Contents and Arrangement

Letters to M. H. Spielman, 1916-1920

1 folder

Collection Overview

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Two letters regarding a medal.


Arranged into file groups by person.

Note on Language

The term "female impersonator" appears throughout this finding aid to describe Vardaman and related entertainers who advertised their performances using this term during their lifetimes. Female and male impersonation was a genre of theatrical performance in which the entertainer performed a gender aside from the one they were assigned at birth, and was at the height of its popularity on vaudeville circuits in the United States from the turn of the century through the 1920s. While many performers active as female and male impersonators were likely part of what we would now refer to as LGBTQIA+ communities, others were straight and cisgender. While some performances in this genre challenged gender norms and had similiarities to drag culture, others perpetuated sexist, transphobic, homophobic, and racist stereotypes at a time when transgressive gender and sexuality practices were heavily policed in the United States.

Collection History


No material was separated from the collection during 2018 reprocessing.

Processing Information

This collection was originally processed and the finding aid written in 2002.

The collection was reprocessed and the finding aid was revised by Kelly Bolding in May-June 2018. During reprocessing, nitrate negatives were physically isolated from other photographic materials and are stored in off-site cold storage facilities.

The term "female impersonator" appears throughout this finding aid to describe Vardaman and related entertainers who advertised their performances using this term during their lifetimes. The collection description was updated by Kelly Bolding in 2021 to add additional contextual information about the usage of this term and its history.

Sources consulted during revisions made to this finding aid include:

Casey, Kathleen B. The Prettiest Girl On Stage Is a Man: Race and Gender Benders In American Vaudeville. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2015.

Kibler, M. Alison. Rank Ladies : Gender and Cultural Hierarchy in American Vaudeville. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

Ullman, Sharon R. "'The Twentieth Century Way': Female Impersonation and Sexual Practice in Turn-of-the-Century America." Journal of the History of Sexuality 5, no. 4 (1995): 573-600.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Letters to M. H. Spielman; Vardaman Collection, TC089, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

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Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (rcpxm): Box 1