website © C. Pascoe 2017 www.ednamay.net
Born of a humble background, a young Syracuse, New York girl would go on to conquer the hearts of not just the Americans and English, but, just about the whole world. She crossed the ocean and had the most influential, powerful and wealthy of men seek her affection. Every nobleman would dine her and every socialite invited her for tea. Her picture was in every shop in London. She won fame and fortune by being The Belle of New York. And in the midst of her stardom, she never forgot who she was.
Edna May was born Edna May Petty on the 2nd of September 1878 in Syracuse to Edgar and Cora Petty. She had an older brother, Adelbert, followed by two younger sisters, Jeannie (Jane) and Marguerite. The family name would soon change to Pettie. As a young child, Edna was always involved in singing at local churches and amateur theater events. The family relied on the single income of Edgar's salary, but, luck (or some would say a miracle) would arrive when Edna was sixteen. Her uncle, A.J.Feek, would come into a hefty inheritance and insisted on sending the gifted Edna to New York City to study music at the National Conservatory of Music of America. She would meet her first husband, the bicycle racing star, Fred Titus, and she would marry at the age of seventeen.
Her luck would come again in 1897, when she was chosen at the age of nineteen to take the lead role of Violet Grey in The Belle of New York, which would debut at The Casino Theater in New York. The Belle of New York would receive some applause, but, not meet the expectations at the box office receipts in New York. The following year it would open at the Shaftsbury Theatre in London, with Edna May in the lead role once again. The London audience did not just applause - they exploded in applause. The result was an instant hit and the play would go on for an amazing 697 performances. London was all abuzz about Edna May. The most influential, powerful and wealthy of men sought her affection. Every nobleman would dine her and every socialite invited her for tea. Her picture was in every shop in London. Edna would then be signed up by the greatest theatre producer of all time, Charles Frohman.
She would then divorce Titus and be wooed by the American copper king, Oscar Lewisohn, who was six years her junior. They would marry in a civil ceremony in London in 1907 and Edna retired from the stage. The marriage would last ten years, as Oscar died in 1917. A widowed Edna took to a life as a socialite and engaged in works of charity. In 1916, she would star in a silent black and white Vitagraph movie titled Salvation Joan. It was based on The Belle of New York in many ways. Edna was paid $100,000 for her role. She donated it all to charity.
Edna would pass away at the age of 68 on the 2nd of January 1948. Although her fame was over 100 years ago, it never really ended. We hope you enjoy your visit at EdnaMay.net and learn about the fascinating life of this actress.