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"Lonely May Yohe Just Had To Wed”…“Woman of a Hundred Loves”…“From Peeress to Penury”…“The Strange Case of the WPA Clerk Who Owned the Hope Diamond."
May Yohe (1866–1939)—sweet-voiced, foul-mouthed showgirl who danced on stages in New York and London and down the aisle at least three times—inspired half a century of blazing headlines. Her tumultuous, scandalous, romantic, and ultimately sad life merited every inch of newspaper space it received.
Her adventures included a brief marriage to Lord Francis Hope, of Hope Diamond fame; running a rubber plantation in Singapore; and escaping from an asylum. No one could doubt May’s recollection that “I’ve done pretty nearly everything in my life except theft and murder, but thank God, whatever I’ve done my heart’s been in it.”
Richard Kurin’s new book Madcap May: Mistress of Myth, Men, and Hope (Smithsonian Press) returns her to the spotlight, and rediscovers a lost celebrity as deliciously camera-ready as any Kardashian. Kurin discusses May’s life with Amy Henderson, a cultural historian at the Portrait Gallery.
Kurin is the Smithsonian’s under secretary for history, art, and culture. He will sign copies of Madcap May.