Maude Fealy “The Most Beautiful Woman In the World” In An Atypical Pose
One of the most read stories we have done was about Maude Fealy the stage star and film actress who had a career that spanned the first half of the 20th century.
Given the lack of fact based information available on the internet about Fealy we’ve provided another short page devoted to this forgotten star.
This unusual photograph entitled The Coiffure no. 3 captures Maude Fealy in a very flattering pose.
In 1903 the Figaro Illustre of Paris held a contest and offered a prize for the woman who represented the “perfect type of beautiful womanhood.” Photographer Burr McIntosh submitted a photograph he had taken of Maude Fealy. A committee of experts pored over 30,000 entries and decided Maude Fealy was the most beautiful woman in the world. Burr McIntosh won the prize for submitting the photo. Fealy wound up with the accolades.
Besides being a famous photographer, Burr McIntosh was the publisher of a popular magazine in the early part of the 20th century, mostly featuring theatrical stars. In February 1904 Maude Fealy graced the Valentine Number of The Burr McIntosh Monthly. The illustration above was drawn by Clark Hobart in 1903.
When we first wrote about Maude Fealy there was uncertainty as to her exact date and year of birth. That has yet to be resolved, though we can now narrow Maude’s birth year to prior to 1884. Maude’s papers housed in the Denver Public Library give a likely birth date of March 3, 1881.
Through diligent research we have established two previous unknown facts regarding Maude’s domineering actress-mother Margaret: the date of her marriage and divorce to Maude’s father.
According to the U.S. census taken on June 4, 1880 in Memphis, Tennessee, Margaret, called Maggie, was listed as 15-years old,. Maggie was living with her father Jeremiah, 55, a grocer; her mother Ellen, 35; and older sister Kate (nicknamed Katie), 18.
Not that censuses always give correct ages ,but children usually age appropriately. The previous U.S. census of 1870 lists Jeremiah at 40, Ellen 30, Kate 7 and Maggie is 5. Between 1870 and 1880 Jeremiah ages 15 years and wife Ellen ages only 5 years! The children have aged correctly depending upon their birthdays.
Here is the clincher- on April 25, 1865, the city of Memphis took their own census. While no names are provided except Jeremiah’s, the Fealy family lists one son under the age of 6 and one daughter under 6, wife Ellen (age between 18-44) and another woman over the age of 45 living with them. Margaret has not been yet been born. These three censuses reveal Margaret’s actual age.
Three months after the 1880 census Maggie May Fealy marries James M. Hawk, a fireman, on September 5, 1880. Margaret was indeed most likely only 15-years-old when she got married. Margaret’s birthday given as July 18 on genealogy sites has to be called into question. If July 18 was her correct birthday, Margaret would have only been 14 in the 1880 census.
On May 20, 1884 a decree of divorce for Maggie and James Hawk was entered in Chancery (court) on the grounds of James’ drunkenness and failure to support his wife and child.
Margaret Fealy died on February 11, 1955. For some unknown reason the California Death Index lists her name as Margaret Vincent Fealy and her father’s name as Vincent (which it is obviously not) and her mother’s name as Kendall (which is an alternate spelling of her mother’s maiden name!). The Los Angeles Times in their February 14 obituary also put “V.” as her middle initial and lists her age as 89. Where the Vincent came from is a mystery. The only person who could have given that information was Maude Fealy.
It’s all very strange…