Women of the American Circus, 1880-1940

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Overview

During the years 1880 to 1940, the glory days of the American circus, a third to a half of the cast members were women--a large group of very visible American workers whose story needs telling. This book, using sources such as diaries, autobiographies, newspaper accounts, films, posters, and route books, first considers the popular media's presentation of these performers as unnatural and scandalous--as well as romantic and thrilling. Next are the stories told by circus women, which contradict and complicate ...

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Women of the American Circus, 1880-1940

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Overview

During the years 1880 to 1940, the glory days of the American circus, a third to a half of the cast members were women--a large group of very visible American workers whose story needs telling. This book, using sources such as diaries, autobiographies, newspaper accounts, films, posters, and route books, first considers the popular media's presentation of these performers as unnatural and scandalous--as well as romantic and thrilling. Next are the stories told by circus women, which contradict and complicate other versions of their lives. Across America in those years an array of acts featured women, such as tableaux, freak shows, girlie shows, tiger acts, and aerial performances, all involving special skills and all detailed here. The book offers a unique and fascinating view of not just the circus but of what it meant to be an American woman at work.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786472284
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/18/2012
  • Pages: 223
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Katherine H. Adams is a Hutchinson Distinguished Professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans. Michael L. Keene is a professor of English at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi

Preface 1

Introduction 2

Part 1 Media Depictions: The Stories Told About Circus People 19

1 Circus in the Established Media: Unnatural, Scandalous, Perilous 21

2 Circus by Press Agents: Contradictory Extremes 28

3 Circus Books for Children: Gendered Romantic Dreams 36

4 Romanticized Books for Men and Women 43

5 The Complexities of Filmic Representation 52

Part 2 Circus Depictions: The Stories Circus People Told 59

6 Separation and the Status of Other 63

7 Entering a Circus Career 67

8 Behavior Rules for Women and Their Contracts 74

9 The Rigors of Practice 78

10 Life on the Road and Rails 83

11 Scanty Dress 85

12 The (Difficult) Road to Success 89

Between pages 92 and 93 are 8 pages containing 8 color plates.

Part 3 The Circus Comes to Town 93

13 The Power of the Poster 95

14 The Unloading and the Parade 103

15 To the Menageries, Games of Chance and the Sideshows 106

16 Into the Dressing Tents 111

17 The Big Show / The Circus Gaze 115

18 Late-Night Girlie Shows 120

Part 4 Circus Women Ranked and Seen 123

19 Ballet Girls 124

20 Statuary/Tableaux Artists 129

21 Mostly Stationary Freaks 132

22 The Silent Assistant and the Magic Act 148

23 Equestrians 152

24 Trainers of Wild Animals 158

25 Aerial Artists 170

26 Bike/Car Tricksters 176

27 Sharpshooters 179

28 Clowns 183

29 Circus Managers/Owners 188

30 Toward the End of a Career 191

Conclusion 193

Works Cited 195

Index 205

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 22, 2013

    This book contains a lot of good information, but it definitely

    This book contains a lot of good information, but it definitely has a small audience. It does relate some to women’s studies (which is why I read it), but I would recommend it more for people who are interested in circus history or circus press and advertising. The authors included good color examples of circus advertising and posters and some black and white photographs. The book talked a lot about how the press covered circus events and tragedies and how the circus leaders implemented advertising and marketing strategies. The book examines the hardships of circus performance through this book; I had not realized the extent of the mistreatment of the circus workers and performers.  Again, the book had some interesting information, but you would really have to be into circus history for it to be of much use. 

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