100 Years Ago – 1 September 1914 – Madonna Mae Montran


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100 Years Ago – Madonna Mae Montran – (1893-1976)

We do not know for certain where Donna was on 1 September of
1914, but we can reasonably guess where she might have been.
According to the 1910 Census, The 17 year-old Madonna was
going by the name of Madonna Holdsworth and was living with her mother, Ida
Holdsworth, who was divorced, and her grandmother, Sarah Barber, who was
widowed. They lived at 418 Clay Ave. Also living with them was a “boarder,” Harvey
Knight. Donna worked as a Saleswoman in a dry goods store[1]. By
the way, 418 Clay Ave. does not appear to exist today. Either the streets have
been renumbered or Clay was cut off and became an alleyway.
In 1911, she married Chester Fenyvessey in Canada[2]. They
probably lived in Rochester, New York where he was a theater manager. Clearly things didn’t work out between Madonna and Chester because we never see or hear about him again.
distributed by Epoch Film Co. – 
Chronicle of the Cinema. (London: Dorling
 Kindersley), p. 111.. 
Licensed under Public domain 

We also know that she was in D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation
that released in February of 1915. Griffith began production of Birth in secret
in the fall of 1914. Therefore, Donna had to have been in California to be in
the movie in the fall of 1914.

Additionally, we know that Madonna/Donna went to California
and worked as one of Mack Sennett’s bathing beauties. However, he did not
assemble his Bathing Beauties until 1915, so she would not have done that until
somewhat later.

On September 1, 1914, the newspapers of the time were all about the Great War. The
Washington Times reported that 3,000,000 Austrians and Russians were in a
brutal clash. It was said to be the greatest battle of the war (at that time) was going on in
Poland; meanwhile, the French and Germans were battling it out along the Meuse River[3]. The
world was at war, but the United States had not entered the fray yet.

With all these tidbits in mind, it is likely that Donna had left
Detroit by 1911 and met Chester Fenyvessey in Rochester and married him on holiday to Canada. The marriage with him
apparently didn’t work out; she left Rochester and headed to California
before September 1914.

Madonna (Donna) wanted to become an actress. I am sure it was a time
for auditions and just trying to find work. She was talented (she could sing,
dance, play the piano, and look good in a bathing suit), young (21 years-old),
and willing to take it on the road. Exciting Southern California was definitely
the place for her to seek fame and fortune.

[1] 1910 Census, Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com, 1910; Detroit Ward 7, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T624_683; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0106; FHL microfilm: 1374696.
[2] Ontario, Canada Marriages, 1801-1928, Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com,Birth date: abt 1892 Birth place: Marriage date: 1 Oct 1911 Marriage place: Welland, Ontario, Canada
[3] The Washington times. (Washington [D.C.]), 01 Sept. 1914. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026749/1914-09-01/ed-1/seq-1/>

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