Where Are All the Women in Magic?
Michael Claxton, author of the 2014 biography Don’t Fool Yourself: The Magical Life of Dell O’Dell, has spent over thirty-five years as a magic-history researcher and collector. In his mid-teens, Michael stumbled upon a magic poster from the Fifties featuring Ellen E. Armstrong, who turned out to be a pioneering magician of colour in America. The more Michael looked into Ellen’s life and career, the more intrigued he became—not only with Ellen and her magical family, but also with other female magicians and magicians with culturally diverse histories.
We often hear the question: “Why are there so few women in magic?” Michael shone a bright light on just how incorrect that assumption was when he took up the challenge of writing a special series on female magicians for The Linking Ring from 2006 to 2008. This unique series, called “Women in Magic A to Z,” featured twenty-five articles that corresponded to the alphabet, each one profiling a notable female performer—combining X and Y as one profile. Michael made an effort to focus on contemporary, sometimes lesser-known names to join the pantheon alongside some of the notable names of past eras, such as Vonetta and Adelaide Herrmann. The result was a wonderful celebration demonstrating just how many magicians have succeeded at establishing themselves in an industry still seen as a male-dominated field.
Now, Magicana is thrilled to present a significantly updated version of Michael’s series as a new online exhibition called A Celestial Celebration, A Tribute to Women in Magic. Michael has updated each one of the original articles with new information he has gathered, and he has added more photographs where possible, too. He has also greatly expanded what we are calling the “Stargazing” section—the area at the end of each article—where Michael lists additional performers under each letter. Even though these lists are far from exhaustive, they certainly provide a robust and, indeed, valuable source for researchers and historians, while also pointing out, once again, just how many women have made significant inroads in magic.
In addition, Michael has also included his massive bibliography on the subject, which is the direct result of three decades of research and study. With over nine hundred entries, the index is truly an incredible, singular archive. We acknowledge and thank Michael Claxton for sharing this wonderful resource with us, and with the world.
This exhibition is meant to be dynamic and organic. As new information emerges, as new magicians join the fold, we will continue to update and correct any errors or omissions. If you have information to add to this exhibition, please be sure to reach out. We will only be too happy to hear from you.
Now, we invite you to join A Celestial Celebration! Enjoy!