My Great-Grandmother Was A Showgirl

I always loved this story. As a little kid, I imagined she went off somewhere into the world and had another family. In my head, she married into an Italian family and I was somehow related to Madonna in a round about way. Yes, these are the daydreams of an eight-year-old living in New Hampshire. However, these days, I don’t think I’m related to Madonna. I think I’m related to Kate Middleton instead.

The second story, and the one that I love even more is about my great-grandmother, Mary, who dreamed of being a dancer. Mary is actually the only one of my ancestors born in the States who wasn’t born in either Massachusetts or New Hampshire – I’ve always found this strange. I assume it’s the diehard New Englander in me, that doesn’t care for this fact. Mary was actually born in Allentown, N.J. if, to quote my father, “memory serves.”

For a brief time she lived in Boston with some family members, and when things weren’t coming to fruition there with her dancing career, she decided to make the big move to New York City. She wasn’t exactly sure what she was looking for, but she just knew she wanted to be a star.

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    • Ellen W.

      She left Allentown for Broadway! It doesn’t matter if it’s the wrong Allentown, it’s still 42nd street!

      • Amanda Chatel

        Very true! Even if it was short-lived… but I guess NYC does that to a lot of people (most of us.)

    • winifred beckmann

      my grandma was a ziefeld girl too they probably dance together and i also have a few pictures maybe she is in one of them.

      • Amanda Chatel

        I would love to see them, if you’re willing to share! As I said (evil) aunt swiped everything… I only have photos of her as an oldie but goodie. Email me some, maybe?

        Perhaps they were buddies…

    • Sugar

      My great grandfather was in NYC at that same time. He once inadvertently helped bank robbers escape when their car broke down. Ha!

      • Amanda Chatel

        If Mary was anything like me she probably dated one of those bank robbers… silly Chatels.

    • holleeta

      How long as your family been in this country for? I always assume that those with familial roots in New England have centuries of history with the States.

      • Amanda Chatel

        I’m not sure to be honest… but I think a long time on my dad’s side. I know we had one ancestor who was killed by a Native American… something my father thinks is great considering what the “white man” did to them… and, as a liberal, I agree, natch.

        I can’t believe I actually used “natch.”

        My mom’s side, which is Irish, doesn’t go back too far. My great-grandfather on that side was born in Ireland, came here and married a Swede. What is with Chatels and Swedes?!

      • Sugar

        Maybe it’s because Chatel is Swedish?

      • Sugar

        Ok, wow, that’s not what I meant to type. Ugh.

      • Amanda Chatel

        Such a typo, Sugar!

        We’re French… we just love the Swedes for some fucked up reason. Or at least two members of my family loved two particular Swedes, so maybe saying we love all Swedes is a stretch.

        I do not like Ikea. Or ABBA.
        I do love Håkan Hellström and Tiger Lou… and maybe an occasional Swedish vodka.