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May IrwinSinging, Shouting, and the Shadow of Minstrelsy$
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Sharon Ammen

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040658

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040658.001.0001

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May and Me

(p.1) Introduction
May Irwin

Sharon Ammen

University of Illinois Press

The author, through anecdote and personal history as a professional performer, reveals how she discovered May Irwin. Although Irwin was a major star in vaudeville and musical farce from 1890-1920, she has been largely forgotten today. Irwin’s personal and public successes exceeded those of contemporaries such as Trixie Friganza, Eva Tanguay, Marie Dressler, and Sophie Tucker, yet this is the first full length study of her life and work. She may have been forgotten because of: her status as a female comic star in vaudeville; her failure to make the leap into film; the difficulty in researching her life and work; and her association with the birth of the ragtime “coon” song. This study examines her strategies for success.

Keywords:   May Irwin, ragtime, vaudeville, female comic star, Marie Dressler, Sophie Tucker, Trixie Friganza, Eva Tanguay, coon song.

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