Lillian Russell (December 4, 1860 – June 6, 1922), born Helen Louise Leonard, was an American actress and singer. She became one of the most famous actresses and singers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, known for her beauty and style, as well as for her voice and stage presence.
Russell was born in Clinton, Iowa but raised in Chicago. Her parents separated when she was eighteen, and she moved to New York with her mother. She quickly began to perform professionally, singing for Tony Pastor and playing roles in comic opera, including Gilbert and Sullivan works. She married composer Edward Solomon in 1884 and created roles in several of his operas in London, but in 1886 he was arrested for bigamy. Russell was married four times, but her longest relationship was with Diamond Jim Brady, who supported her extravagant lifestyle for four decades.
In 1885, Russell returned to New York and continued to star in operetta and musical theatre. For many years, she was the foremost singer of operettas in America, performing continuously through the end of the 19th century. In 1899, she joined the Weber and Fields's Music Hall, where she starred for five years. After 1904, she began to have vocal difficulties and switched to dramatic roles. She later returned to musical roles in vaudeville, however, finally retiring from performing around 1919. In later years, Russell wrote a newspaper column, advocated women's suffrage and was a popular lecturer...
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