17. The Secretary of Laughter: May Irwin

It was President Woodrow Wilson who gave May Irwin the title of “Secretary of Laughter” after she performed in Washington. Born in Whitby Ontario, May Irwin was another vaudevillian that following the death of her father – launched into the business out of plain-and-simply economic need. She was one of the revolutionary women who broke social perception of body type. Not only did she celebrate her body type – like all good vaudevillians, she capitalized on it by producing “The May Irwin Cookbook” which she sold after every performance.

Besides being a tremendously successful vaudevillian, May Irwin was also an astute businesswomen and she invested her considerable wealth into real estate, eventually purchasing an island she called “Irwin Island” and building “The May Irwin Inn” there as a post-vaudeville business.

Author Sharon Amen captured Irwin’s life beautiful in her book “May Irwin: Singing, Shouting and the Shadow of Minstrelsy”.

Join Grant in discussion with Sharon as she talks about the interesting unusual life of May Irwin.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.