Renee Harris survived tragedy aboard the Titanic to become New York’s first female theater producer. Harris met her future husband, theater producer Henry B. Harris, while working as a legal secretary to put herself through law school, and after they married, she began reading plays and approving scripts for her husband. She lost him in 1912, during the sinking of the Titanic, when he stepped out of their lifeboat to make room for more women and children. Devastated, Harris chose to continue his work in theater, producing her first play, Damaged Goods, in 1913. The play dealt with the taboo topic of syphilis in an honest way, dispelling myths about the disease, and was a critical and popular success. During WWI, she also sent singers and actors to Paris, pioneering the charitable tradition of entertaining the troops. But after a brief, early period of success, she lost her playhouse, the Hudson Theater, to bankruptcy during the Depression, despite selling her homes in Palm Beach, Long Island, and Park Avenue in a desperate attempt to save it. In spite of adversity, she remained feisty to the end. Once, when accosted by a stranger who asked, “Were you on the Titanic? Were you saved?” Harris quipped, “No.”
More on Renee Harris
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Renee Harris." (Viewed on April 26, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/harris-renee>.