The Venus on the Trapeze: Miss Fillis


We’ve all heard that old song about “the daring young man on the flying trapeze” (which by the way, was published in 1867 and was about Jules Leotard, a popular trapeze artist at the time). Sadly, no songs were composed for the daring young women on the flying trapeze. Yes, there were such creatures. Book 5 of my Adele Gossling Mysteries series, in fact, features two such women.

Why is it so strange to find women trapeze artists during this time? Because we can’t forget that during these eras the separate spheres existed. Based on these ideals, women were fragile, sickly creatures who had no business taking on acrobatics like the flying trapeze which required strength and skill. One woman, in particular, defied this image of the fragile Victorian woman and did so almost from birth. Her name was Aimee Marcoud whose stage name later became “Miss Fillis”.

Marcoud was indoctrinated into circus life much like most performers. Her father, a gymnast whose specialty was the horizontal bars, taught her the ropes (metaphorically speaking). At the tender age of ten, she was already part of his act, wowing audiences with her handstand on the trapeze.

But circus life with her father was pretty grueling and she escaped his watchful eye to marry an equestrian named Fillis. Although the marriage didn’t last long, it did give her the name by which she was billed: Miss Fillis. Interestingly, women of that time, even divorced women, though known by their married names, were often referred to as “Mrs.” as if their identities still belonged to their husbands, but Marcoud chose to put “Miss” in front of her married name.

Marcoud then met another trapeze artist named Alfred Robles and married him in 1928. They, along with a third man, created an act where Marcoud was the catcher, not the flyer. This required a tremendous amount of strength and timing. However, Marcoud didn’t confine herself only to her husband’s act. She continued to perform under her own under the name of Miss Fillis as well.

Photo Credit: Miss Fillis (aka, Aimee Marcoud), 1930, Tristan Remy Collection: Djando/Circopedia/CC BY NC ND 3.0 US

Marcoud’s career and life did not go the way of tragedy as several women circus performers of her time (I talk about some of them here). She and her husband continued their trapeze act into World War II when her husband was drafted into the army. Marcoud’s career didn’t stop but went on during and after the war. She finally retired from the ring at the age of fifty-five.

You can read about the women trapeze artists in  Murder Under A Twilight Roof in a few weeks when Book 5 comes out. But you can get a copy right now at a special preorder price here

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Author: tammayauthor

Writing has been Tam May’s voice since the age of fourteen. She writes stories set in the past that feature sassy and sensitive women characters. Tam is the author of the Adele Gossling Mysteries which take place in the early 20th century and features suffragist and epistolary expert Adele Gossling whose talent for solving crimes doesn’t sit well with the town’s more conventional ideas about women’s place. She has also written historical fiction about women breaking loose from the social and psychological expectations of their era. Although Tam left her heart in San Francisco, she lives in the Midwest because it’s cheaper. When she’s not writing, she’s devouring everything classic (books, films, art, music) and concocting yummy plant-based dishes.