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Palgrave Macmillan

The Comedy and Legacy of Music-Hall Women 1880-1920

Brazen Impudence and Boisterous Vulgarity

  • Book
  • © 2020


  • Explores the history of women performing comedy on the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century popular stage
  • Examines the evolution of the exclusively female ‘serio-comic’ performers and considers their influence on the development of stand-up comedy and other contemporary comic performance
  • Draws parallels between music-hall artists such as Marie Lloyd, Vesta Victoria, Bessie Bellwood and Nellie Wallace and contemporary performers including Bridget Christie, Sarah Silverman, Shazia Mirza, Bryony Kimmings, Sara Pascoe and Luisa Omielan

Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies in Comedy (PSCOM)

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About this book

This book explores the comedy and legacy of women working as performers on the music-hall stage from 1880–1920, and examines the significance of their previously overlooked contributions to British comic traditions. Focusing on the under-researched female ‘serio-comic’, the study includes six micro-histories detailing the acts of Ada Lundberg, Bessie Bellwood, Maidie Scott, Vesta Victoria, Marie Lloyd and Nellie Wallace. Uniquely for women in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, these pioneering performers had public voices. The extent to which their comedy challenged Victorian and Edwardian perceptions of women is revealed through explorations of how they connected with popular audiences while also avoiding censorship. Their use of techniques such as comic irony and stereotyping, self-deprecation, and comic innuendo are considered alongside the work of contemporary stand-up comedians and performance artists including Bridget Christie, Bryony Kimmings, Sara Pascoe, ShaziaMirza and Sarah Silverman.

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Table of contents (8 chapters)


“Sam Beale has created a terrific contextual account of the comedy and legacy of Victorian and Edwardian music hall women. Her richly readable text places her trailblazing women comics in their own time, while also prizing them out of the shadows of history to reclaim them as the very matriarchs of contemporary stand up comedy.” (Dr. Ian Wilkie, Editor of Comedy Studies and Lecturer in Comedy and Performance)

Authors and Affiliations

  • Middlesex University, Hendon, UK

    Sam Beale

About the author

Sam Beale teaches solo performance and stand-up comedy on the Theatre Arts programmes at Middlesex University, London. She researches into and writes about comic performance, gender and performance and the history of comedy and popular performance.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: The Comedy and Legacy of Music-Hall Women 1880-1920

  • Book Subtitle: Brazen Impudence and Boisterous Vulgarity

  • Authors: Sam Beale

  • Series Title: Palgrave Studies in Comedy

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: Literature, Cultural and Media Studies, Literature, Cultural and Media Studies (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-030-47940-4Published: 05 September 2020

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-030-47943-5Published: 06 September 2021

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-030-47941-1Published: 04 September 2020

  • Series ISSN: 2731-4332

  • Series E-ISSN: 2731-4340

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XXII, 289

  • Number of Illustrations: 13 b/w illustrations

  • Topics: Comedy Studies, Performing Arts, Cultural Studies, Women's Studies

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