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Adams, Maude (11 November 1872–17 July 1953), actress, was born Maude Ewing Kiskadden in Salt Lake City, Utah, the daughter of James Henry Kiskadden, a banker, and Asenath Ann Adams, an actress. Adams’s mother was raised a Mormon but married outside the church. Adams, the only surviving child, was introduced to an audience at nine months and took her first speaking role at the age of five. She used her mother’s maiden name from the outset of her career. She appeared frequently in stock companies with her mother, first in Salt Lake City, then in 1874 in Virginia City, Nevada, in 1875 in San Francisco, and on tours throughout the West. Reports on Adams’s schooling vary, the longest estimate being that she studied from the age of six to sixteen. According to Phyllis Robbins’s biography (informed by Adams’s mother and various other family members and corrected in manuscript by Adams), she had only intermittent schooling before spending her tenth and eleventh years at the Salt Lake City Collegiate Institute under her maternal grandmother’s protection; formal tutoring ended when her father died and Adams was summoned to San Francisco to join her mother. They toured together until 1888, when Adams received her first engagement in a resident New York company. Several years of stock with E. H. Sothern followed before Adams made a success in 1892 in ...

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Allan, Maud (27 August 1873–07 October 1956), dancer, choreographer, and actress, was born Ula Maude Durrant in Toronto, Canada, the daughter of William Allan Durrant, a shoemaker, and Isa Matilda Hutchinson. In the late 1870s the family migrated from Ontario to San Francisco, where Allan grew up and, from an early age, studied piano with several teachers. San Francisco’s thriving theatrical and musical environment in the late 1880s and early 1890s enabled her to see fine performances, including those by some of the best women artists, among them Adele aus der Ohe and Sarah Bernhardt. Allan’s discipline, however, was piano. At age twenty-two, already musically accomplished and very beautiful, she went to Berlin for advanced piano study at the Royal High School for Music then under the direction of Joseph Joachim....

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Allyson, June (07 October 1917–08 July 2006), actress, was born Eleanor “Ella” Geisman in the Bronx, New York, the daughter of Robert Geisman, a janitor, and Clara Provost. Ella's father was an alcoholic and took little interest in her. When she was six months old, her parents separated. Mother and daughter moved from their Bronx tenement on 143rd Street to her grandparents' apartment near Pelham Bay. Clara landed a $20-a-week printing job and moved with her daughter to an $18-a-month coldwater flat off Third Avenue. Ella collected firewood and bathed in a washtub. Many moves followed. Often, Ella was shipped off to her grandparents. She felt isolated and abandoned. “You're going to be somebody in this world,” her grandmother consoled her ( ...

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Angelou, Maya (4 Apr. 1928–28 May 2014), writer, performer, and activist, was born Marguerite Ann Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, the second child of Bailey Johnson, Sr., a doorman and Navy dietitian, and Vivian Baxter, a registered nurse, cocktail hostess, and Merchant Marine. Her brother, Bailey, Jr., nicknamed her Maya, and the name stuck. After their parents’ divorce, the two young children were sent alone on a train from San Francisco to Stamps, Arkansas, to be met and raised by their paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, and their father’s brother, Uncle Willie, who was disabled. Grandmother Henderson had managed to build and own a general store with living quarters in the back, and it was also a safe black community gathering place in the segregated town. Uncle Willie provided a steady stream of good reading and high scholastic expectations, and their grandmother, “Momma,” taught them no-nonsense life skills, took them to church, and loved them....

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Elizabeth R. Nelson

Anglin, Margaret (03 April 1876–07 January 1958), actress, was born Mary Margaret Anglin in Ottawa, Canada, the daughter of Timothy Warren Anglin, Speaker of the House of Commons, and Ellen A. McTavish. Born a Roman Catholic, she was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Montreal until she left school at fifteen to pursue a career as a concert reader. Despite her father’s disapproval, her mother supported her choice and enabled Margaret to go to New York to study elocution when she was seventeen....

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Thomas W. Collins Jr.

