Kathlyn Williams was an American actress, known for her blonde beauty and daring antics, who performed on stage as well as in early silent film.
Kathlyn Williams was born Kathleen Mabel Williams on May 31, 1879 in Butte, Montana, and the only child born to Joseph Edwin Williams,a boarding house proprietor, and Mary C. Boe of Welsh and Norwegian descent. Many biographies state her birth year as 1888; however,she is listed on the 1880 United States Census as being a year old. Williams displayed an early interest in becoming an actress in her youth which lead her to become a member of a community thespian group. She also joined the Woman’s Relief Corps that allowed her to showcase her vocal prowess at local recitals. Although she was known for having an adequate singing voice, acting became Williams’ main vocation. Williams attended Montana Wesleyan University in Helena during the late 1890s and graduated in 1901, where she excelled in elocution and voice, and her performances were highly praised. In May 1899, she recited “The Gypsy Flower Girl” at her university’s annual competition. On May 29, 1900, Williams received a gold medal for her recitation of “Old Mother Goose” at Wesleyan’s declamation contest. She lost her father around 1894 when she was a teenager, and her mother remarried a man by the name of Fred Lavoie in 1895. They divorced the next year.
In order to make ends meet, her mother made extra money by renting out homes in nearby Centerville. Her family was of limited means; therefore, Kathlyn had to rely on the charity of others to pay her way through school. Her acting aspiration also caught the attention of William A. Clark, a very wealthy Montana Senator, who helped finance her education and acting classes. Clark paid her tuition to the Sargent School of Acting which is more famously known as the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New York City. She was also given encouragement by Richard “Uncle Dick” Sutton, who owned several theaters in Butte, where Williams performed on stage early in her career. In 1900, her friends held a concert at Sutton’s Theater for “Katie”, as she was affectionately called, to gather funds to help pay her college tuition. By 1902, Williams joined a theater touring group called Norris & Hall and Company where she played the lead part of Phyllis Ericson in the popular play “When We Were Twenty One,” mostly to good reviews. The play toured across the United States toward the end of 1903.
In the January 16, 1903 issue of the Dallas Morning News, an article in Amusements critiqued Williams’ performance in “When We Were Twenty-One”: “Miss Kathlyn Williams, who assumed the role of Phyllis, is an actress of rare ability, attractiveness, and grace of delivery”.