being one she was most proud of, dealing with the human rights issue of female genital mutilation was presented by the Actors’ Chapel at St. Malachy’s Church in June with a fall production scheduled for London.
Many will remember Laurie’s gifts as an actress, playwright and historian as well as her warmth, creatively and caring presence. She was a member of The Dramatists Guild, The Actors Studio P/D Unit, The American Renaissance Theater, The League of Professional Theater Women and the UU Women Organization [UUW&R core group and NY Metro].
Laurie passed away in her beloved New York City on July 22, 2015, leaving a rich legacy of a brilliant body of work, and a beloved family including her husband, her children, 14 grand-children and 4 great-grand-children who are blessed with the gift of having shared their lives with her.
Celebration Service for Laurie James
Sunday, September 13, 2015 at 1:30 PM
The Community Church of New York
40 East 35th Street – New York, NY 10016