Who was Mary Garden?
Her name is unknown today but had we been around in the earlier half of the last century, we’d definitely know it. She entertained kings and princes – indeed King George of Greece reportedly presented her with a necklace worth $100,000
Mary was born in Scotland in the 1870s – the exact year varies depending on the accounts you read. When she was just a girl, her parents emigrated to the United States. Her parents, especially her father, encouraged her in her intended music career.
And it paid off – by the early 1900s she was living in Paris, doing extremely well as an opera singer and actress.
The way this came about could have been a scene from a film. She had joined the Opéra-Comique in Paris and the company were performing Louise. During its ninth performance, the singer who was performing the lead role collapsed and Mary was rushed on as the understudy. She was an immediate sensation.
After her European successes she moved back to the United States where she repeated her success. Thereafter, she travelled between the two continents, performing.
When the First World War broke out she was determined to fight and tried to disguise herself as a man so that she could sign up into the French Army. However, with her curvy figure, she was soon revealed to be female. Undeterred, she made her large French home into a hospital for wounded soldiers.
Mary was making a ton of money. She invested almost everything in the stock market to secure her future. She never married so her finances were entirely in her own hands. To her annoyance, her father demanded a percentage of all her earnings, claiming it was payback time because he had paid for her music and singing lessons when she was child. He also demanded a good portion of the money she made from the stock market.
But when the stock market crashed in 1929 she lost everything. In a way, it was a relief not to have to send money to her father. She wrote to him asking him to come to see her. She was rather looking forward to telling him that there would be no more money coming to him from her investments. But before her letter could be delivered, her father died.
Just a few days later she received a letter from his lawyers informing her that she was her father’s only heir and that he had left her over $1 million.
Money he had taken from her, of course
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