Edna May (May Pettie) 1878 – 1948

Edna May largeBorn May Pettie on 2 September 1878 in Syracuse, New York State, she embarked on a stage career, adopting the ‘stage’ name of Edna May. She was a classical beauty and the most famous American ‘musical’ artiste of her day.

She conquered London in 1898 with a record run of 697 appearances as Violet Gray in ‘The Belle of New York’ at the Shaftesbury Theatre. She continued as a West End favourite in ‘Three Little Maids’ (1902), ‘The School Girl’ (1903) and ‘The Belle of Mayfair'(1906).

She was a friend of Ellen Terry and participated in the latter’s Jubilee Celebration Performance at Drury Lane, an occasion which provides the connection with Mr James Glover, Musical Director of Drury Lane and of Bexhill’s Kursaal. Edna May stayed in Bexhill at the Metropole Hotel in 1901. The following announcement in the Bexhill Chronicle dated Saturday 30 March 1901 may have some direct relevance: “KURSAAL EASTER CARNIVAL ‘THE BELLE OF NEW YORK’, We are informed this is an excellent company and will number 40 persons.” It is recorded that Edna May attended a performance at the Kursaal in 1902 and was involved in a carriage accident in Hastings in 1903. However, she was unhurt and able return to Winchester House in Bexhill where she was staying.

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