This gender bending performer is one we are presenting in a series to celebrate NYC Pride Week.
Annie Hindle (born circa 1847) is considered by many to be the first modern drag king. An orphan child, she was taught be her adopted mother to sing and presented to the public starting around in age five in Hertfordshire, England. She began to specialize in male impersonation when performing in London music halls to allow her to sing some of the songs that were written from the point of view of a man, and it grew popular.
In 1867 she began to tour saloons and variety theatres in the U.S. She was briefly married to comic singer Charles Vivian (one of the founders of the Elks), but it was over within months. According to historian Laurence Senelick, author of the terrific book The Changing Room, from whence most of the research for this post derives, Hindle may not have allowed the marriage to consummated, and Vivian, in turn, may have beat her. It was after that experience that she began to change her appearance even more drastically in a conventionally male direction, lowering her voice and shaving so that her downy facial hair would coarsen into stubble. She sang macho songs in her act such as “Racketty Jack” and “Do Not Put Your Boots on a Man When He’s Down”. Military numbers were especially popular in the post-civil war era.
In 1886, she married the last in a long line of her female dressers in an official ceremony (giving her name is Charles). Annie retired with her wife and reverted to female dress. Her bride Anna died in 1891. Within months Annie turned up performing her act in a Troy, New York beer garden, and she married for the third time, this time to a woman named Louise Spenghel. It is not known when Hindle died.
To find out about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc