A handsome Shakespearean with a dulcet voice, Margaret Mather was born into poverty in Detroit, Michigan. To escape urban squalor as a female newsie, she joined a barn-storming troupe while a girl. In New York she attached herself to manager George Edgar who featured her in a number of substandard productions in 1878.
Manager J.M. Hill saw her potential and saw her trained in dramatic art. She launched her career as Juliet in 1882 in Chicago and was prematurely hailed as one of the great actresses of the century. She appeared at the Union Square Theatre in New York in the following year in the same role, then took up the title role of "Leah" and then the lead in "The Honeymoon."
In 1887 she married the orchestra director of the Union Square Theatre, Emil Haberkorn, but the relationship failed within four years. Her connection with Hill soured too, despite his great investment in her development. Almost immediately after divorcing, she married Gustave Pabst, heir of the Milwaukee brewing dynasty. His family disapproved the match and snubbed her, despite her acquiescence with the demand that she retire from the stage. The bad feeling brewed for three years, then in autumn of 1895 she horsewhipped Pabst through nine blocks of downtown Milwaukee in front of crowds of people.
After the divorce, she returned to the stage, playing "The Lady of Lyons" and "Cymbeline." While playing the cave scene in "Cymbeline" in Charleston, West Virginia, she collapsed and eventually died of Bright's disease. David S. Shields/ALS