The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Ella Wesner

Ella Wesner

A carte-de-visite portrait of male impersonator Ella Wesner (1841 - 1917), who enjoyed some popularity with American audiences during the 1880s.

Like Annie Hindle, whose dresser she was for a while, she recycled British music hall material for American audiences. Her best remembered act was as a tipsy man getting a shave. Some found her act rather coarse or dubious, but this contributed to its masculinity.

She never married and seems to have preferred female lovers. Her only reported romance was with Josie Mansfield, the notorious mistress of crooked financier Jim Fisk.

She left instructions that when she died she should be buried in male attire.

Photographed by Sarony of New York.

For further information see Laurence Senelick's The Changing Room: Sex, Drag and Theatre (Gender in performance) London, New York: Routledge, 2005.


Code: 125022
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