Madeline Rossiter Millar (known as Madeline Rossiter)

(b. Sept 12, 1886, Ealing – d.1964, Scarborough)

Join us as we return from our summer break to continue with the biographies – this time – the extraordinary Black British composer and performer, Madeline Rossiter.

A photo of Madeline Rossiter: photo: Arthur Squibbs, Tenby, South Wales, circa 1910

A contralto singer, performer, male impersonator, tap dancer, dance teacher, choreographer, multi-instrumentalist, theatre director and comedian, as well as a composer and lyricist.

Rossiter toured extensively across the UK, Australasia and South Asia, known professionally as Madeline Rossiter. also performed in UK productions of musicals like the touring production of Rose Marie as Wanda the Mountain Vamp, leading the dance work of the company.

Despite this extensive presence, Rossiter isn’t included in An Inconvenient Black History of British Musical Theatre and we were told about her by a reader – we’ve noted several times that we are aware of the vaster history we are gesturing towards. What’s particularly exciting about Rossiter is that some of her music has survived – and there is potentially more in private circulation. In celebration of 135th anniversary of her birth, we’ve researched into her remarkable career and brought together some new information from digitised news sources from the UK and the US.

Very unusually for retracing Black practitioners in the early 1900s-1910s, there is one clear and full biography of Madeline Rossiter’s work written while she was still alive. The November 1954 edition of B.M.G. (Banjo Manadolin Guitar) “The Oldest Established and Most Widely-read Fretted Instrument Magazine in the World” – provides a detailed overview of her career, updating their readers that she was still directing amateur musical theatre productions in Cornwall. Though some details are very unclear, using digitised databases allows us to find a little more about Rossiter, who was by any definition, an extraordinary polymath.

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Evelyn Dove

Born January 1902, London – died March 1987


Unlike many of the practitioners in the book, Dove is thankfully more widely known, and much more has been written about her. So this post will act more as a starting point for research into her extraordinary life and work as a Black British performer. Her performance in the 1948 musical Calypso is featured in An Inconvenient Black History of British Musical Theatre 1900-1950 along with a more general overview of her activities.

Dove performed extensively in the UK, right across the country, and there are likely to be theatre programmes that feature her in various local archives. She also performed in Ireland. In 1958, she performed in the Langston Hughes musical Simply Heavenly which opened at the Adelphi theatre in the West End.


British Newspaper Archive

The BBC’s Programme Index (previously Genome, which digitised and archived the Radio Times) has extensive coverage of Dove’s many television and radio images. She performed alongside Elizabeth Welch and the celebrated pianist Winifred Atwell. She was also part of the Serenade in Sepia series with Edric Connor.

Getty has a non-embeddable image of Dove performing in Germany.

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Cover of Stephen Bourne's book on Evelyn Dove

Bourne, S. 2017, ‘The Untold Story Of Britain’s First Black Female Superstar’, in The Voice, 30th March,

Bourne, S. (2001) Black in the British Frame: The Black Experience in British Film and Television

Bourne, S. (2016) Evelyn Dove: Britain’s Black Cabaret Queen, Jacaranda Books

~Exhibition notes from the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibit: Devotional

Rye, Howard. 2010. “SOUTHERN SYNCOPATED ORCHESTRA: THE ROSTER.” Black Music Research Journal 30 (1) (Spring): 19-70.

Black music in the Harlem Renaissance : a collection of essays

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Dove singing ‘Couldn’t hear nobody pray’