Country of Origin
Birth – Death
1847- ca. 1904
Annie Hindle was the first male impersonator to appear on variety stages in the US. She came to the US in 1868 arriving from England where she had gained performance experience at the English music halls. Prior to her arrival to the US, she was billing herself and buying ads saying “Miss Annie Hindle, serio-comic and the greatest male impersonator in the world” and “the great serio-comic and impersonator of male characters”. ‘Hindle’s performing skills quickly won her support from other variety performers and managers, and within a year she was booking dates more than a season in advance.’ Her tenacious attitude and attention to male characteristics kept her busy throughout her 40 year career. Annie along with another male impersonator Ella Wesner were considered the most successful in American variety, and set the standard for other male impersonators to come after them. She is also known to have officially married two men and two women. (1)
Annie Hindle started her career in the English music hall stages in 1864. She was already ‘specializing in portraying male characters through song. She dressed in realistic male costume and delivered songs in a low alto voice, interrupting the song text with pun-filled monologues, jokes, and topical asides to further develop the character she portrayed’.(2) In August 1868 she arrived in the US from England with her adoptive mother Ann Hindle, and by September had already begun her variety career in the US. It was a time when variety entertainment was starting to boom. ‘Hindle traveled most widely when she was employed by touring troupes, but when she was not in a troupe, most of her performances were in theaters in cities on the East Coast or in a small number of larger midwestern cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, and Cincinnati’.(3) Outside of touring she also worked in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. In October 1880 she went to Cuba with a large group of American circus performers and performed with them at at the opening of the Tacon Theatre.
‘The primary type of character she would perform was the “swell”, which was a male character based on an upper-class man who could indulge in a range of leisure activities. She was conscious of her audience which was mostly working class men, and connected with them by making her “swell” characters the base of jokes so the audience could feel superior in their manhood. Being mindful she would sing songs that represented the working class men and defend their masculinity, and sometimes even offer them advice about courtship. She was paid well to do so, sometimes outearning her male colleagues, and normally booked a full season in advance.’(4) This helped set a standard for other male impersonators who wanted a career.
She was officially married four times: First was to Charles Vivian (actor & ballad singer) 1868 when she first came to America. It only lasted 6 weeks; Second was to William W. Long (a minstrel performer) 1878; Third was to Annie Ryan (her dresser) 1886 (Annie Hindle dressed in male attire and called herself Charles); and within months of Annie Ryan’s death in 1891, she married her second wife Louise Spenghel. ‘After her divorce to Charles Vivian 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.’(5)
Annie Hindle as quoted from the ‘Boston Globe in 1883’ as “The Greatest Male Impersonator Living”. She had careers in England and in the US for 40 years.
(Submitted by Drag King Flare of Toronto, Canada)
1. Rodger, Gillian M.. Just One of the Boys: Female-to-Male Cross-Dressing on the American Variety Stage. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2018, 27-31
2. Rodger, Just One of the Boys, 28
3. Rodger, Just One of the Boys, 130
4. Rodger, Just One of the Boys, 39-41
5. Senelick, Laurence. The changing room: sex, drag, and theatre. London; New York: Routledge, 2000
6. Rodger, Just One of the Boys, 32
7. Rodger, Just One of the Boys, 53
8. Rodger, Just One of the Boys, 50
9. Rodger, Just One of the Boys, 132
10. Summers, Claude J.. The Queer Encyclopedia of Music, Dance, & Musical Theatre: Cleis Press, 2004
12. http://www.glbtqarchive.com/arts/hindle_a_A.pdf – summary by Gillian M. Rodger of Annie Hindle
*The majority of the information on Annie Hindle was due to the research by, and her publication “Just One of the Boys: Female-to-Male Cross-Dressing on the American Variety Stage” by Gillian M. Rodger.
All Public Domain