Pauline Markham

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This article is part of
"The Burlesque History Project"
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Pauline Markham was a singer and burlesque dancer during the period of Civil War in the United States. She was a member of the Lydia Thompson troupe.

Had relations with several famous Northern Generals and Reconstructionists after the Civil War.


Pauline Markham in costume for Ixion
Sepia photograph from San Francisco: Houseworth's Celebrities, 186[6]
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Jerome Robbins Dance Division, Museum of Modern Art collection of cartes de visite

This theatrical photograph from San Francisco shows Thompson troupe member Pauline Markham in a typical costume of a cuirasse bodice and tights. Lydia Thompson's troupe of similarly voluptuous dancers, called "The British Blondes," toured the country with The Black Crook, Ixion, The Man in the Moon, and other burlesques in the 1860s and '70s.

Emphasizing spectacular scenery, large casts, and women in tights, Thompson helped transform the burlesque in the 19th century from dramatic parodies or farces performed after the featured drama into the main feature. Thompson and her troupe parodied male characters and inverted gender definitions through cross-dressing, challenging prevailing notions of femininity. "The British Blondes" redefined notions of feminine beauty and autonomy, appealing especially to female audiences


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