2011 44¢ Helen Hayes
Issue Date: April 25, 2011
City: Washington D.C.
Printed By: Avery Dennison
Printing Method: Photogravure
Although she received an Academy Award for her second sound film, Helen Hayes (1900-93) was much more comfortable performing in plays. “I don’t think I’m much good in pictures... I have a beautiful dream I’m elegant on stage.”
Her audiences, critics and peers disagreed, honoring Hayes with Emmy, Oscar, Grammy and Tony awards during her 80-year career. Hayes also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.
Dubbed the “First Lady of American Theater,” Hayes’ most memorable role is said to be the lead in Victoria Regina, in which she played England’s Queen. Victoria’s namesake, the Queen of Spain, was reportedly quite impressed by Hayes’ complete mastery of her grandmother’s mannerisms.
Hayes married journalist and screenwriter Charles MacArthur in 1928. The couple lost their only daughter to polio in 1949. In her grief, Hayes founded the Mary MacArthur Fund to help fight the disease. Doctor Jonas Salk credited Hayes with helping to fund his lifesaving vaccine.
The actress also co-founded the National Wildlife Research Center with Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Today the center is one of the top advocates for rare and at-risk plant species.