July 4, 2015 is not only the 239th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It’s also the 150th anniversary of the introduction of one of literature’s most memorable characters: Lewis Carroll’s Alice, of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, often shortened to Alice in Wonderland.
Carroll’s 1865 novel has been adapted for stage and screen dozens of times, but it was the 1947 theater adaptation at New York’s American Repertory Theater that drew high praise from LIFE Magazine for the way its lead actress, Broadway veteran Bambi Linn, embodied the ideals of Alice. LIFE’s editors explained a common misconception about the golden-haired heroine:
Carroll was a professor of mathematics and this is reflected in the character he created. For what makes Alice one of the great heroines of fiction is not that she is whimsical or imaginative but that she is a realistic person who remains superbly logical even in a land of fantastic nonsense.
All these years later, it’s a trait that serves well far beyond the outer limits of Wonderland.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.