"A WOMAN OF THE CENTURY "
Edited by Frances E. Willard and Mary A. Livermore
Buffalo: C.W. Moulton, 1893
DAVIS, MRS. JESSIE BARTLETT, prima donna contralto, born near Morris, Grundy County, Ill., in 1860. Her maiden name was Jessie Fremont BARTLETT. Her father was a farmer and a country schoolmaster. He possessed a remarkably good bass voice and had a knowledge of music. The family was a large one, and a sister about a year older, named Belle, as well as Jessie, gave early evidence of superior vocal gifts. Their father was very proud of their talents and instructed them as well as he could. Before they were twelve years of age they were noted as vocalists throughout their neighborhood. They appeared frequently in Morris and surrounding villages and cities in concert work, and they soon attracted the attention of traveling managers, one of whom succeeded in securing them for a tour of the western cities to sing in character duets. The older sister was of delicate constitution and died soon after the engagement was made.
Jessie BARTLETT then went to Chicago in search of fame and fortune, and was engaged by Caroline RICHINGS, with whom she traveled one season. She was ambitious to perfect herself in her profession, and she soon returned to Chicago and devoted herself to the study of music, and at the same time held a good position in a church choir. During the "Pinafore" craze Manager HAVERLY persuaded her to become a member of his original Chicago Church Choir Company, and she assumed the role of Buttercup. That was the beginning of her career as an opera singer. Since that time, through her perseverance and indefatigable efforts, aided by her attractive personality, she has steadily progressed in her art, until she is one of leading contralto singers of the United States.
Her histrionic powers are not in the least inferior to her vocal ability. She is one of the best actors among the singers now on the American stage. She made her debut in grand opera in New York City with Adelina PATTI and the Mapleson Opera Company. Adelina PATTI sang Marguerite and Jessie BARTLETT DAVIS sang Siebel. Other grand operas in which she won distinction are "The Huguenots," "Martha," "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "Il Trovatore," "Dinorah" and others. In comic opera she has probably a more complete repertoire than any other singer now before the public. For the last four years she has been the leading contralto of the Bostonians.
Jessie BARTLETT became the wife of William J. DAVIS, a Chicago theatrical manager, in 1880. Her home is in Chicago, with summer residence in Crown Point, Ind. Mr. DAVIS owns an extensive stock farm at that place. Her home life is very pleasant, and she divides her time into eight months of singing and four months of enjoying life in her city home or on the farm in Indiana. She is the mother of one son, eight years of age. Besides her musical and histrionic talents, Mrs. DAVIS has decided literary gifts. She is the author of "Only a Chorus Girl" and other attractive stories and a number of poems. She has composed the music for several songs.
Contributed by John Brandt.