Madcap May

Madcap May

Mistress of Myth, Men & Hope

Book - 2012
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Random House, Inc.
May Yohe was a popular entertainer from humble American origins who married and then abandoned a wealthy English Lord who owned the fabled Hope diamond--one of the most valuable objects in the world and now exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. May was a romantic who had numerous lovers and at least three husbands--though the tabloids rumored twelve. One included the playboy son of the Mayor of New York. May separated from him--twice--and cared for her next husband, a South African war hero and invalid whom she later shot.

Crossing the paths of Ethel Barrymore, Boris Karloff, Oscar Hammerstein, Teddy Roosevelt, Consuelo Vanderbilt, and the Prince of Wales, May Yohe was a foul-mouthed, sweet-voiced showgirl who drew both the praise and rebuke of Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw. Nicknamed "Madcap May," she was a favorite of the press. In later years she faced several maternity claims and a law suit which she won. She was hospitalized in an insane asylum and escaped. She ran a rubber plantation in Singapore, a hotel in New Hampshire, and a chicken farm in Los Angeles. When all else failed, she washed floors in a Seattle shipyard, and during the Depression held a job as a government clerk. Shortly before her death, she fought, successfully, to regain her lost U.S. citizenship.

How was this woman, May Yohe, able to charm her way to international repute, live an impossible life, and also find the strength to persevere in light of the losses she suffered--in wealth, citizenship, love, and sanity? Madcap May, assembled from her writings and historical interviews, archival records, newspaper stories, scrapbooks, photographs, playbills, theatrical reviews, souvenirs, and silent film, tells her heretofore lost story.

Baker & Taylor
Chronicles the tempestuous life of popular American entertainer May Yohe, tracing her rags-to-riches youth, the notorious exploits attributed to her character and her real and alleged relationships, including a marriage to an English lord who owned the Hope diamond.

Book News
Richard Kurin is under secretary for History, Art, and Culture at the Smithsonian, and he understands better than most authors how to create a carefully researched historical book that will entertain popular readers. He gains a lot of help from his subject, May Lohe. An American icon through the Gay Nineties, the Wild Twenties, and a survivor of the Great Depression, Lohe was a popular entertainer, her era's Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Grace Kelly all rolled into one. She swept floors for starvation wages, found fame with her golden voice and brass manners, fought for her rights and her citizenship, and was showered with jewels, including the Hope diamond, by a bevy of international admirers--not always in that order. Her story has remarkable turns (Was she an English duchess? Native American? Did she really shoot that war hero? Become famous for playing men onstage? Three husbands? Twelve husbands? Only her hairdresser, and Mr. Kurin, know for sure). What's most remarkable is that a woman who was front-page news on multiple continents for years is now entirely forgotten. Kurin rediscovered May Lohe while researching the history of the Hope diamond, and he shares with readers the delights of his discovery. Like May Lohe herself, Kurin's book entertains, and remains positive in the face of both tragedy and triumph. Annotation ©2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

Chronicles the life of entertainer May Yohe, tracing her rags-to-riches youth, the exploits attributed to her character, and her real and alleged relationships, including a marriage to an English lord who owned the Hope diamond.

Publisher: Washington, D.C. : Smithsonian Books, c2012
Description: xiv, 274 p. : ill., ports. ; 24 cm
ISBN: 9781588343260
Branch Call Number: 973.91092 Yoh


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

There are no comments for this title yet.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Subject Headings


Find it at BPL

To Top