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Ellen Stewart (1919 – 2011) made an immense contribution to theatre both in the US and internationally. As the founding creative force and fundraiser for La MaMa, she had the faith and the vision to support emerging playwrights and stage hundreds of experimental new plays, a model which inspired many other theatre-makers to set up small avant-garde theatres around the world. She had a son, Larry Hovell, in 1940. Born in Chicago, she also spent time in Detroit. Her father was a tailor and her mother a teacher. She managed a nightclub in Chicago, booking artists before she moved to New York to study fashion design. She took a job as a porter at Saks on Fifth Avenue. When valued Saks customers became impressed by Stewart’s own designed clothes, designer Edith Lances, promoted her to work as a dress designer. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, she worked in fashion, designing evening gowns, sportswear and beach wraps.