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The Shaming of the Cherry Sisters

Jack El-Hai | Longreads | October 6, 2016 | 3,795 words

How “vaudeville’s worst act” fought for fame and respect on the stage.

Posted inFeatured, Nonfiction, Story

The Shaming of the Cherry Sisters

How “Vaudeville’s worst act” fought for fame and respect on the stage.
The Cherry Sisters
The Cherry Sisters. All photos courtesy the Cedar Rapids Gazette archives.

Jack El-Hai | Longreads | October 2016 | 15 minutes (3,795 words)

In her late middle age, Effie Cherry felt troubled as she thought back on her life in the theater with her sisters. From the 1890s into the 1930s, the Cherry Sisters had sung, danced, acted, and recited from the stages of countless vaudeville houses. Of this experience Effie churned up mainly bitter memories. “All of the wicked, false and malicious articles written in the newspapers throughout the country concerning the Cherry Sisters,” she set down in an unpublished memoir, “were written by unscrupulous editors and reporters devoid of all honor, morals or even respectability…. After twenty-five or thirty years of persecution and slander by the press, one would think there would be an end, but the serpent’s tongue is always ready to strike in the dark, and still the slimy, venomous reptile is creeping on.”

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