Anna Christiansen (1886-1953), better known by the professional name Madame A. Strakai was born Anna Annisman in Magilure, Russia. She was second generation circus folk, and learned trick riding, wire walking, trapeze and ballet dancing from childhood. Her stage name came from her first husband, with whom she had a bareback riding act. Her second husband was Jorgen Christiansen. With him, she had a bigger horse act (that included over two dozen stallions), and also developed the act known as Madame A. Strakai’s Siberian Spitz Dogs. They performed with the Moscow Circus until forced to flee the Revolution. They then gradually worked their way through the capitals of Western Europe, eventually making it to the U.S. by 1923. In the decades that followed, they played big time vaudeville, and Ringling Brothers and Cole Brothers circuses. By the time Madame Strakai passed away in 1953, the pair had settled in Fulton, Indiana. Read a terrific interview with Jorgen, conducted by the Circus Historical Society about a decade later, here.
For more on 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.