Arthur, Jean (17 October 1900–19 June 1991), actress, was born Gladys Georgianna Greene in Plattsburgh, New York, the daughter of Hubert Greene, a photographer, and Johannah Nelson Greene. Gladys Greene's father led a peripatetic lifestyle: in pursuit of seasonal photography work, he frequently moved his family to locations in New England and Florida, but in 1909 he abandoned them. When he reappeared in 1910, they were living in Rochester, Maine, and thereafter he came and went for months at a time as he pleased. In 1915 the Greene family moved to New York City. Financial difficulties led her to drop out of high school during her junior year. Around 1918 she began to work as a commercial model. She later explained that she had made up her mind not to be like other women who only wanted “husbands and furnished apartments on the installment plan” (quoted in Oller, p. 34). By the early 1920s she had posed for Alfred Cheney Johnston, the photographer for Ziegfeld's Follies, and as a “Christy Girl” for the acclaimed magazine illustrator ...

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Arzner, Dorothy (03 January 1897–01 October 1979), film director, was born in San Francisco, California, the daughter of Louis Arzner, a restaurateur. Her mother’s name is unknown. After moving the family to Los Angeles, her father managed the Hoffman Café, a popular establishment frequented by movie people, including a number of directors. Arzner graduated from Westlake School for Girls, then enrolled in the University of Southern California with the hope of becoming a physician. With the outbreak of World War I she volunteered for service with the Los Angeles Emergency Ambulance Corps. At the end of her stint with the corps Arzner realized she did not want to continue pursuing a career in medicine. Determined to become financially independent from her father, she sought a job in the movie industry....

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Bailey, Pearl (29 March 1918–17 August 1990), actress, singer, and entertainer, was born Pearl Mae Bailey in Newport News, Virginia, the daughter of the Reverend Joseph James Bailey and Ella Mae (maiden name unknown). Her brother Bill Bailey was at one time a well-known tap dancer....

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Elizabeth R. Nelson

Bainter, Fay (07 December 1893–16 April 1968), actress, was born in Los Angeles, the daughter of Charles Bainter, an inventor, and Mary Okell. Making her stage debut at the age of five in the Burbank Stock Company’s production of The Jewess, Bainter managed to squeeze in an education between rehearsals and performances of children’s roles in stock companies such as the Burbank, the Belasco, and the Grand Theater. She graduated from the Girls Collegiate School in Los Angeles....

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Baker, Josephine (03 June 1906–12 April 1975), dancer, singer, and civil rights activist, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Eddie Carson, a musician, and Carrie Macdonald. Her parents parted when Josephine was still an infant, and her mother married Arthur Martin, which has led to some confusion about her maiden name. Very little is known about her childhood, except that she was a witness to the East St. Louis riot in 1917. This event was often a feature of her talks in the 1950s and 1960s about racism and the fight for equality, which fostered the oft-repeated assertion that the family was resident in East St. Louis. Before the age of eighteen Josephine had been married twice, first to Willie Wells and then to William Baker, to whom she was married in Camden, New Jersey, in September 1921....

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Ball, Lucille (08 August 1911–26 April 1989), actress and television executive, was born Lucille Désirée Ball in Jamestown, New York, the daughter of Henry Dunnell Ball, a telephone lineman, and Désirée “DeDe” Evelyn Hunt. Stagestruck from an early age, Ball quit school at fifteen to attend New York City’s John Murray Anderson/Robert Milton School of the Theater and Dance. Later accounts describe her New York years, from about 1926 to 1933, as a time of struggle that required the aspiring actress to be tough. Jobs in the chorus line of Broadway shows never seemed to pan out for Ball, who eked out a living first waitressing and then modeling. She eventually got her show-business break in 1933, when she was sent to Hollywood as a chorus girl in ...

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Bankhead, Tallulah (31 January 1902–12 December 1968), actress, was born into an illustrious political family in Huntsville, Alabama, the daughter of William Bankhead, a U.S. representative and, from 1936 to 1940, Speaker of the House, and Adelaide Eugenia Sledge. Shortly after Bankhead’s birth her mother died, and Tallulah was sent to Jasper, Alabama, to be raised by grandparents and occasionally by her father. Though the family was Episcopalian, Bankhead and her elder sister, Eugenia, were educated at Catholic girls’ schools in Virginia, New York, Washington, D.C., and Alabama. At an early age Bankhead displayed the flamboyant personality for which she became famous....

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Bara, Theda (1885?–07 April 1955), stage and screen actress, was born Theodosia Goodman in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of Bernard Goodman, an immigrant Polish Jew who began as a tailor and eventually owned a garment factory in Cincinnati, and Pauline Louise de Coppet, a French immigrant who sold women’s cosmetics prior to her marriage. In 1917 the family legally changed its name to Bara, taken from de Coppet’s Swiss father, Francis Bara de Coppet. Theda Bara attended the University of Cincinnati before moving with her family to New York City in 1905. There she appeared in small parts in various stock companies and briefly as a movie extra under the name Theodosia de Coppet. In 1914 she met director Frank Powell, who cast her (renamed Theda Bara) in the role of the vampire for his motion picture ...

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Barnes, Binnie (25 March 1903–27 July 1998), film star, was born Gertrude Maud Barnes in North London, England, the daughter of William Barnes, a police constable, and Rose Sarah Noyes Barnes. Educated locally, she worked as a milkmaid, an asylum nurse, a chorus girl, a dance hostess, and (as “Texas Binnie” Barnes) the cabaret partner of a ...

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Barrymore, Ethel (16 August 1879–18 June 1959), actress, was born Ethel May Barrymore in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Maurice Barrymore, an actor, and Georgiana Drew (Georgie Drew Barrymore), an actress. The second of three children (her brothers Lionel Barrymore and ...

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Bates, Blanche (05 August 1873?–25 December 1941), actress, was born in Portland, Oregon, the daughter of Francis Marion Bates and Eliza Wren, actors, while her parents were on tour. Shortly after Blanche’s birth, following a failed effort at managing a stock company, her father took the family on a five-year tour of Australia. After his death there, Blanche’s mother returned to San Francisco with Blanche and a younger daughter to resume her acting career. Blanche was educated locally and was the first girl to graduate from Boys’ High School in San Francisco....

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Bayes, Nora (29 November 1880–19 March 1928), singer and comedienne, was born Theodora Goldberg in Joliet, Illinois, the daughter of Elias Goldberg, a merchant, and Rachel Miller. The product of local public schools, which she left to enter vaudeville, the young Dora Goldberg was largely self-taught musically. She had already made her debut at the Hopkins Theatre in Chicago and had become “Nora Bayes” when, at eighteen, she received her first acclaim at the Hyde and Behman vaudeville theater in Chicago, singing comic songs in dialect while impersonating Yiddish and Irish stereotypical characters then fashionable in vaudeville....

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Bel Geddes, Barbara (31 October 1922–08 August 2005), actress, children's book author-illustrator, and painter, was born in New York City, the daughter of Norman Bel Geddes, a noted architect and stage designer, and Helen Belle Sneider, an English teacher. Educated at a series of private schools in and around New England, she also spent time in the company of her illustrious father, who was involved in hundreds of theater productions in many capacities. Once after a school play, the drama teacher at the Putney School in Vermont regretfully informed her father that Barbara had “no talent” (...

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Bergman, Ingrid (29 August 1915–29 August 1982), film and stage actress, was born in Stockholm, Sweden, the daughter of Justus Samuel Bergman and Friedel Adler. Bergman’s father owned a successful photography shop, but he had artistic aspirations that found fruition in his daughter’s career. Bergman absorbed her father’s interest in the arts, but her early years of relative solitude also fostered the development of her imagination and devotion to acting. Her mother died when Bergman was three, and her father when she was twelve. At age eleven she had told her father at an outing to the theater, “that’s what I’m going to do,” and the relatives with whom she lived after being orphaned recalled her dreams about acting (she even found work at the Svensk Filmindustri as an extra at age fifteen). While she was not a particularly good student at the girls’ school she attended in Stockholm, she found her educational métier in 1933 at Sweden’s leading acting center, the school of the Royal Dramatic Theater. After a one-year apprenticeship, she left for a career in films. She made many pictures for the Svensk Filmindustri, and her role in ...

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Black, Shirley Temple (23 April 1928–10 February 2014), child actor and diplomat, was born Shirley Jane Temple in Santa Monica, California, the third child and only daughter of George Temple, a banker, and Gertrude Krieger Temple. Shirley's mother had longed for a baby girl, and from the moment of her birth she became her mother's "pet project." Gertrude enrolled her in Ethel Meglin's nearby dance studio when Shirley was three years old, and, beginning in December 1931, Shirley joined other Meglin dance studio children in the Baby Burlesks series made by Educational Films Corporation, where she lampooned such stars as ...